Animal Voice, Autumn/Winter 2005
It's finally happened - hunting with dogs has been banned in England, Scotland and Wales. After 80 years of campaigning, the League Against Blood Sports, the RSPCA and other dedicated groups have won an historic victory and much needed protection for vulnerable wildlife.
It's hard to imagine their feelings - after decades of a 'David and Goliath' struggle against powerful and highly influential interests - to have finally achieved their goal. A good friend of ICABS, Mike Huskisson from the UK's Animal Cruelty Investigation Group, while expressing his joy at the result said: "Our happiness was also tinged with sadness for those who did not live to see the day. It was tragic also for the many animals killed needlessly for fun during the long years of prevarication in Parliament."
Meanwhile, our campaign continues on here, and we can't help but consider with some irony that Ireland is now the last outpost of blood sport traditions in these islands, brought here by our neighbours who themselves have now seen fit to ban them. But we are very encouraged and inspired by the success of the campaign in Britain and this will spur us on to greater endeavours, with the support of you, our loyal supporters.
Recently, despite a strong appeal to Environment Minister Dick Roche, to refuse hare netting licences for coursing and to the Ward Union carted deer hunt, the licences were granted and hares and deer will again be subjected to another season of needless terror and suffering, not forgetting the hounding and killing of foxes, which doesn't even require a licence.
We met with Minister Roche and senior officials of the National Parks & Wildlife Service earlier this year, and showed them video footage of the cruelty, which incidentally they had never seen first hand. It pointed up starkly how those who ultimately make the decisions are far removed from the cruel and ugly reality of what they licence.
Our next step will be a Private Member's Bill in Dail Eireann, and we need each and every supporter to network amongst family, friends, neighbours and co-workers to put pressure on their TDs to support such a Bill. Remember, 2007 is the next General Election and already the politicians are out canvassing in the streets and on the doorsteps. When they call on you, let them know in no uncertain terms where you stand on hunting wild animals with dogs.
As usual, we have highlighted some issues in this edition of Animal Voice, which you can take action on by writing a letter, sending an email or making a telephone call. Such efforts do work as evidenced by, for example, the Swatch Company's decision not to sponsor the Hunt Chase at the RDS Horse Show; Failte's dropping of hunt club details from their website and Abbey Travel and Slattery's Tours' decision to drop references to bullfights and bull-rings in their holiday brochures. And as we go to press, ICABS has had two positive responses in relation to the withdrawal from a chain of shops of a cruel glue trap for mice, and the dropping of a day's hunting from a fund-raising auction. So it's proven over and over, that "the pen is mightier than the sword."
Finally and most importantly, we'd like to say a big thank you to all our kind and loyal supporters who sent subscriptions and donations, wrote, sent cards or telephoned us, expressing support and encouragement. Please know that we really appreciate your contact. Without you, our campaign could not continue.
ICABS Campaign Director
Ward Union licensed despite NPWS advice
The Ward Union deer hunt got their licence for the 2004-05 season, despite a strong case for refusal from National Parks and Wildlife Service Regional and Deputy Regional Managers.
In documents obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, the then Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, 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 deer are not wild and are owned by the club...the deer are captive deer." 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 again made a strong case for refusing a licence for the 2005-06 season but sadly our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the hunt is set to continue abusing deer.
Please write to Minister Dick Roche and ask him to stop licensing the Ward Union hunt. Tell him that the Wildlife Act deals exclusively with wild animals (hence its title) and the deer referred to in Section 26 are therefore obviously wild.
Minister Dick Roche
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Custom House, Dublin 1.
Please contact Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan. Tell her that as Minister with responsibility for animal welfare and the Protection of Animals Act, she must intervene to end carted deer hunting.
Minister Mary Coughlan
Department of Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2000
Fax: 01-661 1013.
"Senior members of our club...believe that hares in the wild will find the necessary herbs to ensure their well being and recovery from many ailments which they may suffer...our members are at a loss to understand how it would benefit hares to retain them in a paddock which itself, at that stage, was quite likely to be an infected area." Anthony O'Neill, Wexford & District Coursing Club, complaining about vet Peter Murphy's decision to delay the return of sick hares to the wild, in a letter dated September 27th, 2004, to the National Parks & Wildlife Service. ICABS can't think of a better reason for not taking hares from the wild in the first place!
"Greyhounds sold at Limerick auctions have been found hanging from trees in Spain after their owners tortured them to death it was claimed today. The greyhounds which are sold for as low as 100 Euro to Spanish buyers in the city are allegedly used for racing and coursing by Spanish gypsies before they are tied to trees and left to slowly die inches above the ground...[Limerick Animal Welfare] are now appealing to dog owners not to sell greyhounds to Spanish agents at auctions." (Limerick Leader, March 5th, 2005)
"One regular face missing from this group was that of Anne Byrne and the reason is simple, it's badly injured! Out with the Fingals on the Tuesday before Christmas, Anne received serious facial injuries when, queuing for a ditch, her mount reared up, slipped and came down on his rider. Fortunately, it was just the horse's neck which hit Anne but she suffered two broken cheekbones, a smashed eye socket, damaged nose and teeth." (Irish Field, January 8th, 2005)
Victory! Hunting banned in Britain
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 others 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 and drag coursing. 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.
Call for ministerial inquiry into sport horse industry
ICABS has renewed its call on Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, to launch an investigation into all aspects of the sport horse industry.
We were prompted to once again contact the minister following a report in the Irish Independent which revealed the disgusting practice of tongue tying. It was explained that some riders tie the tongue of a horse to help control the animal.
The May 7th article highlighted how a member of the Irish equestrian team was fined for having the tongue of his mare tied down during a competition in France. According to FEI rules, tongue tying is not permitted during competition.
It's the latest in a series of disturbing revelations from the equine world. Late last year, listeners to the Pat Kenny radio show were disgusted to learn about inhumane methods employed by some showjumpers.
To train horses to avoid knocking the bars, their lower legs are made more sensitive. Examples given to achieve this included sticking needles in the legs, applying an irritant such as turpentine, putting ball bearings in bandages and wrapping them around the legs plus lifting the bars as the horse is jumping.
ICABS urged Minister Coughlan to investigate these allegations but our correspondence has so far been ignored.
We stressed to her that treating a horse in this way would surely be in breach of the Protection of Animals Act, for which she is responsible.
Please urge Minister Mary Coughlan to launch an investigation into the treatment of horses in the sport horse industry and to eliminate inhumane practices.
Minister Mary Coughlan
Department of Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Swatch Watch ends RDS Hunt Chase sponsorship
ICABS has congratulated the Swatch Watch company and its Irish representatives after they confirmed that they will not sponsor any further Hunt Chase events.
During the 2004 Dublin Horse Show at the RDS, Swatch Watch was the sponsor of the hunt chase show jumping competition which featured 16 hunts.
In a letter to ICABS from BJ FitzPatrick & Company Ltd (Swatch representative in Ireland), it was stated that: "We are pleased to confirm, in association with Swatch SA that we will not support this event or any such event in the future."
Chief Executive, John B FitzPatrick wrote: "It is correct to say that we BJ FitzPatrick & Co Ltd sponsored the Hunt Chase Show Jumping Competition at the recent Dublin Horse Show. At the same time, we would like to say that we were not supporting an actual hunting event. The Dublin Horse Show is a Show Jumping event and not a hunt. However...it could be construed that we were supporting the activities of certain hunting teams, who whilst participating in a show jumping event are also known to participate in the more unsociable elements of hunting."
In our original letter to Swatch's Headquarters in Switzerland, we outlined how the majority of people in Ireland and across the EU are opposed to hunting with dogs and want it outlawed. We explained that although no hunting takes place during the hunt chase, all of those competing are registered hunts.
ICABS will continue to urge the RDS to drop the hunt chase event from future horse shows. You can help by writing to Olivia O'Reilly, RDS Development Manager, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)1 240 7203. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hunt trespass raised in Dail
In a Dail question to the Environment Minister, Dan Boyle has highlighted the issue of hunt trespass and damage caused by hunters.
Referring to an unnamed hunt in Cork, the Green TD asked Minister Dick Roche "if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there have been repeated complaints regarding the activities of this hunt, including it crossing farmlands without permission, entering fields in which heifers are in calf, cutting fences and entering game sanctuaries."
Minister Roche evaded this question. Confirming that the hunt is a foxhunt, he simply stated that "a licence, under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000, is not required for the hunting of non-protected species, such as foxes."
The elusive rebel without a pause
Senator David Norris on the challenge of photographing the James Dean of the animal kingdom.
The fox is a wonderful and fascinating animal and I have always admired the skill and subtlety of his adaptation.
From childhood I enjoyed foxes. They always seemed to be the James Dean of the animal world, Rebels With or Without a Cause, full of guile and cunning and yet so beautiful with their red coats and long brush of tail, the dog-like nose that might lure you into not observing the sharp teeth.
There were also the foxes of childish stories, Brer Fox in the Briar Patch, the more ominous foxes of Beatrice Potter's tales, and even my treasured Curly Wee Annuals, where Mr Fox - svelte, smart, suave, smiling and sometimes even dressed up in a top hat, tie and tails like Jack Buchanan - was always up to no good.
Then a few years ago I went to take care of my adored elderly aunt in Ballsbridge. She had a fox in her garden. She used to peep out from a back window and call excitedly any time it appeared. She loved it. The only thing she was afraid of was that it might frighten away her hedgehog - a great one, she said, for guzzling slugs and snails.
When asked by RTE to take part in Wild Trials, a series which challenged individuals to photograph some aspect of Irish wildlife, I had no hesitation in choosing the fox.
I was provided with a camera and expert advice from professional cameraman, Mike Brown. We traipsed through County Roscommon and sat rigid late into the evening waiting, then dragged ourselves up again the next morning, trailing ineffectively through the dew.
But the foxes of Roscommon were elusive beasts, classic lens teasers, appearing on the horizon to sniff the wind and then to lollop away disdainfully.
Even when we tried to capture the suburban fox, they stayed tantalisingly diffident. In fact I observed fox lovers at least as much as the foxes themselves.
There seems to be a little group of people scattered around the city of Dublin and its suburbs who have taken the fox to their heart and who provide sustenance, leaving out scraps and sometimes quite mouthwatering foxy meals for their regular clients.
Interestingly, these are almost invariably women but with the tacit support of their spouses. I was made very welcome in these houses but the foxes remained elusive like the pandas in the Kit Kat ad.
Once I sat for four and a half hours with a heavy camera and just got the exact shot only to push the button to find someone had put on the safety catch without telling me. The entire wait was wasted.
And we had a couple of visits from an awkward nosey neighbour who doesn't approve of foxes being encouraged! And the numbers who said to me "if you'd only told me - we have foxes in the back garden!" Of course you do, darling, half Dublin seems to.
But there is a hell of a difference between catching a glimpse of a fox out of the corner of your eye, or even feeding them every night and persuading the damn things to stand still long enough to take a decent photo.
They have the most acute senses, especially hearing and smell. They also work by indirection. So many times I was in a hide and the fox would make a pass in the distance, deliberately ignoring the food left out. Then he would cross back the other way a little closer gradually coming to a point where contact was actually made with the food.
As luck would have it a week after the film was broadcast I was going to a friend's in Monkstown and across the road ambled the most beautiful fox, brush extended, first across one section and then the other half of the dual carriageway unhurried, unfazed, wild and beautiful. Any wonder so many people lose their heart to the fox?
Vet's fox hunting views rubbished
A veterinary surgeon interviewed recently on RTE's Marian Finucane show made the absurd claim that those who oppose her pastime of hunting do not understand country life.
Her statement raises questions about the knowledge conveyed to vets in training with regard to hunting's integral cruelty. Surely the chasing and evisceration of a wild animal with a pack of dogs is contrary to the ethos of the veterinary profession.
Another reason why vets should avoid acting as apologists for hunting is that it causes serious worry and financial loss to farmers, a significant part of their clientele.
For several decades now, the media has been warning farmers about the dangers posed by hunters and their hounds.
In August 1972, "The Irish Horseman" carried an article entitled "Foxhounds in this country found to be hosts of difficult parasites". In the Veterinary Record of May 24th, 1986, a report informed readers that "a major factor in the rejection of lamb livers for human consumption is parasitic infestation from hunt hounds."
From "The Irish Farmers' Journal" of 3rd February 1996, readers learned that sarcocystosis is a brain disease of sheep associated with contamination of pastures by foxhounds. Severe problems, according to that report, were encountered in flocks investigated by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
These are just a sample of the threats which hunting groups continue to pose to the livelihoods of farmers. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in the growing number of landowners who are prohibiting hunts from accessing their property.
These farmers know all about the damage to grass and boundary fences caused by hunts; they know how the unfortunate fox deliberately runs through flocks of sheep and cows in an attempt to mask its scent and confuse the hounds.
Such livestock scatter when the pack of hounds come charging through and in a bid to escape, they risk injury and death. Pregnant animals are at an even greater risk and have been known to abort as a result of the stress.
From this, it is clear that farmers who care about their livestock, their livelihoods and the overall biosecurity of their farms have no other option but to tell hunts to stay away.
For a vet to claim that those who oppose hunts do not understand country life is a complete nonsense. Dick Power.
Shooting and golfing collide at Dromoland
Golfers out for an afternoon's enjoyment were shocked and disgusted when dead birds began falling from the sky on to the course.
The incident at Dromoland Castle Golf Club was described in the Irish Sun by a golfer from Limerick.
Marcus O'Brien stated: "We were forced to watch the horrendous slaughter of some of the most beautiful wildlife. We were captive on the tee for 20 minutes, while dead and partly dismembered birds rained down."
"Our game of golf was ruined and I have been left with terrible images," he added. "We'd just gone for quiet round."
Shooting is among the activities offered on the Dromoland Castle estate. A photo on the venue's website shows a man standing in the grass pointing a gun skywards.
With the sound of gunfire in the background, it is difficult to understand how the owners can claim that Dromoland is a "tranquil world [where] the worries of life recede".
Hares released in injured state
Two seriously injured hares were released into the wild after a coursing meeting in Milltown Malbay last October.
The Conservation Ranger who attended noted on his report that one hare had an eye injury and another had a severely injured back leg. He decided not to put down this hare, but felt that "its survival chances were minimal."
ICABS finds it very disturbing that veterinary attention was not sought for these two hares and another hare which the ranger noted on Day 1 with "a fairly severe cut above a front leg". The fate of this hare is unknown as the ranger did not see it again.
Roche renews licence despite strong appeal
Despite impassioned appeals from Ireland and all over the world, the Environment Minister, Dick Roche, has issued a hare netting licence to the Irish Coursing Club for another season.
ICABS issued a strong appeal to Minister Roche, asking him to refuse a further licence to the coursers, and to call on the ICC to implement mechanical lure coursing. In our submission, we highlighted abuses and licence breaches during the last season, revealed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Detailed in NPWS reports relating to the last coursing season were instances of hare kills and injuries; severely injured hares released into the wild; 20 hares which appeared to be suffering from malnutrition; leverets left orphaned in a coursing compound indicating that pregnant hares had been captured and coursed; hares found dead in boxes after a four and a half hour journey; suspected re-coursing of hares; discrepancies in hare numbers and obstruction of Rangers in carrying out their duties.
The Minister's response was to sanction just two clubs for obstructing the rangers, by withdrawing their licence (now under appeal) and to add on new conditions to the licence stating that pregnant hares should not be taken from the wild, a vet must be present at every meeting and that returns should be made on how many hares were captured and from where.
There are now 20 conditions attached to the hare netting licence and these are almost impossible to enforce due to lack of NPWS manpower and time constraints.
As regards the new condition that pregnant hares shall not be netted from the wild, this is going to be extremely difficult to implement for obvious reasons, not least because of the questionable knowledge and expertise of hare catchers.
And what of the nursing mothers that get caught in the nets, leaving orphaned leverets behind in the wild to die of starvation? As for giving returns of how many hares were netted and from where, again this is impossible to police as figures supplied by coursers could not be relied upon, and NPWS staff will not have the time to supervise the coursers while out on their forays.
Piling on more and more conditions that are routinely flouted by the coursers will never address the core issue - coursing is inherently cruel. The only answer is mechanical lure coursing.
Hares could face extinction says UCD zoology lecturer
The Irish Hare species could be "vulnerable to extinction", a senior zoology lecturer at University College Dublin has stated.
Dr Tom Hayden's comment appeared in the Irish Times (7th May 2005) in response to the question: Is the Irish Hare endangered?
He stated: "We are not entirely clear about distribution patterns, whether the national population consists of an isolated sub-population which would be more vulnerable to extinction."
Referring to the findings of a hare survey carried out on Bull Island between 1990 and 1994, he added that "isolated populations are always vulnerable".
Dr Tom Hayden is co-author with Rory Harrington of Exploring Irish Mammals. He is also a member of the Mammal Research Group and has a particular interest in the ecology, reproduction, social organisation and mating systems of mammals, the evolution and ecology of deer and the population and biochemical genetics of mammals.
Survey of hares to finally commence
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been calling for a national hare survey for more than 15 years, and now, finally, we are pleased to report that it looks set to soon begin.
The Department of the Environment has announced that the survey, the first ever all-Ireland census of hares, would be underway by Autumn 2005.
The Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) division sought tenders from those with the relevant expertise and the applicants were asked to consider the following objectives:
- Establish the distribution of the Irish hare in Ireland.
- Provide density estimates for the Irish hare according to land class and geographic region.
- Provide the basis for future monitoring of the conservation status of the Irish hare.
- Establish the distribution of the brown hare in Ireland.
Although around 90 NPWS employees have previous surveying experience, their existing workload will permit only half of them to partake in the hare survey. Each will be able to liaise with the successful contractor for a total of 3-4 days.
ICABS was concerned to note in the tender notice that one of the aspects of the project will be "a review of data returned to NPWS licensing section by the Irish Coursing Club (1988-2004)".
In an email to Ronan Whelan of the NPWS, we asked for any unverified data from the ICC to be discounted. We referred to our own analysis of such data, pointing out the discrepancies we found between it and information recorded by the NPWS.
Examples provided included a Westport coursing meeting where a conservation ranger recorded seven hares killed and the ICC claimed that no hares were killed. At a meeting in Killimer/Kilrush, ICC figures present a mortality figure of three while a National Parks ranger who observed the coursing documented 10 kills.
"Most coursing meetings have escaped the direct attention of NPWS and Department of Agriculture staff over the years," we stated. "Based on our findings, we suspect that coursers routinely distort figures relating to hare kills and hare releases."
Another item in the tender notice we responded to is the listing of capture-recapture as one of the suggested survey techniques. Asking the NPWS to disallow this (or any method which causes a disturbance to hares), we reminded them how hares are vulnerable to capture myopathy, a potentially fatal stress-induced condition.
A final report, based on the hare survey findings, is expected in June 2007. We will bring you more news and updates on the survey as soon as they become available to us.
Hunt holiday project approved €30,000
ICABS has urged the administrators of a LEADER programme in County Clare to stop giving grants to hunt-related projects.
The call comes following the discovery that the operators of a hunting holiday business were approved a massive grant of €30,000.
The money was for the restoration of farm buildings into "a two-bedroom apartment for all-inclusive hunting holiday packages". It was approved by Rural Resource Development, a company which administers LEADER in Clare.
Registering our disappointment to RRD, we stressed the animal cruelty involved in hunting.
Projects Officer, Gerard Kennedy, promised that our complaint would be brought to the attention of the company board at their next meeting.
Please urge RRD to give a commitment that they will disregard any further applications for hunt-related grants.
Rural Resource Development
Shannon Business Centre
Shannon, Co Clare.
Travellers group slams ICC claim as "outrageous"
A human rights organisation working on behalf of Irish travellers has reacted angrily to an Irish Coursing Club claim that travellers are involved in illegal coursing.
A spokesperson for Dublin-based Pavee Point Travellers Centre described the claim as "outrageous".
The accusation appears in a report obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act. It details a meeting between the Irish Coursing Club and officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).
The document reveals that: "The Irish Coursing Club stated that there is a significant problem countrywide with itinerants coursing illegally. NPWS advised that if any particular information was available regarding any unlawful coursing activity, it should be made available to local conservation management staff who will endeavour to pursue the matter."
Responding to the statement, Martin Collins, Assistant Director of Pavee Point, stressed that the organisation "is appalled at the practice of hare coursing, both illegal and legal."
"We find it outrageous that the ICC could make such a claim that 'there is a significant problem countrywide with itinerants coursing illegally' without any supporting evidence whatsoever," he stated.
Mr Collins was also critical of the use of the word "itinerants" in the NPWS report.
"The term 'itinerants' is extremely offensive and is a term that should not be used," he commented. "When being quoted in minutes by an organisation, especially a government body such as the National Parks & Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, quote marks should be used around the offending term."
Though condemning hare coursing, Mr Collins stated in a letter to ICABS that "travellers historically and traditionally are involved in hunting which is quite different from coursing."
"Hunting, which takes place in wide open spaces where there is at least the chance for the hare to escape, is quite different from coursing in an enclosed space such as practised by the Irish Coursing Club," he added.
In reply, ICABS asked Pavee Point to consider highlighting the current plight of the Irish Hare in a future edition of their newsletter.
"It is widely believed that hare numbers are low and that any exploitation of the species could impact fragile local populations," we pointed out. "The suspension of all forms of hare hunting would help to facilitate the recovery of this, one of Ireland's oldest species."
Parking tickets for fox hunters
Followers of the County Clare Foxhounds returned to their cars after a hunt to find they had received parking tickets.
According to a report in The Irish Field, the vehicles "were deemed to be causing an obstruction to traffic". The tickets were said to have "put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable day".
ICABS has written to the traffic division of Clare County Council to applaud them for the tickets.
"Over the years we have observed hunt members and hunt followers causing obstruction, inconvenience and danger to motorists," we stated in our letter. "Despite this, it appears that action is rarely taken by local road safety officers. It is especially heartening, therefore, to learn of the parking tickets in County Clare."
If you spot hunts obstructing or causing inconvenience or danger to motorists or pedestrians, please immediately contact the Gardai and/or your local traffic warden.
Hunting and coursing could prove "final straw" for hares
The Ulster Wildlife Trust has warned that hare hunting and coursing could finish off vulnerable hare populations.
Listing the activities as one of several threats to the species, the Trust states that they "may prove to be the final straw for some of the more isolated populations".
"The hares' problems mostly involve habitat, food and shelter loss," the statement outlines. "They need a varied diet of herbs and grasses, low levels of disturbance and adequate shelter for lying up during the day."
Low levels of disturbance are certainly not possible as long as coursing and hare hunting continue. In contrast to Northern Ireland where it remains illegal to take hares from the wild, the species is still persecuted south of the border.
Hares are taken from their natural habitat and subjected to gross interference by coursing clubs.
Protest at caging of birds at Belvedere
ICABS turned down an invitation to attend a Birdwatch Ireland-organised event held in Mullingar.
The guided walk through the grounds of Belvedere House and Gardens was part of a nationwide Dawn Chorus Day event to promote the beauty of birdsong.
ICABS declined the invitation from Westmeath County Council's Heritage Officer in protest at the caging of birds at Belvedere.
A recently opened falconry centre at the venue sees some of nature's most magnificent birds incarcerated. We find the sight of any bird being denied flight to be very depressing.
Among the birds on show are eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. We understand that the only opportunity they get to fly is during daily demonstrations.
Disturbing photographs taken at the centre, show the birds with a short restraint attached to their feet. At feeding time, they sit on perches eating dead day-old chicks (by-products of factory farming).
When we reported the situation to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, we were told that the operators of the falconry centre had been issued with a licence to keep the birds in captivity.
"We think it is ironic that the Dawn Chorus event which celebrates the beauty of birds is being held at a venue which finds it acceptable to keep birds in captivity," ICABS stated in a letter to Birdwatch Ireland. We appealed to the bird conservation group to join us in an appeal to the management of Belvedere House to scrap the falconry centre.
To listen to a Mooney Goes Wild recording of a dawn chorus, please visit www.rte.ie/radio/dawnchorus
Please write to Belvedere House management to express your views on the keeping of birds in captivity.
Bartle D'Arcy, General Manager
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Tel: 044-49060. Fax: 044-49002
I love hare coursing:
FG Environment Spokesperson admits support for blood sport
Tom Hayes, the Fine Gael TD for Tipperary South, has admitted that he loves coursing and hare hunting. The admission came during a recent Dail debate on fur farming in Ireland.
"I attended six coursing meetings in the past few months and I did not see one hare killed," claimed the Deputy Spokesperson on the Environment with Special Responsibility for Heritage & Rural Affairs. "I love what is good in rural Ireland, whether it is coursing, hunting hares, beagling or whatever, and I believe there is a strong agenda to stop those sports."
"I represent a constituency that is proud of its heritage in the coursing and animal welfare world," he added. "I welcome the opportunity to make these brief comments because I speak on behalf of many people who love rural Ireland, the sports we stand for and, above all, who love the animals and the land of Ireland."
ICABS has written to the Fine Gael Head Office to complain about the comments made by Deputy Hayes. Pointing out that party leader, Enda Kenny, is opposed to hare coursing, we asked for clarification on the party's official policy on coursing and all blood sports.
Other Tipperary TDs on record as being in favour of hare coursing are Maire Hoctor and Noel Davern - both Fianna Fail representatives.
Please write to Fine Gael Head Office and express your disgust at Tom Hayes' offensive comments about coursing. Remind the party that eight in ten Irish people want coursing banned and ask for clarification on the current party policy on blood sports.
Fine Gael Head Office
51 Upper Mount Street
Tel: 01 619 8444
Fax: 01 662 5046 or 01 662 7648
New online petition is launched
ICABS has launched a new online petition calling on the government to ban blood sports. The petition makes it easier for people in Ireland and around the world to register their opposition to fox hunting, coursing, carted deer hunting and all forms of hunting with hounds.
The petition can be accessed by visiting www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/784506550 or by clicking on the link on the Petitions page of the ICABS website.
Simply type in your name, email address and country before clicking on "Preview" and then on "Add my Signature".
Please sign the petition today and encourage as many others as possible to do so too!
A range of paper petitions are still available to download from our website. These include "Ban Blood Sports in Ireland", "Ban Bullfighting" and "Stop the badger snaring slaughter". The latest addition (with thanks to Mary Muldoon) is the Irish language petition "Cuirtear cosc le spoirt fola in Eirinn."
Don't worry if you do not have a printer. Just contact us and we can post you out copies of the petitions you require.
Completed petitions are forwarded to the relevant Government Ministers to remind them about the massive opposition to blood sports.
Thank you to everyone who has signed and collected signatures for the petitions since the last edition of Animal Voice.
Hares die during 140-mile journey
Conservation ranger contends cruelty and criminal negligence
A Conservation Ranger from the National Parks & Wildlife Service has stated that the transportation of hares from Limerick to Leitrim following a coursing meeting could constitute cruelty and criminal negligence. The four and a half hour journey left three hares dead.
In a report to his boss, the ranger outlined how he had been asked to take delivery of 14 hares which had been coursed at Doon, Co Limerick on Sunday, December 5th, 2004.
He detailed how the trailer, containing the hares in wooden boxes, had set out at 3.30pm following the coursing meeting and arrived in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, at 8pm.
At the first release, one hare was found to be dead, and at the second, there was another dead hare and a hare that appeared to be stunned and didn't move.
According to the ranger, some attempts to assist or coax the hare failed. The animal remained upright but was lying on the ground with its rear legs out behind it. The ranger believed it was injured.
In his report, he described the scene as follows: "On returning to the 'shocked' hare, it had not made any progress. Some more attempts were made to raise it to its feet, and these failed. The hare again tried and succeeded in raising its front legs to run, but failed to raise its back or hind quarters off the ground. It tried dragging itself, but lacked the strength.
"I said I believed the hare to be both physically injured in its back and dying. I questioned its possible need for water. It was brought to a nearby stream to see if it would drink. On being put down on the ground, it again made a feeble effort to move but failed, it being very weak. I said I didn't think it was going to survive long and that I wasn't going to leave it. On lifting it in my hands, it expired."
The ranger went on to say: "I contend that there is a very serious animal welfare issue in transporting 'protected' wild animals (which are recognised as being 'timid' of nature and normally spatially dispersed) over long distances of miles and time. Particularly so in having been previously coursed on the day and preceding day for entertainment.
"If there are insufficient hares in a region, this may indicate a loss of suitable habitat and/or that the hares in the area cannot sustain the level of coursing activity. This may be being masked by the netting and transporting of hares from other regions where coursing is not practised.
"I contend that there are welfare, ethical and possible legal considerations for our Department that is charged with the duty of protecting the country's wildlife heritage. I further contend that this 4 hour, 140-mile long journey for a sentient animal with a serious physical injury in a bouncing, rattling trailer constitutes cruelty and criminal negligence."
Hunting has contributed to hare's "threatened" status
The Irish Independent has placed the hare alongside the corncrake and the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly as species under severe threat in Ireland.
The 23rd May article, entitled "An unnatural disaster: our dying wildlife", makes for depressing reading as the top 10 threatened species are presented alongside 10 species which have already become extinct here.
Referring to the Irish Hare, the Independent highlights how "hunting has affected its numbers" and that it is "only found in significant numbers on Bull Island in Dublin and a Wexford reserve".
The species listed as being under threat are: Grey Partridge, Corncrake (just 200 remaining), Marsh Fritillary Butterfly, Little Tern, Red Squirrel, Purple Hairstreak Butterfly, Red Deer ("It has largely died out because of hunting and a depletion of its natural woodland and forest habitat"), Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Wild Atlantic Salmon and the Irish Hare.
Among the species now extinct in Ireland are: Corn Bunting, Bittern, Great Auk ("Ireland's only flightless bird"; extinct here and worldwide), Red-necked Phalarope, Crane, Wolf ("hunted out of existence in the 1700s"), Wild Boar, Cricket, Sea Eagle ("shot and poisoned out of existence") and Brown Bear.
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