PARIS (Reuters) - A large, exhausted stag escaped French hunters with the help of environmental activists after it sought refuge near a building site north of Paris, video footage showed.
The images showed the panting deer, its tongue out of its mouth, collapsing on a stretch of asphalt next to a construction project outside the city of Compiegne on Saturday, surrounded by hunting dogs, police and bystanders.
In images released by anti-hunting group AVA on Monday, environmentalists are seen chasing away the dogs, after which the panicked deer gets up, crashes into metal fencing and then escapes back into the woods.
AVA spokesman Stanislas Broniszewski said his group had been tracking a deer hunt on Saturday when they spotted the animal.
"As more and more bystanders witnessed the scene, the hunters had to retreat and let the animal go. This kind of thing happens several times a week, but normally it remains hidden in the woods," Broniszewski told Reuters.
In July, AVA and other environmental organisations launched a bid to organise a national referendum to ban hunting with horses and hounds.
"They are setting 50 to 60 dogs free in nature to hunt wild animals. It is no longer acceptable to torture animals for hours like that," Broniszewski said.
Hunting groups say the activity is legal and should not be interfered with.
"Hunting with hounds is about respect for nature, certainly not about these images, which are regrettable and which society today does not accept, which we understand. We are taking measures to make sure certain things evolve," French hound hunting association head Pierre de Roualle said on BFM TV.
(Reporting by Lucien Libert and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
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