The State “does not control enough” the federations of hunters. This is the main conclusion of the report of the Court of Auditors on “public support for federations of hunters”, published this Thursday, July 13. These federations (the national federation, the 13 regional federations and 94 interdepartmental and departmental federations) are entrusted with public service missions, in particular wildlife management and biodiversity conservation. They are regularly accused by environmental associations and animal defenders of using their means to promote the practice of hunting.
The Court of Auditors, solicited on the subject by a vote on its “citizen platform” having received more than 11,100 supporters, looked into the financing and actions of the federations. Traditionally financed by hunters’ contributions (around 100 million euros per year), the federations have benefited from significant funding from the State since the hunting reform in 2019.
Reinforced but poorly controlled missions
The reform has broadened and strengthened the missions of the federations: they must now take charge of the management of approved municipal hunting associations and the allocation of individual hunting plans, missions that were previously the responsibility of the prefects. They must also carry out projects “contributing to the protection and recovery of biodiversity”, for which a dedicated “biodiversity fund” has been created.
This transfer of skills was accompanied by “compensation of 9 million euros annually until 2024” from the State as well as a participation of approximately “10 million euros annually per year” to the biodiversity fund, via the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB). If we add the loss of revenue of more than 21 million euros from the OFB, linked to the fall in the price of the hunting license, the total additional expenditure of the State reaches “an additional 40 million per year”. since 2019, the report notes. These financial compensations had caused a vast controversy last summer when the figures had been revealed for the first time.
“While there have been transfers of missions, and they are important, the State does not sufficiently control their proper exercise” indicated Pierre Moscovici, first president of the Court of Auditors. This control must be reinforced by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, recommends the Court. The OFB must also “have additional means” to carry out its mission of “hunting police”, which consists in particular of fighting against poaching and enforcing safety rules, such as shooting angles. Thus, “the OFB must have free access to the data of the federations” insists Pierre Moscovici. Conversely, “the Court finds that the federations of hunters report insufficiently to the authorities”, also indicates its first president.
A lack of data on game regulation
The report also regrets that the mission of protection and management of wildlife is “hindered by insufficient data”, in particular on the proliferation of game and the “reasonable samples” necessary for its regulation. Firstly, since “game damage” represents a significant cost for departmental federations of 72 million euros per year on average since 2017, including 42 million paid to farmers. Once again, with the increased support of the State, which committed in March 2023 to pay 60 million over three years to support them.
The Court is concerned in its report about “the great disparity” of practices between departments and the lack of analysis of their effectiveness. It recommends that the federations and the OFB “ensure the framework and control of the methods of collection and transmission of data relating to wildlife”.
The “biodiversity fund” can do better
Created by the 2019 reform, the biodiversity fund is also a sensitive point in the action of hunter federations. Two-thirds financed by the OFB, this fund should allow federations to develop “projects favorable to biodiversity”. These projects are regularly denounced by associations for the defense of the environment and animals, accused of being only operations of communication and promotion of hunting.
Far from these harsh criticisms, the Court, which identified 577 projects between October 2019 and October 2022, and indicates that “the requirements as to the quality of the files” have been refined, as has the evaluation process within the federations and of the OFB which “tends to improve”. Still, the management of the fund, too “heavy”, the establishment of partnerships, the precision of information and the scientific quality of the projects can still be subject to “short-term improvements”. The Court recommends carrying out an in-depth evaluation by 2026.