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'Heinous barbarism': Public urges Heritage Minister to introduce hare coursing ban

The sport sparked controversy following an RTÉ Investigates documentary in July.

Dogs chase hares during an event in Clonmel, Co Tipperary (file photo)
Dogs chase hares during an event in Clonmel, Co Tipperary (file photo)
Image: Rollingnews.ie

MEMBERS OF THE public have called on the government to ban live hare coursing in Ireland, describing the sport as “savage”, “inhumane” and “heinous barbarism”.

Correspondence to the office of Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, released to TheJournal.ie following a Freedom of Information request, has shown an overwhelming support for such a ban from members of the public.

Hare coursing involves the pursuit of hares using greyhounds and other dogs, who are tested on their ability to run, overtake and turn a hare – but not to capture it.

The government provides licences to course hares under the Wildlife Act 1976, but greyhounds must be muzzled during coursing events.

The sport sparked controversy following an RTÉ Investigates programme in July, which highlighted issues relating to the sport and also within the Irish greyhound industry.

According to a selection of correspondence sent to Madigan’s office, there is public support for the sport to be banned completely in Ireland.

A number of individuals contacted the minister using a message template, which said that hares suffer from broken legs, damaged toes, and dislocated hips when they were coursed.

“In coursing, hares suffer and die at all stages – during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity and during the coursing meetings where they run for their lives in front of greyhounds,” it read.

Another individual called hare coursing a “sadistic practice” and said described it as “heinous barbarism [that] has no place in 21st century civilisation”.

Others hit out at specific hare coursing events that took place this year, demanding that licences were no longer issued for them.

One individual even contacted the minister from the US, and compared the legal regulation of hare coursing in Ireland to (unspecified) actions taken by Donald Trump.

“President Trump, here in my own country, has been dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency and as a result, animals that are on the endangered species list are in even more danger of becoming extinct,” they wrote.

“I urge both you and our president to have more compassion for animals.”

All correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie called for the sport to be banned, although the response to the Freedom of Information request only contained a selection of correspondence to the minister’s office this year.

Correspondence to the minister’s office for all of 2019 was requested, but the Department’s deciding officer released only 60 pieces, saying a request covering the entire year was too voluminous.

In August, Madigan suspended hare coursing after a number of cases of the Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD2) virus were confirmed in Ireland, although the ban was subsequently lifted.

Two men were also convicted for illegally hunting hares with lurchers in Offaly in July.

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