Reports on hare coursing meetings in Ireland for the 2013/14 season filed by wildlife rangers attached to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have just been received under FOI by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports and passed on to other animal protection/campaign groups including our own.
The reports refer to hares being struck, mauled, and horribly injured at coursing events held in different counties including Wexford, Louth, Clare, Cork, and Limerick.
The hare coursing season will commence in late September if Arts and Culture Minister Heather Humphreys grants a license permitting coursing clubs to net hares. If she grants the license as her predecessor Jimmy Deenihan did last year, thousands of hares will again be rounded up by gangs of men and boys and snatched from their peaceful homes in the countryside.
Following a period of “training”, the helpless and terrified captives will then be forced to run from pairs of greyhounds. Some will die, either from being struck forcibly by the larger and faster dogs, or from stress-related ailments arising from their unnatural captivity or the chase itself. We have no way of know what becomes of the hares released after being coursed, though we do know that hares subjected to high stress levels may die within days of the experience.
Highlights from the latest NPWS reports:
At Doon & District (County Limerick) 4 hares "required assistance" and were put down by the vet because of their injuries; at Dundalk and Dowdallshill (County Louth), 6 hares "required assistance", 4 were euthanised by vet and 3 died of "natural causes", and in Tradaree (County Clare) in November 2013, the coursers claimed that 6 hares "required assistance", resulting in 3 dying of "natural causes" though no post mortems were carried out to establish cause of deaths, while at the same meeting, the National Parks ranger stated that 13 hares were struck by dogs, and 3 were "found dead in the paddock" the next day.
And at Gorey (County Wexford), the National Parks ranger cited 4 hares hit by dogs, with 2 dying of their injuries, while the coursers cited 3 hares "requiring assistance" and 1 put down, which points to the fact that we can expect the coursers to minimise the number of victims.
In another case, New Ross (County Wexford), the National Parks ranger cited 14 hares struck by dogs, while coursers claimed that only 11 hares were struck.
This year, only 23 coursing meetings were monitored by NPWS rangers, down significantly on previous years. At one of these meetings, Liscannor (County Clare), a ranger was "intimidated" when she asked to check the hare paddock, and at Mallow, when a time was arranged with the National Parks ranger for a supervised release of hares, the coursers failed to turn up and refused to provide a contact phone number. Failure to co-operate with the NPWS ranger is a breach of the licence conditions.
At Fermoy (County Cork), a vet failed to attend to a hare which had been hit, with the ranger stating: "I asked that the vet look at the hit hare but he did not come." It is a condition of the hare netting licence that a vet must be in attendance at coursing meetings.
The government cannot dismiss the wildlife rangers’ reports as “anti blood sports propaganda” as the rangers are appointed by the State and are completely independent in their duties. The reports make it clear that the only way to eliminate cruelty from coursing is to take the hare out of it.
A mechanical lure would recreate all the fun and excitement of the practice, minus the suffering of a timid and defenseless animal. In Britain and continental Europe drag coursing is the norm, as it is in Australia (which once permitted live coursing but no longer) and the European Coursing championships were recently held… without using a sing live hare!
Here is the website detailing the European coursing championships:
All Irish animal protection groups regard the new FOI reports as especially significant because they completely demolish the ludicrous claim by coursing clubs that hares are “unharmed” in coursing. Their contention that the existing rules governing the “sport” protect the animals is completely blown away by this evidence.
We are challenging all TDs and Senators to examine, honesty and objectively, the latest reports which demonstrate very clearly that hares continue to be mauled, forcibly struck, and subjected to horrific injuries in coursing despite muzzling of the greyhounds. And this is apart altogether from the immense stress and suffering for the animals involved in capture (with nets), transportation, and confinement in unnatural captivity.
The government cannot dismiss the wildlife rangers’ reports as “anti blood sports propaganda” as the rangers are appointed by the State and are completely independent in their duties. The reports confirm our belief that the only way to eliminate cruelty from coursing is to take the hare out of it. A mechanical lure would recreate all the fun and excitement of the practice, minus the suffering of a timid and defenseless animal.
Incidents of the kind referred to in the NPWS reports have been frequently filmed at hare coursing fixtures. Here’s an example from the so-called “Irish Cup” hare coursing event at Limerick racecourse, an annual fixture sponsored by multi-millionaire businessman JP McManus.
Here are fuller details of the NPWS reports referred to: