Rooster rage

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ROCHEFORT, France — A rooster named Maurice, whose early-morning crowing has got under the skin of neighbors on the French island of Oleron, was at the center of a court battle Thursday that has raised howls of protest in the countryside.

Maurice himself was not present for the proceedings in the western town of Rochefort, and nor were his accusers, a retired couple with a holiday home on the picturesque island who claim his dawn chorus rouses them from their slumber.

But feathered fans of the celebrity cockerel were on parade outside the courthouse, among them a chicken called Pompadour and giant Brahma rooster called Jean-Rene.

The case has attracted attention not only because the rooster is one of France’s national emblems, but because the complaint is seen by some as an attack on the countryside’s traditional sounds and way-of-life.

The couple’s lawyer however rejected the characterization of the case as a battle between “bobos” — bourgeois bohemians — and countryfolk.

“My clients live in a housing estate. It’s not the countryside,” Vincent Huberdeau argued.

Maurice’s owner, Corinne Fesseau, who has been living on Oleron island for 35 years, told French radio she had taken to locking up her bird at night and lined his shed with egg boxes to try to block the light and so stop him crowing — but all to no avail.

“Out of 40 neighbors there are only two who are bothered by it!” her lawyer Julien Papineau told the court.

Fesseau defended the cockerel’s right to make himself heard.

“He crows and I think it’s great. Long live nature!” she said.

Tensions between locals and holiday-home owners are nothing new in rural France, but Maurice’s case has become something of a cause celebre.

“Today it’s the cockerel, but what will it be tomorrow? Seagulls? The noise of the wind? Our accents?” said Christophe Sueur, mayor of Saint-Pierre-d’Oleron where Maurice and his owner live, in comments to AFP last month.

 

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