A French court has ruled that a rooster called Maurice could continue his dawn crowing despite complaints from neighbours. This unusual case pits the old rural way of life against modern values from the city.
One of Maurice's owners, Corinne Fesseau, said the court in Rochefort, western France, rejected a demand from the neighbours that Maurice be silenced. Indeed, the court ruled in the four-year-old rooster’s favour and ordered the neighbours to pay Fesseau €1,000 in damages. Fesseau responded with a resounding “Cocorico!”, the cry of French roosters everywhere.
"Today, Maurice has won a battle for the whole of France," said Fesseau.
The stand-off on the Isle of Oléron began in 2017 when Corinne Fesseau built a chicken coup and installed Maurice and some hens. Jean-Louis Biron and Joëlle Andrieux, who had a holiday home next door, complained that Maurice’s early morning cock-a-doodle-doos were disturbing their sleep. Fesseau did her best to quiet Maurice but to no avail. By July of this year, the dispute had escalated enough to land the two sides in court, with the couple asking a judge to banish Maurice from the backyard.
Fellow fowl owners turned up for the court hearing in Rochefort and gathered in front of the building in a show of support for the maligned Maurice. About 140,000 people signed a “Save Maurice” petition and someone printed T-shirts with the rooster’s likeness on them that proclaimed “Let Me Sing”.
Even the town’s mayor, Christophe Sueur, chimed in. He came to Fesseau’s defence, saying that residents had long lived a rural lifestyle. "This is the height of intolerance – you have to accept local traditions," he told AFP. The mayor of another town, Bruno Dionis du Sejour, wrote an open letter in May calling for the sounds of rural life - including cows mooing and church bells - to be inscribed on France's heritage list to protect them against such complaints.
Maurice’s case underscores decades-long tensions in France around city dwellers who buy summer homes in the countryside without being ready to cope with the realities of rural life, such as animal noise, odours or insects.
Similar court cases against cows and church bells have been filed in France, but none with the same emotive impact as Maurice the rooster, who has elicited letters of support from as far away as in the U.S.