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Fox hunting on JobBridge? Joan Burton says her hands are tied

The minister says once it’s legal it’s fair game.

Image: Shutterstock/david muscroft

FOX HUNTING IS not illegal and is therefore a valid place for a JobBridge intern to take a position, that’s according to Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton.

The minister’s statement comes after more than 1,500 people signed a petition to stop a JobBridge intern taking a position at the Waterford Hunt Foxhounds.

The position for ”first whipper-in” has since been removed and was not filled according to the Kilmacthomas-based hunt.

Following the controversy over the position, TDs Ruth Coppinger and Clare Daly both asked the minister to stop hunt organisations from using JobBridge.

But responding to their Dáil questions last week, Burton said that her department cannot stop hunt organisations from using JobBridge.

The minister said that, while some people may find hunting “objectionable”, the activity is not illegal. In this way, she compared hunting to gambling and the meat industry

“There are a range of occupations, including those in the hunt sports sector, that some people may find objectionable for one reason or another,” the minister said.

Other examples include aspects of the meat or fishing industry, or those related to gambling. In these cases as long as the occupation is valid, the activity is not illegal and the internship offered complies with the general terms and conditions of the JobBridge scheme the department cannot preclude it from availing of the JobBridge.

The chairman of the Waterford Foxhounds said the club had nothing to add to what they’ve previously stated on the matter, except for saying that the JobBridge ad was “completely above board”.

A whipper-in in fox hunting is an assistant to the huntsman. The primary role of the position is to keep the fox hounds involved in the hunt organised and focussed.

Fox hunting was banned in England in 2005 following pressure from animals rights groups but is still legal and practiced in Ireland.

Fox Family Source: Peter M. Fredin/PA IMAGES

Speaking to TheJournal.ie about the issue, John Fitzgerald of the Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports says that he thinks the public is ahead of politicians in wanting fox hunting banned.

Part of this, he says, is because politicians are afraid of losing votes in rural areas.

“Fox hunting, in our opinion, there’s no excuse for it,” Fitzgerald says.

It’s not pest control, if a farmer wants to control foxes, he could shoot them, in which case they would die instantly. Maybe shooting isn’t the best thing in the world but it’s a bit more humane, but fox-hunting with hounds doesn’t control, it’s just a form of entertainment.

Fitzgerald also says that Burton’s comparison of fox hunting with the meat industry doesn’t stack up.

“In the case of the meat industry, whatever objections there may be, the animals are killed instantaneously in the vast majority of cases, so it’s not quite the same.”

“Whereas in blood sports the kind of activities we’re talking about are banned in most EU countries and even beyond the EU.”

Read: Hundreds sign petition protesting against fox hunting internship on JobBridge >

Read: Anti-cruelty group calls for ‘appalling’ fox hunt blessings to end >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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