The Esplanade des Invalides lies before the French national military history museum in the heart of Paris and houses Napoleon’s tomb. For years, the French army has guarded this national treasure against the rabbit hordes which infest the grassy grounds. Classified as pests, around 40 would be driven out from their burrows by ferrets to the be euthanized by the French army every year. This anti-rabbit prowess, likely rooted in meticulous study of the mistakes of the 1932 Emu War, is rivalled only by the chicken extermination capabilities of the Italian cavalry.
The struggle between French soldiers and rabbits is an ancient one. In 1807, Napoleon’s chief of staff bought somewhere between a few hundred and 3,000 rabbits which were to be released for a hunt. As Napoleon and his staff entered the field, the rabbits were released but instead of bravely running away they charged towards Napoleon. A grave mistake had been made; the rabbits were farm-bred rather than wild and expected food from Napoleon and his entourage. Napoleon was reportedly forced to beat a hasty retreat.
Another major setback came on 22 July this year when French courts sided with animal rights group Paris Animaux Zoopolis over the French army. The defense lawyers of the préfecture de police passionately argued that the long-eared menace causes €15,000 in damages every year by ruining the splendid grass and destroying watering hoses. Paris Animaux Zoopolis lawyers responded by saying there is no basis for these estimates and that the rabbits don’t actually do much damage. The judge ultimately sided with the animal rights group, putting a stop to French army counter-rabbit activities.
The decision is, however, only temporary. A more permanent decision is expected to come within a few months. Yet even if the decision is reversed, will the French army be able to maintain its anti-rabbit readiness?