Animal Voice - March 2005
Campaign newsletter of the
Irish Council Against Blood Sports
In This Issue:
01. Minister shoots down proposal to open nature reserves to hunters
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports again heaves a sigh of relief that new attempts by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC / gun clubs) to gain access to national parks and state reserves have been shot down by the Minister for the Environment. ICABS has received confirmation from Minister Dick Roche's office as follows:
"The Minister has asked me to assure you that he has no plans to change the current policy of not allowing hunting on the properties managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of his Department."
ICABS welcomes Minister Dick Roche's decision to stand firm against the gun clubs and keep our national parks hunter-free. We are much relieved that these sanctuaries for wildlife, of which there are precious few in this country, are kept off limits to hunters in the interests of wildlife and the public at large.
Thank you to all the ICABS supporters who contacted Minister Roche on this issue.
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports congratulates the British Government on its courage in outlawing the hunting of wild animals with dogs. It has taken 80 years of campaigning by groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports and now using dogs to terrorise, maim and kill defenceless wild animals for "sport" is illegal.
We congratulate all the groups and individuals who campaigned so tirelessly to ensure that these cruel practices were consigned to the dustbin of history along with cockfighting, badger baiting and dog fighting.
We call on the Irish Government to stop turning a blind eye to these cruel activities - hare coursing, fox hunting, mink hunting and carted deer hunting - in our countryside and to implement a ban on this outdated barbarism.
We will continue to press for the replacement of blood sports with drag hunting. ICABS recently called for the Irish Coursing Club to implement mechanical lure coursing, but they refused, claiming that it would be "unpopular" and that greyhounds would not follow a drag. We find this response unacceptable as we have video evidence from Britain, the USA and Australia which shows greyhounds enthusiastically following a drag.
There are already a number of drag hunts in Ireland which are very successful and greatly enjoyed by participants. The route followed is pre-planned which ensures that riders are constantly on the move (unlike in foxhunting). This also eliminates instances of trespassing on to prohibited land, thus making drag hunting a lot more acceptable to farmers.
An Ireland on Sunday article has highlighted how hunters from the UK are queuing up to move to Ireland. With a hunting ban now in place in England, Wales and Scotland, Ireland has apparently become a prime destination.
Two foxhunters who have just moved from Kent to Tipperary were quoted in the January 9th article as saying: "Some people are bound to want to move when the [UK] ban is implemented."
This was confirmed by an estate agent contacted by the newspaper who said the pair are "only the first of many British blood sports enthusiasts interested in moving to Ireland".
It's a development which is sure to infuriate landowners who are already plagued by hunts coming on to their land. Among the problems landowners here have to deal with are hounds disturbing livestock (sometimes resulting in injury and death), the spread of diseases as hunts move cross country from one farm to the next, damaged land and crops and the destruction of boundary fences and ditches.
If you are a landowner, please make your property off limits to the hunt. If you have friends or family who have land in areas where hunting takes place, please appeal to them to close their land to hunts. To download and print a "No Hunting" sign, please visit the "Farmers" section of the ICABS website. Why not distribute some of our "Troubled by the Hunt" leaflets to landowners in your area. The leaflet offers advice on how to keep hunts off land. Please get in touch with us now for copies.
The Ward Union deerhunt obtained a licence for the current season despite recommendations from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, ICABS has learned.
The controversial hunt which terrorises domesticated deer twice a week between October and March received the licence from Fianna Fail TD Martin Cullen before he left office as Environment Minister. The licence is issued on an annual basis under the Wildlife Act.
But, according to senior NPWS officials, the hunt's licence application should have been rejected. In documents obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, the minister was told that "the licence applied for can not be issued". The reason given was that the application was not relevant to the NPWS department because the deer used by the hunt could not be viewed as wildlife as defined by the Wildlife Act.
The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 defines wildlife as fauna and flora, with fauna being further defined as "all wild animals [including] an individual of a population which primarily lives independent of human husbandry". It's a definition which clearly does not cover the Ward Union's deer - animals which are bred in captivity, kept in an enclosure and transported around in a livestock trailer.
Referring to the Ward Union's deer, one NPWS official stated in a memo that:
- "The deer are highly dependent on human husbandry."
The Wildlife Act does not include such deer, he stated.
ICABS has continuously contended that the licensing of the Ward Union hunt under the Wildlife Act is illegal due to the fact that the deer are not wild. We maintain that, as domesticated creatures, the deer are eligible for protection under the Protection of Animals Act which states that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.
Responding to a Dail Question from Tony Gregory, TD at the end of January, the current Environment Minister, Dick Roche, stated that the issue was "carefully considered" by his Department. This careful consideration prompted the Minister to make the following bizarre statement:
"The conclusion was that since the term 'wild animal' was nowhere used in section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976 ['The Minister may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack'] the operation of that provision could not be considered to be affected by the issue raised. On this basis, it was determined that the Ward Union Hunt required to be licensed and a licence was granted for the 2004/2005 season."
The Minister appears to be suggesting that since section 26 of the WILDLIFE Act refers to "deer" (and not "wild deer"), he is free to issue a licence to hunt the animals - regardless of whether they are wild or domesticated. ICABS believes that this response from the Department of the Environment is lame in the extreme; after all, the Wildlife Act deals exclusively with wild animals. We will be continuing to demand an end to the licensing of the Ward Union. You can help by following the action items below.
ACTION ITEM 1
Please write to Minister Dick Roche and ask him to stop licensing the Ward Union hunt.
Minister Dick Roche
Dear Minister Roche,
I am writing to express my strong objection to your licensing of the Ward Union hunt.
As highlighted by senior officials in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the deer used by the hunt are not wild animals. The hunt itself has even admitted this in the past. And yet, your Department continues to issue them with a licence under the Wildlife Act.
I do not accept your suggestion that since Section 26 of the Wildlife Act does not specify the status of the deer, you may continue licensing this hunt. The Wildlife Act deals exclusively with WILD animals and the deer referred to in Section 26 are therefore obviously wild. Since the Ward Union's deer are not wildlife, they are not eligible to receive a licence.
I call on you to withdraw this hunt's current licence which allows them to hunt up until the end of March. I also call on you to refuse any future licences to them.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.
Action Item 2
Please contact Minister Mary Coughlan who has responsibility for animal welfare and the Protection of Animals Act. Urge her to intervene to end carted deer hunting.
Minister Mary Coughlan
Tel: 01-607 2884
Dear Minister Coughlan,
As Minister with responsibility for the Protection of Animals Act, I call on you to urgently intervene to stop the Ward Union hunt.
This hunt uses domesticated deer as quarry. The deer are terrorised twice every week between October and March. The activities of this hunt have been widely condemned and one of the most damning reports was compiled by your department. Among its findings were that "A stag which has been hunted previously appears, before the hunt starts, to be distressed and aware that he is about to be hunted again. Stags being hunted appear to be terrified of the hounds. A stag is aware when he is being hunted and continues to flee even when the hounds are far behind. Stags are sometimes wounded or injured during hunts by physical incidents or by the hounds. Stags are terrified by people and motor vehicles during the hunt. Stags are apparently distressed and exhausted towards the end of hunts and will hide and lie down at this stage. At the end of the hunt the fact that a man can catch and hold him would seem to be adequate evidence of physical exhaustion by the stag. The handling of the stag when taken at the end of a hunt must be terrifying and stressful to the animal."
The Protection of Animals Act states clearly that it is an offence to inflict "unnecessary suffering" on any animal. With this in mind, I call on you to please act immediately to stop this hunt and end the suffering of the deer.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.
ACTION ITEM 3
Contact Martin Cullen, TD and ask him why he granted a licence to the Ward Union despite recommendations from senior officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Martin Cullen, TD
Does the Ward Union continue to get a licence "because it is controlled by some of the richest, most powerful and most influential developers and businessmen in this country"? That was one of the questions posed by Tony Gregory last month in Dail Eireann.
Responding, Batt O'Keeffe (Fianna Fail TD for Cork South Central and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) said: "The Minister and the officials in the Department do not know who is involved in the Ward Union Hunt."
ICABS took the opportunity to write to Deputy O'Keeffe and Environment Minister, Dick Roche, to remind them that "the master of this hunt is Michael Bailey who, according to newspaper reports, was found by Mr Justice Feargus Flood to have 'made a corrupt payment to Ray Burke and tried to destroy the Planning Tribunal...In an interim report, the judge recorded that Bailey had lied to the tribunal, had breached its confidentiality and had colluded with others to make false allegations in an attempt to cover up his crimes, which included bribing the Dublin County manager, George Redmond'."
The full text of this and other Parliamentary Questions and Answers can be viewed in the Politicians Section of the ICABS website.
The Irish Coursing Club is to receive more than a quarter of a million Euro from Bord na gCon (the Irish Greyhound Board), it has been announced.
The major cash injection will reach the coursers in the form of a payment for greyhound racing advertising in the "Sporting Press". We understand the exact amount will amount to 296,000 Euro over an initial two year period.
The move was described as "an extraordinary about-turn" by Irish Independent greyhound columnist, John Martin.
"Bord na gCon have decided to double what they spend on advertising with the Irish Coursing Club-published Sporting Press newspaper," he wrote. "The significant increase comes following a high-powered meeting at Powerstown Park in Clonmel between the top brass of Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club. What makes the move significant is that it overrides a decision made by Bord na gCon at the end of last year not to advertise at all with the weekly industry organ."
The massive payment is seen as a temporary lifeline for the Irish Coursing Club who have been crying out for a grant from the greyhound board. Animal Voice readers will recall from the October 2004 edition that Bord na gCon had previously approved "in principle" a quarter of a million Euro grant for coursing out of the 12 million Euro of taxpayers' money they receive annually from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.
This grant never materialised. But what we have instead is an even greater payout to the coursers by the Irish Greyhound Board. ICABS is disgusted that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, allowed this transaction to take place. The Minister is well aware of the overwhelming opposition to hare coursing in Ireland and has disregarded appeals for taxpayers' money to kept out of the hands of blood sports groups.
Please lodge a complaint with Minister John O'Donoghue. Ask him why Bord na gCon was permitted to make this payment to the coursers. Remind him that eighty per cent of Irish people want coursing banned and that coursing has been stopped in our neighbouring jurisdictions - Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Minister John O'Donoghue
Tel: 01-631 3802
The following article appeared in the Anglo Celt newspaper in December 2004.
"Catching live hares was an exercise in cruelty, states Judge" (Monaghan District Court)
Two Monaghan brothers who appeared before Judge S McBride at the local District Court charged with hunting wild animals/birds without a licence were convicted under the Wildlife Act.
Frank and Seamus McKenna, Shevlins, Glaslough, were each fined 350 Euro for committing the offence at Tiravray, Castleshane on September 22, 2002.
A summons for failing to desist from continuing the activity under the Wildlife Act 1976 was taken into account.
Mr E O'Carroll, State Solicitor, prosecuting, said that the defendants were not authorised to carry out their activity.
Mr Higgins, a Wildlife Ranger, observed a group of men netting hares. They were catching them for coursing in Dungannon.
They claimed that they were licensed to do so but didn't have the licence with them. The men refused to release the hares they had captured and they put them into the back of a van.
Mr O'Carroll said that a licence was granted to the Irish Coursing Club but Dungannon was not specified.
Dungannon was not one of the stated clubs.
Mr C Jones, solicitor defending, said that he had a letter from the Irish Coursing Club stating that Dungannon was a registered club within the Irish Coursing Club.
It was granted in Northern Ireland under the supervision of the Irish Coursing Club. He said that there were 28 men catching hares that day and two of them were from Monaghan. The Coursing Club had issued a licence to the Dungannon Club to catch hares.
Judge McBride said that he would describe them as "bootleggers" as they were catching live hares which was cruelty. They blatantly refused to obey a Wildlife Ranger.
He was going to put a stop to the practice. Recognisances were fixed in the event of an appeal.
Netting and hunting hares remain banned in Northern Ireland following a recent High Court ruling.
In force since January 2004, the bans were challenged by coursers who have been prevented from capturing hares from the wild for their blood sport. But the court upheld the Special Preservation Order imposed by Environment Minister, Angela Smith. It found that, in acting to protect hares, she was entitled to consider not only conservation issues but animal welfare as well.
The development is sure to please the majority of Northern Ireland residents who want the blood sport permanently banned. According to an opinion poll conducted by Millward Brown Ulster, 84 per cent of people in Northern Ireland believe hare coursing is cruel, 73 per cent view it as immoral and 74 per cent think it should not be allowed to take place.
In announcing an extension to the hare protection order last December, Minister Smith said she was encouraged by the results of a survey into the province's hare population. But she warned that this did not necessarily indicate a general recovery in the population.
The results suggested an increase in the hare population during the previous two years. From sightings of 376 Irish hares in the survey area, it was estimated that the hare density for the whole of Northern Ireland stands at just less than 6 per square kilometre. If this estimate is accurate, it is clear that hare numbers remain low. And, as the authors point out, the increase recorded is not necessarily indicative of a general trend since "large annual fluctuations are characteristic of hare populations".
The survey was carried out by Quercus, a partnership between the Northern Ireland Environment & Heritage Service and Queen's University, Belfast. It began a month after the local ban on netting and killing hares came into effect. Questioned about the relevance of the ban on the reported increase, a Queen's University spokesperson told ICABS: "I am afraid that the Special Protection Order is not addressed by the survey report. Neither were we requested to address this topic."
A shocking BBC Newsline report by Rural Affairs Correspondent, Martin Cassidy, has exposed the activities of a deerhunt in County Down. The report, which can be viewed from the Newsline Website, shows harrowing scenes of a stag desperately running for its life.
Broadcast on February 8th, the report focussed on a hunt in County Down who were shown chasing a deer with a pack of hounds. The stag, in a desperate attempt to outrun the dogs, was filmed:
- fleeing across a field of sheep with the hounds close behind
Martin Cassidy reported that the deer was being "driven by fear". With the hounds closing in, he noted that when they chase an animal of this size, "they'll wait until it's completely exhausted".
Ulster SPCA spokesperson Stephen Philpott condemned the hunt as cruel.
"The animal is pursued over a great distance by one of its most feared predators - a pack of hounds. That animal is chased and pursued until exhaustion takes over and it can no longer run any further."
Responding to claims that the stag is not killed at the end of the hunt, he stated: "It's only when complete exhaustion takes over that the hunt ends. The animal, throughout that entire process, is stressed. Lots of research has been done on it and has proved the animal is stressed. By the very definition of the Welfare of Animals Act, it is causing unnecessary suffering. Therefore, it's cruel."
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports also condemned the deerhunt. In an interview on BBC Radio, Campaigns Director, Aideen Yourell, called for an all-Ireland ban on deer hunting with hounds.
The BBC's disturbing footage is reminiscent of video footage captured by ICABS during Ward Union carted deer hunts. Operating in Counties Meath and Dublin, the Ward Union chases captive-bred, domesticated deer until the deer are so exhausted they can no longer run. During the hunts, the deer suffer injuries (including fatal injuries) and are at risk of dying from stress-related heart failure.
A claim by Michael Martin that foxhunting is an old Irish tradition was dismissed by ICABS on TG4's "An Tuath Nua" programme in December.
Mr Martin - Fianna Fail TD for Cork South Central and current Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment - made the claim on RTE's Questions and Answers last September.
"It's not a countryside tradition in Ireland," ICABS spokesperson Mary Muldoon stated. "Foxhunting was brought to Ireland from Britain."
"The problems we see with hunting is that it is entirely cruel and barbaric and it's not right to allow it in the 21st Century," she added. "There is another kind of 'hunting' called drag hunting which involves placing an artificial scent along the ground before the hunt begins. The hunt follows it across the fields, avoiding dangerous or private grounds, and they get on great."
The cruelty of foxhunting and the problem of hunt trespass were among the issues aired on RTE television's "The Big Bite" in February.
The issues surrounding foxhunting were debated by a panel of six. Speaking in favour of a hunt ban were Tony Gregory (Independent TD, Dublin Central), Aideen Yourell (ICABS) and Henry McDonald (Ireland Editor of The Observer). Defending the blood sport were Brian Munn (Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association), Orla Duffy (Huntswoman) and Chris Ryan (Master of the Scarteen Hunt, Limerick).
The programme began with video footage of a stag being pursued across a field by a pack of dogs - the scene which caused outrage in Northern Ireland when broadcast recently on BBC's Newsline. Big Bite presenter, David McWilliams, asked Brian Munn how this activity could be described as a sport. Mr Munn evaded the question, saying instead that although he doesn't go stag hunting, he didn't have any objection to it.
Referring to the Ward Union hunt, Tony Gregory described deer hunting as "absolutely cruel". "The hounds terrorise the stag right across the countryside over barbed wire, over hedges, over whatever obstacle is in front of the stag," he said. "The stag is terrorised for an entire afternoon."
Huntswoman, Orla Duffy, described foxhunting as her "sport of choice" and presented it as a social outlet she was drawn into when she moved to the countryside. "It's a community thing," she said. "There's the GAA, the local national school and there's the hunt and you get involved if you want to live there and be involved with the community."
Responded Ireland editor of The Observer, Henry McDonald: "I heard the word 'community' bandied about and that [hunting] is a great social cohesion and perhaps it is. But I wonder what the communities who lived in those fields and in those gardens where the hunt was charging through chasing the stag thought of that hunt. I'm sure they weren't too pleased and I think that indeed was the case."
Tony Gregory added that hunt followers could still enjoy the social aspect if the cruelty and kill were eliminated. "If people want to dress up in their red jackets and their nice caps and ride around the countryside, I have no difficulty at all with that," he said. "All I'm asking them is to take the cruelty out of it. There is just one small aspect to all of this that I object to and that is subjecting an animal to being terrorised...and ultimately what happens with the fox."
Claims by the hunters that foxhunting is a humane way of controlling foxes were firmly dismissed. Stating that foxes are "disembowelled, bitten to death and ripped apart", Aideen Yourell of ICABS said it was not humane and not a form of fox control. "It's a most inhumane thing to take a pack of dogs and hound a wild animal - be it a stag, a fox or a hare - around the country for 'sport' for an afternoon. Especially when you have a humane alternative which is drag hunting."
She went on to highlight the ongoing problem of hunt trespass.
"It is a big problem. We get more calls to the office on that than any other issue. Farmers are getting very angry and very annoyed. I got a call last week about a heifer that ran into wire [after being chased by foxhounds] and was choked to death. The farmer was traumatised. I get farmers calling me in a very distressed state asking how they can keep these arrogant people off their land."
"The effect of fox hunting on the population of foxes is unclear. It is unlikely that this seriously affects the population countrywide; however, it should not be forgotten that individual foxes can die very painful deaths all in the cause of this 'sport'." (from the Mooney Goes Wild website, March 2005).
"[The Northern Ireland Irish hare survey 2004] provides evidence of a marked increase in hare numbers between 2002 and 2004, and indicates the potential of the species to increase rapidly from low densities. This is not, however, indicative of a general trend, since large annual fluctuations are characteristic of hare populations." From the website of Quercus, a partnership between the Northern Ireland Environment & Heritage Service and Queen's University, Belfast. The survey can be viewed via the Links page of the ICABS website.
"Other species of fauna whose population is under threat include the Irish Hare and the Corncrake..." (From "Biodiversity & Development in County Westmeath", a leaflet published jointly by Westmeath County Council, Westmeath County Heritage Forum and The Heritage Council).
"It would be a dangerous precedent if it were established that the welfare of a single animal, rather than the species as a whole, could be taken into account when determining whether to license any country sports activity." (NARGC News Roundup, Farmers Journal 2, 15th February 2005).
"[Foxes] are relatively easy to control. The most efficient method is night shooting with a rifle and this is widely practised all over the country. Many clubs also drive foxes from cover to waiting guns and this method too is popular. Other methods include cage trapping, snaring and finally, digging out. Most clubs would be familiar with all the methods of fox control." (NARGC News Roundup, Farmers Journal 2, 15th February 2005).
"The biggest cheers of the day came for a few plucky hares who were caught repeatedly but somehow managed to weave and wheel their way to safety. It's this miniature David and Goliath confrontation that makes coursing so thrilling - like a live wildlife documentary of gazelles and cheetahs. Nevertheless, the excitement is tempered with a queasy feeling that these hares are running for their lives just for our amusement." (Irish Independent, February 1st 2005). ICABS can only speculate on the internal injuries suffered by these hares after being repeatedly caught by the greyhounds. Hares mauled in this way often sustain fatal injuries and either die or are put down.
"I don't regard hare coursing as a blood sport. Therefore, I do not support a ban on hare coursing." (From an email to ICABS from Martin Ferris, Sinn Fein TD for Kerry North, January 2005).
"I am delighted that from midnight last Thursday fox hunting became illegal in England. I'm hoping that the Dail will soon make fox hunting illegal here as well. The Scots banned fox hunting several years ago. It didn't result in massive job losses or the culling of horses and foxhounds as forecast...We should now follow their lead." (Bishop Pat Buckley, News of the World, February 20th 2005).
"At long last MPs have voted to ban the barbarism of foxhunting in England and Wales, following the good example of the Scottish Parliament. One of the angry protesters at Westminster referred to their blood sport as a 'historical tradition that extends back for centuries'. Well, so do many other immoral practices, but tradition does not confer rectitude. So, that leaves poor old Ireland still in the dark ages with legal hunting of hares, foxes and deer by men and women with packs of hounds, for the perverse pleasure of humans." (S. Flynn, Co Dublin, in a letter published in The Irish Times, 21st September 2004).
All horses and ponies must now be accompanied by an identity passport before they can be moved. The recently introduced European Communities (Equine Stud-book and Competition) Regulations 2004 compel the owners of such animals to have the document in their possession before transporting them from their premises.
The regulations mean that every horse used by Irish hunts will have to be registered at a cost of between 35 and 50 Euro.
An article in the Irish Horse section of the Farmers Journal explained that horses without the passports will be breaking the law.
"The hunting fraternity will have to ensure that all hunters have passports as the followers could be in a very vulnerable position," the article stated. "They could find themselves, without a passport, in a public place illegally and should a serious accident occur, the insurance company could have a great excuse for not settling a claim."
If you suspect hunt participants are not in possession of an identity passport for their horses, please notify the Gardai.
According to section 12 of the regulations, an officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture "may, if accompanied by a member of the Garda Siochana in uniform, stop any vehicle which he or she reasonably suspects to contain a horse, identification document, stud-book or part of a stud-book or any article, book, document or other record associated with an identification document or a stud-book maintained by an approved body...Where an authorised officer finds or comes into possession of any article, book, document or other record which he or she reasonably believes to be evidence of the commission of an offence under these Regulations, he or she may seize it and detain it for use in evidence in a prosecution under these Regulations."
Those who are caught committing an offence under the regulations are liable to an on-the-spot fine of 100 Euro or up to 3,000 Euro if convicted.
In the October 2004 edition of Animal Voice, we highlighted a dogfighting-related court case in County Kildare. The following report from the Irish Independent of February 10th 2005 provides an update on this issue...
10 face trial over illegal dogfight
Ten men charged over an illegal dogfight have been sent forward for trial.
The defendants were remanded in custody with consent to bail.
At Naas District Court yesterday were: Anthony Burke, Corstown, Oldcastle, Co Meath; Richard Bernard, Dark Road, Castletown, Carlow; Troy Jordan, Blackthorn Cottage, River Road, Allenwood, Co Kildare; James Ferris, Allenwood South; and, all from Dublin, Richard Somerville, Dunard Drive, Navan Road, Cabra; John Moody, Coolamber Crescent, Templelogue; Thomas Codd, Cloonmore Crescent, Tallaght; David Deegan, Maplewood Park, Tallaght; Michael Quinn, Slieve Bloom Road, Drimnagh and Joseph Blake, Loreto Avenue, Rathfarnham. Bench warrants have been issued for Paul Malone, Dunmore Lawn, Tallaght and Karl Breen, Nangor Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin.
The case was adjourned to Naas Circuit Criminal Court until April 19.
ICABS has appealed to the principal of a school in Kilkenny to teach pupils about the gruesome reality of foxhunting. The call comes following an Irish Field newspaper report which details how a hunt detoured to the primary school before setting out to terrorise foxes.
"Before hunting started, Master David Lalor instructed [huntsman] Dermot Hanniffy to take the hounds and followers up to the local school," the report revealed. "Head mistress Theresa Finnegan of St Michael's gave the children a break so they could see the hounds."
After "questions from the children as to the name of various hounds and horses", the hunt moved off to begin what would surely fill the youngsters with horror and disgust.
The pack of bloodthirsty dogs "soon had a relaxed fox up and running", the Irish Field article outlined. "He spent a little time in the plantation, hoping that he would not have to leave and do anything strenuous, but hounds had other ideas and they got him to break cover."
Later on in the day, other foxes were targeted. "As it got colder the real fun started as hounds drew the woods at Bartons, where they found a brace and a half. One ran the road and another that hounds settled on ran through the bog. The cry from the hounds was terrific at this stage and they ran him in a loop, eventually crossing the Galmoy/Cullohill road...[the fox] tried to shake hounds by ducking into woods that ran along by the road, but hounds were too close so he had to keep on the move. They eventually marked him to ground in an old earth beside a ditch."
In our correspondence to the school we highlighted that the fox is one of Ireland's favourite wild mammals. An accompanying information leaflet described how the animals are chased to exhaustion by hunts and torn apart by packs of dogs. We are currently awaiting a response to our offer to visit the school to give a talk about hunt cruelty in Ireland.
Drag hunting was promoted as a humane and fun alternative to foxhunting during RTE Radio 1's Today show on 1st March.
Host Pat Kenny read out comments from a drag hunting enthusiast who phoned in following an interview, the previous day, with the author of a foxhunting book. During that interview, it was claimed that farmers would not welcome drag hunts on to their land.
"Many farmers are happy to allow draghunts on their lands," the caller pointed out. "Access is given for more reasons that the slaughter of foxes. For example, a love of horses, a sense of community and the upholding of countryside traditions without the bloodshed."
The caller added: "On Sunday last, I was on a hunt with all the thrills of the chase. Over eighty riders jumping ditches, hedges, fences in the Kildare/Offaly countryside - with the agreement and encouragement of local farmers. Two to three hours later the thrills and spills are being recounted in a local pub without a fox having been touched...I have never hunted a fox and I don't regard them as vermin. With the exception of wild deer, they are our largest wild animal and if their numbers do need to be kept in check there are more civilised ways of doing it."
Campaigners in France are celebrating after the southern village of Mouans-Sartoux made history by becoming the country's first to declare itself anti-bullfighting. Member of Parliament, Marlan Militello, is now proposing a law to ban bullfighting in the whole of France.
Despite opposition to the blood sport among a majority of French citizens, bullfighting continues to be permitted in 68 towns in the south of the country. The government's stance up to now is that towns which have an continuous tradition of bullfighting are free to torture and kill bulls. It's a policy that has been broken by numerous local authorities. In 2002, for example, Carcassonne resumed bullfighting after 48 years.
Campaigners are now calling on the French President, Prime Minister and other politicians to support Marland Militello's proposal and ban bullfighting. Lend your support to this important campaign by contacting the following.
President Jacques Chirac
Please send a copy of your letter to:
I am writing to convey my support for the proposal made by Marland Militello for laws to be introduced in France to ban bullfighting. This blood sport is a barbaric activity and it should not be allowed in any of your country's villages or towns - even if they claim to have a bullfighting tradition.
France, as a modern and civilised nation, should ban bullfighting immediately.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive reply.
RTE Radio 1's "Mooney Goes Wild" show is staging a wildlife and environmental table quiz. The quiz will take place in Dublin, Cork, Longford and Wexford and will be aired live on Saturday, 19th March from 10-11am.
As participants will be chosen on a first come, first served basis, those interested in taking part are asked to immediately contact the show. To register your team, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details: team name, team captain's name and contact numbers, the names of your four team members (all aged 18 years or over) and the centre you are willing to travel to. The centres will be located in Dublin, Cork, Longford and Wexford.
The quiz will consist of five rounds of five questions on general knowledge, wildlife and the environment. More details on the Mooney Goes Wild website.
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