Nothing says “Good Morning!” like a rooster. But evidently, the fowl noise makes some folks madder than wet (French) hens—as do donkey brays, frog croaks, and other distinctly rural sounds. For now, a judge says this cock can keep a-doodle-dooing. But Maurice the rooster illustrates the tension in France between country culture and city expectations.
Two years ago, a retired couple moved next door to Corinne Fesseau on the small island of Oléron, off France’s Atlantic coast. The two were likely prepared for tourists and bicycles (the island swarms with both) but not raucous farm animals.
Enter Maurice the rooster. Lawyer Vincent Huberdeau says Fesseau purposely set Maurice’s coop close to her neighbors’ window. The pair was not amused. In fact, the couple sued to silence the crack-of-dawn hubbub, asking the court to make the offending bird move farther away . . . or pipe down.
After hearing the tale of the rooster and the sleep-deprived neighbors, a judge ruled in Fesseau and Maurice’s favor. What’s more, he believed the plaintiffs had harmed Fesseau’s reputation. So he ordered them to pay $1,005 in damages and court costs.
Most people who heard about the case sided with the bird. Oléron’s population is only about 22,000 residents. But before the rooster’s day in court, more than 120,000 people signed a petition urging authorities to leave Maurice alone.
A “support committee” made up of roosters and hens from around the region flocked to encourage Maurice’s owner during the trial. “The countryside is alive and makes noise—and so do roosters,” read one sign outside the courtroom.
Sometimes it appears that people are looking for reasons to be upset. Yet the Bible says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is [one’s] glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
There’s little patience or overlooking in Maurice’s case and several other rural-vs.-urban lawsuits slogging through French courts. Folks have complained about smelly, quacking ducks, cow bell clangs, church chimes, and even buzzing cicadas.
Some French lawmakers want a law protecting the sounds and scents of the countryside as part of France’s rural heritage. Christophe Sueur is Oléron’s mayor. He asks, “Today it’s the [rooster], but what will it be tomorrow? Seagulls? The noise of the wind? Our accents?”
The mayor of the village of Gajac, Bruno Dionis du Séjour, agrees. He gets annoyed with people who vacation or live part-time in the country and want to change the rural way of life. He says, “When I go into town, I don’t ask them to remove the traffic lights and cars.”