A Sensory Heritage

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French lawmakers passed a bill this month that will give existing farms more protections from lawsuits by city residents who move to the countryside and are offended by the smells and noise that come from farms, Euronews reported.

Currently, about 500 farmers face lawsuits from neighbors, mainly from newly arrived ex-city residents who have taken issue with the noise from farm machinery or the smell of animals.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the law seeks to end “abusive lawsuits against farmers who do nothing but their job: feed us.”

The bill was passed by the lower house of parliament and will now proceed to the upper house.

If passed, it would ban newer residents from filing complaints about the activity of farmers who were operating in the area before they arrived.

One lawmaker noted however that the activity must comply with legislation and regulations, adding that the proposal does not “give a blank cheque” to farmers for “abnormal disturbances” in the area.

Conflicts between former city dwellers and their rural neighbors are not new in France or other countries.

For example, in 2021, France introduced the “Maurice the Rooster law” aimed at safeguarding the “sensory heritage” of the French countryside.

The law was inspired by a 2019 case where a rooster named Maurice on the French island of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron was allowed to continue crowing despite complaints from neighbors.

Meanwhile, French farmers are so frustrated with complaints, suits and also regulations that they have recently launched a campaign turning road signs upside-down to protest the challenges they face, according to the BBC.

Farmers complained about contradictory government instructions, ecological demands conflicting with the push for increased food production, and mental stress.

So far, that campaign has helped secure a government retreat on two tax measures next year. Still, the signs remain upside-down.

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