A rooster called Maurice was Thursday put on trial in western France, in an unusual case that has come to symbolize the divide between urban and rural communities.
The copper-feathered cockerel is the defendant in a court battle stemming from a long-running neighborhood dispute over his early morning crowing.
His owner Corinne Fesseau told CNN that neighbors in the village of Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron, on the Isle of Oléron, first complained in April 2017, asking her to keep Maurice quiet.
“I’ve lived here for 35 years, it’s never bothered anyone,” she said.
However the neighbors accuse Maurice of causing noise pollution and the case was heard by the court in Rochefort, Charente Maritime on Thursday.
After the trial, Fesseau told CNN she was pleased with the developments and hopeful a solution could be found.
“I hope these people will understand the meaning of rurality,” she said.
While a verdict is not expected until September 5, the trial has already ignited debate in France.
The neighbors in question are city dwellers who only visit Saint-Pierre-d’Oléron a few times per year, according to Fesseau.
Their attitude towards the rooster, which is one of the national symbols of the country, has been perceived as indicative of the polarization between urban and rural France.
“The solution is for people to understand that the countryside is still the countryside and we must tolerate the crows of the rooster,” said Fesseau. “I want to protect all the roosters in France.”
And her struggle has received significant support as almost 120,000 people signed her online petition to save Maurice.
She appeared on Maurice’s behalf Thursday because she didn’t want the rooster to go to court due to worries he would disturb proceedings.
However Fesseau told CNN that several people came to the court with other roosters in a show of support.
Julien Papineau, who describes himself as the lawyer for both Fesseau and Maurice, told CNN he is confident the trial will favor his clients.
“A rooster is not an abnormal, unbearable or excessive trouble,” he said.
“This rooster was not there to be trendy. It lives there amongst hens like it has always has. Because its owners want eggs.”
Christophe Sueur, mayor of Saint-Pierre-D’Oléron told CNN that the case is an example of deeper issues in contemporary society.
“The problem is that we no longer tolerate each other,” he said, adding that 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,” he said.
And Magali Richaud, a lawyer specializing in animal law, told CNN these kind of issues are common.
“We are in a classic dispute, with noise problems and city dwellers who do not understand,” she said, adding that while the complainants could claim for compensation if they win the case, Maurice will live to tell the tale.
“We cannot order the destruction of property, the destruction of Maurice. He is still a living being endowed with sensitivity.”
The trial also struck a chord with Bruno Dionis du Sejour, mayor of Gajac, a rural town in the south of France, who has called on the government to list distinctive elements of the French rural soundscape as part of the national protected cultural heritage.
“I hope the owner of the rooster will win. It is still incredible that people who come from the city do not want to hear the sounds of the countryside: the rooster, the cow, the church bell,” he told CNN.
“The gap between the countryside and the city is being widened.”
As for Fesseau, she is looking forward to telling Maurice about events of the trial.
“I’m going to go see him, give him a kiss and tell him we’re going to win this trial!”
CNN’s Celia Heudebourg and Rebecca Blanchard contributed to this report.