SAINT-PIERRE-D’OLÉRON, France (Gray News) - If not France, then what place does a rooster have in this world?
Just as the majestic bald eagle serves as a symbol of the United States, the rooster has traditionally instilled pride in the French.
Rural areas would seem to be the proper home for a cockerel, but a court case in Rochefort, Charente Maritime is trying to settle a years-long dispute among neighbors in the village of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron.
A rooster, named Maurice, is on trial for noise pollution. City-dwellers who have secondary homes on the island don’t like the noise he makes at sunrise.
“My clients just want peace and tranquility. This is a secondary residence, they are retired, they want to be able to sleep until a normal time in the morning and they would like the rooster closed in at night as it’s daylight that usually triggers the rooster’s crow,” said Vincent Huberdeau, attorney for the plaintiffs.
Maurice’s owner Corinne Fesseau told CNN she’s lived in the area for 35 years and Maurice has never bothered anyone.
“I hope these people will understand the meaning of rurality,” Fesseau said.
But Huberdeau argues that the plaintiffs have been in the area since 2003 and have asked Fesseau to keep Maurice quiet since April 2017. He also disputes claims that the village is a rural area.
“We are still in an urbanized area and that’s the dispute,” Huberdeau argued. "My clients have a house in a housing estate. We’re not in the countryside.”
As of 2016, Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron has a population of nearly 7,000.
Fesseau didn’t bring Maurice to court Thursday. She didn’t want him to disturb proceedings.
Even so, she said several people brought roosters in a show of support. She’s found even more supporters online as a petition to protect Maurice’s right to crow has gathered more than 120,000 signatures.
“A rooster is not an abnormal, unbearable or excessive trouble,” said Julien Papineau, the attorney for Fesseau and Maurice. “This rooster was not there to be trendy. It lives there amongst hens like it always has because its owners want eggs.”
The case highlights a rift between urban and rural French society. Christophe Sueur, mayor of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron, told CNN the traditional sounds of the countryside should be protected.
“Here, we can hear songs of turtledoves, the sound of seagulls, tractors - that’s what makes the beauty of our island too. The soundscape is very important and it is part of what contributes to the charm of our landscape,” Sueur said.
A verdict won’t be reached anytime soon. Fesseau and her neighbors will have to wait until September 5 to learn the outcome.
Still, Fesseau is optimistic. She felt so confident leaving court Thursday she couldn’t wait to go home and tell Maurice about it.
“I’m going to go see him, give him a kiss and tell him we’re going to win this trial,” she said.