Animal Voice, Autumn/Winter 2005
Section 3

Hares at Mayo coursing were "poor runners"

Twenty hares used by coursers at a meeting in Westport, County Mayo were "poor runners and appeared to be suffering from malnutrition". That's according to the NPWS conservation ranger who monitored the two-day meeting last October.

A total of 56 courses were run on the first day even though, from our analysis of the ranger's records, it appears that there were less than 56 hares available (including the 20 sick ones).

This would suggest that licence conditions were breached by the club. The licence, issued by Minister Dick Roche, states that hares "may not be coursed more than once on the same day" and that "hares that become sick or injured while in captivity may not be coursed".

Curiously, the official NPWS form on which details about the meeting are recorded was incomplete. The tick boxes next to the question "were hares coursed more than once - yes/no" are blank for both the first and second days of coursing.

On day two, according to the ranger, hares were "graded" before coursing and only healthy hares used. However, given that there were only 42 hares remaining for 27 courses, it is quite possible that some of the sick hares from Day 1 were coursed.

Shortly after the meeting ended, according to the NPWS document, the surviving hares were released back into the wild. Were some of these creatures still suffering when released? It's not clear from the data we have.

What we do know is that there was no veterinary involvement in the running of the coursing meeting. Taking into account the ranger's assessment of the hares' health, this is very disturbing.

One can only speculate on how long these hares had been suffering and how they fared on return to the wild. But one thing is sure - their welfare was of little concern to the coursers.

ICABS has called for Westport Coursing Club to be prosecuted for what we believe are breaches of licence conditions.

Poundworld thanked for withdrawing mouse trap

ICABS has thanked the Poundworld chain of shops for withdrawing an inhumane mouse trap from sale.

The "Mouse & Insect Glue Traps" were being sold in Poundworld branches around the country but when ICABS highlighted the cruelty of the traps, the company's head office promptly assured us that they would be taken off the shelves.

A Poundworld spokesman stated: "I have instructed our managers to withdraw the Mouse and Insect Glue Traps from sale. I agree totally with your comments. The traps were bought over the phone as 'Mouse Traps' from one of our suppliers. I was not made aware that they were of the glue type."

ICABS thanks Poundworld for this positive response.

We now call on members of the public to check other discount chains and hardware shops to see if the traps are available elsewhere. If you spot glue traps for sale, please tell the manager about the animal suffering they cause and appeal for them to be withdrawn.

Illustration of mouse stuck in glue trap
Cruel trap: Cartoon image on the packaging of the glue traps.

For those not familiar with glue traps, the aim is to catch the mouse in a gluey base from which it has no escape. The unfortunate creature is not killed outright but instead slowly dies over a number of days.

Information presented on the In Defense of Animals website, explicitly outlines the animal suffering which glue traps can cause. It states:

"A 1983 test that evaluated the effectiveness of glue traps found that trapped mice struggling to free themselves would pull out their own hair, exposing bare, raw areas of skin. The mice broke or even bit off their own legs, and the glue caused their eyes to become badly irritated and scarred. After three to five hours in the glue traps, the mice defecated and urinated heavily because of their severe stress and fear, and quickly became covered with their own excrement. Animals whose faces become stuck in the glue slowly suffocate, and all trapped animals are subject to starvation and dehydration. It takes anywhere from three to five days for the mouse to finally die. This is nothing less than torture."

Veterinary surgeons who condemned the traps are quoted on the website. One states that "there is much suffering by the entrapped animals - it is not a sudden or merciful death, but one brought on by starvation and thirst." Another says: "Because all mammals have similar nervous systems, they are capable of experiencing the same type of pain and suffering. Thus, rodents suffer as much as any other mammal and are capable of being traumatized and abused."

Horse charity removes hunting from auction

A big thank you to Wicklow-based Irish Horse Welfare Trust for removing a day's hunting from a fundraising auction.

The Star newspaper revealed on 6th September that among the items up for auction by the charity was a "day's hunting with jockey Paul Carberry".

But when ICABS drew attention to the animal cruelty involved in hunting, the IHWT announced that the hunt outing would be removed from their auction.

As well as cruelty to the animals being chased, hunts are also responsible for suffering to horses. To illustrate this, we quoted a hunter as saying: "I'd need four horses to keep me going for the season, between horses getting cut and broke down and whatever, and the same with the joint master - he's after wrecking three horses this year, and the whipper-in - I suppose he has seven or eight or them wrecked."

Paul Carberry's involvement with the controversial Ward Union deerhunt has been documented in the past. In March 2003, the Irish Independent highlighted how "a collision with a stag while hunting with the Ward likely to sideline champion jockey Paul Carberry until next week" while a GG Racing report in March 2005 told of how Carberry "missed his rides after taking a heavy fall while out hunting with the Ward Union Hunt".

The work of the IHWT includes rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing horses and ponies. They also campaign against the export of Irish horses for their meat.

Hunt details deleted from Failte website
29 down, 2 to go. Blood sport mostly gone from

Failte Ireland has removed 29 references to hunting from its website. The positive move was in response to an Irish Council Against Blood Sports' appeal in April.

It's the second such response from the national tourism board. Regular Animal Voice readers will recall that further to a similar appeal back in 2003, five web pages on the equestrian section of the site were amended to exclude hunting. At the time, we thanked and congratulated the board for its action.

Imagine our surprise then, when we checked back in on the Failte Ireland website earlier this year to find numerous references to hunting had crept back into the content.

They appeared within entries for various venues, guesthouses, hotels and equestrian centres and among the hunts mentioned were the Tara Harriers, the Meath Foxhounds, the North Tipperary Foxhounds, and the Westmeath Hunt.

One listing for an equestrian centre highlighted the availability of hunting holidays with the local foxhunts. Another centre proudly claimed that it was located "at the heart of our great hunt country". A guesthouse entry stated that "hunting can be arranged" while a hotel listed hunting as one of the local attractions. Yet another listing on the site offered the "opportunity to hunt with the famous Galway Blazers".

Hunting was also mentioned on the general information pages for certain towns.

The Templemore entry drew attention to the fact that "The North Tipperary Foxhounds hunt the district". The information for Navan reminded readers that "The Meath Foxhounds and the Tara Harriers hunt in the area." The Craughwell page revealed the proximity of the Galway Blazers' hunt kennels. Mallow, meanwhile, was praised as being "well known as a hunting centre".

Thankfully, all of the above have been removed as well as numerous others. ICABS thanks Failte Ireland - again - for acting to ensure that their marketing material does not in any way promote blood sports.

In correspondence to Senior Marketing Officer, Rhonwen Watson, we reminded her of Failte Ireland's anti-hunt stance. This was confirmed most recently in an Irish Examiner article in January. A Failte spokesperson was quoted as saying that they have "a policy of not promoting hunting".

This campaign against Failte Ireland giving publicity to hunts was largely successful but not entirely so. Hunting continues to be included in two remaining listings.

The listing for Bansha House Equestrian Centre refers to "Hunting Holidays with the Tipperary and Scarteen Hounds" while hunting is also listed as a facility available through Newcastle Riding School in Dublin.

We will continue to press Failte to eliminate these two remaining hunt references. You can help us by responding to the action item below.

Rhonwen Watson
Failte Ireland's Senior Marketing Officer, Rhonwen Watson.


Please write to Failte Ireland to applaud their removal of hunting from the site. Ask them to remove the remaining two hunt references as soon as possible.

Rhonwen Watson
Marketing Officer
Failte Ireland
Baggot Street Bridge, Dublin 2
Tel: 01-6024 380
Fax: 01-855 6821

Learn about Lagomorphs in brand new fact sheet

Hares and rabbits belong to the family called leporids and along with pikas (a small animal found in Asia) they form the order of Lagomorphs. Lagomorphs are distinctive in that they have a second set of incisors.

This and many more interesting facts about hares and rabbits can be found in an informative new fact sheet by Mike Rendle of the Irish Hare Initiative.

Available to download from the "Leaflets" section of the ICABS website, the 4-pages of facts, photos and illustrations will help ensure that you never mix up rabbits and hares again.

Hare sitting in grass
It's...a hare! (Photo: Mike Rendle)

Stop the cruelty festival funding

In our latest appeal to Failte Ireland, ICABS has called for a commitment that no further funding will be given to festivals which promote blood sports.

Despite maintaining that they do not promote these cruel activities, Failte Ireland last year gave a massive grant to Clonmel Country Festival which showcased foxhunting, hare coursing and lurcher and terrier work. And ICABS has learned that the €12,000 grant - given to Countryside Alliance, a blood sports lobby group - was made despite the reservations of Failte Ireland's Head of Regional Development.

ICABS first became aware of Failte's involvement after their logo was spotted on the back of advertising literature circulated by Countryside Alliance. We called on the tourism body to avoid using taxpayers' money to help fund this animal cruelty promotion but our pleas fell on deaf ears.

Later, under the Freedom of Information Act, we discovered that Failte's Head of Regional Development, Donal Guilfoyle, stated in an email to another Failte staffer: "I expect that we do not grant aid this event. Would you please consult with S.E. [South East] Tourism to ensure that they are not grant aiding it."

Other documents reveal that Failte, having decided after all to proceed with grant aiding the event, tried to hide their association with it. "I have told the Countryside Alliance that if they were producing any further literature that they should not publish the Failte Ireland logo," one official wrote to another.

The Countryside Alliance leaflet
The controversial festival flyer which sparked a negative public reaction.

Despite numerous complaints from members of the public, Failte continued on with their plans to grant aid the event, while attempting to cover up the fact that blood sports were going to be promoted.

In another email message, a Failte official wrote: "The organisers have produced a flyer - 20,000 copies are in circulation, which carries the [Failte Ireland] logo. Coursing and hunting are listed as festival activities - it's no surprise there is such a negative reaction from people who have seen this.

"SERTA (South Eastern Region Tourism) have since asked them to drop all reference to these activities - I think we should ask them to destroy any remaining copies from the first print run."

So, while Failte Ireland saw fit in the end to give €12,000 to the Countryside Alliance, they were extremely reluctant to be associated with the event and wanted their logo dropped from advertising literature in breach of their own rules for grant aid.

In order to comply with the grant aid criteria under the Festival and Cultural Events Initiative, it is expressly stated that Failte's logo must appear on all advertising material. Another condition for grant aid is that the event must have either been involved in overseas marketing in the past or, in the case of new events, have plans for overseas marketing.

ICABS hopes that Failte Ireland will, in the future, refuse any application for funding for festivals which promote blood sports.

Coursers mis-inform RTE about hare kills

Muzzling of greyhounds has effectively taken the kill out of coursing. So claimed Irish Coursing Club, Chief Executive, Jerry Desmond, when he appeared on a RTE News and Sport report last February.

It's a claim the coursers first started spouting in 1993 when muzzling was introduced to the blood sport. But it wasn't true then and it certainly wasn't true in February as we can now reveal.

In an RTE Sports report on the National Coursing Finals in Clonmel, it was stated that, according to the organisers, there were no kills over the three day event. However, as we suspected at the time, this turned out to be totally untrue. A National Parks and Wildlife Service report obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals a different story altogether.

Jerry Desmond during RTE News report
News to us: The Irish Coursing Club's Jerry Desmond claiming to RTE that the kill has "effectively" been taken out of coursing.

According to this report, the Conservation Ranger who supervised the meeting documented eight hares hit by greyhounds. Three of these hares were killed and one put down due to injuries.

In a further piece of mis-information on the RTE report, Tony McNamee, president of the Irish Coursing Club, stated that Conservation Rangers from the National Parks supervise hare releases after every coursing meeting around the country.

Again, not so. Rangers do not attend all coursing meetings, due to manpower and time restraints. This year, according to records supplied to ICABS, less than half of the meetings were monitored by NPWS staff. Furthermore, the rangers who do monitor meetings, aren't necessarily available to be present at subsequent hare releases. Only a proportion of hare releases, therefore, are actually witnessed by rangers.

It is this fact, aligned with documented instances of coursing clubs flouting licence conditions and presenting false information, that fuels speculation about the illegal trafficking of hares from one club to another. The evidence points to increased difficulty in catching hares for coursing activities - exacerbated, we believe, by a decline in the hare population - and it is not difficult to imagine a trade in hares when NPWS officials are absent.

ICABS has informed RTE News about the misinformation which was presented to them as fact. We have suggested that, instead of blindly accepting statements from coursers, they should always seek confirmation from an official source such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Greyhound chasing hare
Running for its life: A hare tries to stay ahead of a greyhound at the coursing finals in Clonmel.

Investigation into pig massacre demanded

ICABS has called for a Garda investigation into what has to be one of the most horrific instances of animal cruelty ever perpetrated in Ireland - the massacre, involving a stun gun, sledgehammer and attempted suffocation, of 4,300 pigs on a Waterford farm in 2002.

Shockingly, this horrendous barbarity was carried out in the presence of Department of Agriculture officials. We understand that the Department ordered the slaughter because they found a banned substance on the farm. The farmer who carried out the killing is claiming that he couldn't get the animals slaughtered in an abattoir or factory due to his farm being the subject of a Department of Agriculture restriction order.

According to reports in the Sunday Independent and Ireland on Sunday (June 19th 2005), a video was filmed of the gruesome slaughter, which was apparently overseen by officials from the Department of Agriculture. What is really astonishing is that a very senior official from the Department was quoted in Ireland on Sunday as follows: "...I saw nothing on the video to suggest that anything illegal occurred."

And in the Sunday Independent, he is quoted as saying: "The secondary role was to oversee the efficiency of the slaughtering process. Two of our veterinary inspectors did inspect the situation and found no cause for concern." Apparently, their primary concern was that the product did not find its way into the food chain.

Man in red shirt pointing stun gun at one of four pigs and standing next to dying pig
A stun gun is aimed at the head of a pig. A pig squeals and falls to the ground after being shot with the gun.

The Ireland on Sunday report outlines how the pigs, scraping desperately at the side of a concrete cell can be seen shaking violently as blood drains over their faces on to the floor, and how others were, in many cases, ineptly stunned and left to suffer a slow and horrific death, as other animals looked on and awaited their own gruesome end.

It also states that the stun guns over-heated and ceased to function properly. At this point, according to a vet's report referred to in the Ireland on Sunday article, the farmer claimed that the Department of Agriculture officials suggested that he attempt to suffocate a group of pigs en masse by sealing off the air supply to their houses and when this plan failed, that the Department officials looked on as 50 animals were slaughtered with sledgehammers.

In response to this claim, Minister for Agriculture, Mary Coughlan, issued a written answer on June 30th to several Dail questions tabled by TDs, as follows: "An official of my Department observed the herdowner use a lump-hammer to slaughter a small number (five) of the pigs and ordered the practice to cease immediately. The implement was seized and only returned to the farmer when the entire process was completed. With regard to the attempted suffocation of the pigs, records indeed show that the herdowner was legally instructed to maximise the ventilation capacity of his units in order to minimise the negative welfare impact associated with increased liveweight capacity of the units. Department veterinary staff did not report any attempt to deliberately deprive the pigs of air."

ICABS has written to Minister Coughlan, demanding a full investigation into this horrific incident. We want to know why officials from the Department of Agriculture allowed this carnage to take place when it was clearly in breach of animal welfare legislation.

We are also calling for animal welfare legislation to be removed from the remit of the Department of Agriculture and assigned to another department such as the Department of the Environment.

Foxhunting isn't an Irish tradition

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."

Mary Muldoon during TG4 programme
ICABS spokesperson, Mary Muldoon, on An Tuath Nua.

Badger snares laid in Coillte forest, Galway

ICABS has learned that badger snarers from the Department of Agriculture placed snares in a Coillte forest in Kilcournaun, County Galway last year.

The Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, confirmed the May 2004 snaring in reply to a Dail Question from Galway TD, Michael D Higgins.

She stated: "Farm Relief Service operatives under supervision of my Department and licensed by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government placed some restraints in this area as part of the Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme."

It is very disappointing that Coillte allowed the snaring of badgers at this location - particularly as they list the forest as a site of Tourism and Recreation. The presence of wildlife is integral to the forest experience for tourists and should be protected from a Department scheme which has been discredited as "slaughter masquerading as science".

Greyhound board hands over €296,000 of taxpayers' cash to hare coursers

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 ICC's "Sporting Press". We understand the exact amount will be €296,000 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.

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 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.


Ask the Minister why Bord na gCon was permitted to make this payment to the coursers. Remind him that 80 per cent of Irish people want coursing banned.

Minister John O'Donoghue
Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism
Frederick Buildings
South Frederick St, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-631 3802
Locall: 1890-383000
Fax: 01-679 9291

"Big Bite" discussion on cruelty of hunting

The cruelty of hunting and the problem of hunt trespass were among the issues discussed on RTE's "The Big Bite" in February.

Those speaking in favour of a hunt ban were ICABS Vice-president, Tony Gregory, TD, ICABS spokesperson, Aideen Yourell and Henry McDonald of The Observer. Defending the blood sport were Brian Munn (Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association), hunter Orla Duffy and Scarteen Hunt master, Chris Ryan.

The programme began with video footage of a stag being pursued through a private garden and across a field by a pack of dogs - a scene which caused outrage and disgust in Northern Ireland when broadcast 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."

Tony Gregory during Bit Bite programme
You must be joking: Tony Gregory laughs as a foxhunter describes the blood sport as humane.

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."

Responding, Ireland editor of The Observer, Henry McDonald said: "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 aspect to all of this that I object to and that is subjecting an animal to being terrorised."

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."

Aideen Yourell and David McWilliams in Big Bite studio
ICABS spokesperson, Aideen Yourell, explains drag hunting to Big Bite presenter, David McWilliams.

Praise for ICABS from former Bush assistant

A former speechwriter for George W Bush has praised the Irish Council Against Blood Sport for its work against animal cruelty.

Matthew Scully, who worked for the US President for five years up until August 2004, expressed his thanks "for the good work of ICABS" and said that he would "make a point of visiting your website now and then to see what the Council is up to". He emailed us with the comments after reading an Animal Voice article in which he was quoted.

The Summer 2004 article outlined how he had called for religious people to show more mercy towards animals. He was quoted as saying that "Religious people...hold a kind and merciful view of life, the faith of the broken, the hounded, the hopeless. Yet too often, they will not extend that spirit to our fellow creatures."

He also stated that "it is wrong to inflict needless cruelty on animals for profit and to use wildlife and farm animals as 'resources' no different from wood and steel."

Mr Scully held the positions of special assistant to President Bush and director of presidential speechwriting and formed part of the team which drafted the President's post-September 11th addresses. A former literary editor of National Review, Matthew Scully is also a well known author.

His book "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy" (Saint Martin's Press, ISBN: 0312261470) catalogues the seemingly endless inhumanity towards animals all over the world.

Described on as a "book of lasting power and importance for all of us [which is] painful, infuriating, controversial, passionate and deeply intelligent", Dominion explores numerous aspects of animal abuse.

Foxhunting, shooting, whale hunting, factory farming, zoos and vivisection are just some of the topics covered.

While the accounts of animal suffering make for difficult reading at times, the style of the book ensures that it is always more inspiring and empowering than depressing.

The aim of the author is to inspire the reader to stand up and voice opposition against the systems which allow the cruelty to continue. And that makes this book an absolutely essential read.

Matthew Scully smiling
Dominion author and former presidential speechwriting director, Matthew Scully.

Campaign Quotes

"I felt that the organisers could have been quicker to intervene when dogs hit a hare and not allow them continuously hit, and therefore increase the risk of injury to the hare." (Eamonn Doran, Conservation Ranger, National Parks & Wildlife Service, in a report on a Wexford coursing meeting in October 2004, at which thirteen hares were hit and five died as a result of their injuries)

"Country sports are not the be-all and end-all of the answer to rural sustainability but they are a very important part of it...Yet, regrettably, those many ordinary rural communities who espouse country sports now face entrenched bias and increasingly active political threats - especially against hunting." (Countryside Alliance website, September 2005)

"Hounds are to be exhibited by Hunt staff in Hunt uniform. No responsibility will be accepted...for any injury or damage caused by a hound while in the showgrounds." (Foxhound show notice on the website of the Tullamore Show & AIB National Livestock Show, August 2005)

"He's a foxhunter/ His Daddy taught him well/ When his hounds scent de smell/ Excitement meks him yell/ He's a Fox Hunter/ Know him by his killer eyes/ Something dead must be his prize" (from "A Killer Lies", a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah. From Talking Turkeys, Puffin Books)

"Actor Jeremy Irons has joined the battle against the [UK] ban on hunting with dogs. The pompous twit is the joint master of the West Carbery Hunt in County Cork. 'We're not harming anyone,' he says. 'The whole situation is terribly depressing.' Will somebody tell him it's not a terribly nice feeling for the hundreds of dismembered foxes he and his mates leave scattered around Ireland each year." (Daily Mirror, December 4, 2004)

Girl's pet cat ripped apart by foxhounds

An eight-year-old girl was left in tears after she learned that her beloved pet cat, Mitzi, was ripped apart by a pack of hunt hounds.

The appalling incident took place on St Patrick's Day when hounds from the Banbridge-based Iveagh Hunt ran riot in a residential area in Lurgan, Co Down.

The vicious attack was witnessed by local children out playing. They were horrified to see the dogs coming into a back garden, descending on the cat and mauling it to death. The Belfast Telegraph reported that the youngsters "saw the dogs in a complete frenzy and heard the squeals of the cat as she was attacked".

In a report in the Lurgan Mail, an official of the hunt tried to dismiss the eye witness account of what occurred. He was quoted as saying that "it's only children who saw it", as if their word didn't matter.

The Iveagh Hunt's bad behaviour didn't stop there, according to the newspaper report. They also allegedly trespassed on to farm land. The son of a local farmer told the paper how the hunt "ploughed through the fields and pulled down fence posts".

"[They] came up here and opened all the gates and yards," he went on to say. "A cow and a calf at my father's yard just down the road escaped for about an hour. They left mud all over the roads and then just left."

Meanwhile, an Iveagh Hunt joint master and Ronan Gorman of Countryside Alliance attempted to pour oil on troubled waters.

The latter claimed that "the hounds wouldn't ordinarily chase a cat never mind attack." And he carried on in this incredible vein, stating that "When in full cry, which isn't frequently, [hounds] are obviously difficult to call back. The cat must have run across their path." Added to this was another outrageous statement from the hunt's joint master who declared that "the hounds are not vicious, they're just like any other pet."

As for their claims that foxhounds are pets and attacks like this are rare, this is certainly not the case. Foxhounds are trained to hunt as a pack and kill. There are several documented cases of hunt hounds attacking domestic pets. In 2002, for example, we reported in Animal Watch how a sheep dog was viciously attacked by hunt hounds in Galway. The dog survived, miraculously, but suffered severe injuries.

Girl holding cat basket sitting next to her mother
A Lurgan Mail photo showing a sad and dejected Zara Spence with her mother, Audrey. Zara is seen here holding the basket which her cat, Mitzi, used before being brutally killed by foxhounds.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, an apology from the Iveagh hunt was subsequently issued for the cat killing.

But, of course, it was no consolation to the distraught girl whose pet suffered the same fate as that of the wildlife which normally fall victim to packs of hounds.

Her mother, Audrey Spence, described the gruesome state of the unfortunate cat as follows: "Its legs were pulled off, head pulled off, and insides ripped out."

Responding to the incident, the Ulster SPCA's CEO, Stephen Philpott, renewed the group's call for a hunt ban.

"The need for a total ban on hunting with dogs has been brutally outlined by the obscene spectacle of a child's pet being torn to shreds in the sanctuary of an urban garden," he stated.

The demand for a hunt ban was echoed by Ms Spence. She said: "Before this, hunting would not have annoyed me but now, I can't tolerate it at all. It is an absolutely disgusting, cruel sport that should be banned immediately."

Garden invaded by staghounds

A homeowner in County Meath was furious to find a pack of hunting hounds bounding into her garden.

The dogs, from the Ward Union Hunt, ran onto the lawn, around the rear of the house and across the driveway. The homeowner was seen frantically chasing the dogs off the property and shouting at them to "Get out".

As the woman did her best to clear the dogs, a mounted Ward Union hunter called out to the pack but he remained out of the homeowner's sight by halting his horse behind a boundary hedge.

The dogs pushed their way through the barrier and back onto the road before the red-coated hunter galloped away with them behind him.

According to ICABS monitors at the scene, there was no apology from the hunter to the homeowner.

This is just the latest example of hunt hounds invading private property.

Our advice to landowners who experience this type of incident is to immediately call the Gardai. Under the Control Of Dogs Act, 1986, the owner or person in charge of a dog shall not permit the dog to be on the premises of another person without the consent of that person. The person in charge of the dogs must keep the them under "effectual control", the Act states.

Staghound beyond driveway gate
One of several Ward Union staghounds which ICABS witnessed running around the property of a County Meath homeowner. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Councillor raises complaint about noisy death row dogs

A Westmeath Councillor has called for soundproofing to be installed at a dog pound because the doomed creatures within are making too much noise.

Cllr Jim Bourke was quoted in the Westmeath Examiner of April 5th as saying that "the noise coming from the dogs is getting to staff in offices close by."

"Is there any chance soundproofing could be installed?" he asked.

ICABS considers these comments by Cllr Bourke - who previously appeared in the newspaper on horseback during a Westmeath Hunt outing - to be entirely insensitive.

The dogs making the noise are almost certainly on a countdown to being put down. Strays which end up in a pound are typically killed within five days. Dogs surrendered by their owners may be destroyed immediately.

The latest available figures from the Westmeath County Council website show that, in 2003, a total of 766 dogs were surrendered or seized and out of these, 519 were destroyed.

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Death of a young badger

She was a soft target from the start. The young sow, possibly one of last year's cubs, lay exhausted in the wire snare that now pulled tightly around her hind quarters.

She had spent many hours during the night trying to free herself. Her night's work was clear to anyone passing by. The fresh mud that covered her striped face bore testimony to her gallant efforts. The loose earth, softened after the previous day's torrential rain was scattered around the perimeter of the hole she had been excavating. It was her final bid to free herself of the snare, but it had all been in vain.

Now she had given up, too tired and too weary to go any further. Instinctively, she knew her life was over. She lay with her head resting on one of her front paws and awaited the shot that would end her young life. Her small carcass would then be bagged, tagged and casually tossed into the back of the trapper's vehicle along with the rest of the morning's carcasses and taken away for autopsy.

Dead badger with wire snare around body
The young badger killed as part of the Department of Agriculture's so-called TB Eradication Scheme. (Photo: Badger Watch)

Far from being an illegal wire snare, set by the local lowlife, this was in fact a very legal and sanitised exercise.

Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Food had secured the necessary licence from The National Parks and Wildlife Service to snare and shoot badgers.

Now she was merely one more badger to be added to the list of almost 50,000 casualties that the Department have killed over the past 15 years or so for their alleged role in the spread of TB to cattle.

Later that morning passers-by would halt and look at the spot. Among the bluebells and primroses, the sunshine picked out the small pool of blood in the clay. It told its own tale on that summer morning in May 2005. (Thanks to Bernie Barrett of Badger Watch Ireland for this article).

Visit the Badger Watch website for more information on badgers in Ireland. To sign a "Stop the badger snaring" petition, click on Petitions at

BUT - a poem by Francis Kennedy

"It's called drag-hunting" she said
"Like all great ideas,
It's simple," she said.

"You go to the butcher and get
A bag of cheap meat.
You pack it into a hessian sack
And tie the top
With a rope," she said.

"On the morning of the foxhunt
You saddle your quietest hunter,
Tie the rope to her saddle,
Feet in the stirrups
And off you go," she said.

"Over the fields at a canter
Leaving the sweetest scent
For the pack," she said.

"You won't even have to ride
Into John Beirne's land because
Beirne doesn't like fox-hunting,"
she said.

"Assemble your warriors at noon
And let the beagles out," she said.
"Tally-ho and the redcoats are away,
Galloping through the fields,

Following closely their excited
Tail-wagging guides," she said,
"In hot pursuit of the sweetest scent,
Left by a bag of meat," she said.

But you can't kill a bag of meat.

© Francis Kennedy 2005

Book Review

The Hare by Jill Mason.
Photography by David Mason.
Merlin Unwin Books. ISBN 1 873674 813

The jacket notes of "The Hare" by Jill Mason declare that "few researchers have had the patience and skill to untangle fact from fiction, to reveal surprising evidence about this truly wild mammal."

It is not made clear who these rare researchers may be but it is clear from reading this book that its author is not one of them.

There is a lot of interesting material about the hare in folklore and hunting, but when it comes to presenting accurate contemporary knowledge about the hare, Jill Mason has a different agenda.

Her background as a gamekeeper and her clear enthusiasm for exploiting hares as a quarry species has clearly influenced the selective nature of the material she has presented.

Whilst some of the factual material is accurate, the errors contained in this book are too numerous to list here.

Scientific opinion is misrepresented and misquoted, with snippets of received knowledge slipped in to support the pro-hunting case.

Sadly, for most readers of "The Hare", fact and fiction will remain well and truly tangled. In its defence, the colour photos are indeed "stunning" and would brighten up any coffee table. The publisher may herald this as "the first major book on the hare in thirty years", but despite its polished appearance this is no reference work. Mike Rendle.

Jailed dogfighter freed pending court appeal

A man found guilty of animal cruelty at a dog fight in County Kildare spent just one night in prison, after lodging an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. The case has yet to be heard.

Troy Jordan (35), of Blackthorn Cottage, River Road, Allenwood South, Co Kildare, was jailed by Judge Pat McCartan at Naas circuit court on 28th July 2005. It emerged in court that Jordan had been previously convicted of cruelty to six pitbull terriers.

Four other men were also found guilty of the October 2003 offence. They are: Richard Somerville, Dunard Drive, Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin; Karl Breen, Nangor Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin; Thomas Codd, Cloonmore Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin and David Deegan, Maplewood Park, Springfield, Tallaght.

Somerville received an 18-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €3,000 to the ISPCA. Breen received a nine-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €5,000 to the ISPCA. Codd received a nine-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €500 to the ISPCA. Deegan received an 18-month suspended sentence which was also suspended on condition that he paid €3,000 to the ISPCA.

The five men, charged under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1911, had all pleaded not guilty to ill-treating two animals.

Reporting on the disturbing case, the Irish Independent detailed how a team of gardai and ISPCA inspectors raided a farm at Brockagh, Robertstown, Co Kildare and found two pit bull terriers in a bloody embrace in a corrugated steel pen. The dogs had lacerations to the face, ear, head, neck and forelimbs, the court was told.

Dan Boland BL for the state said that the group of men had been found by Gardai in an isolated area on a Friday morning beside the dog fight. Such was the ferocity of the fight between the dogs, he said, a ladder was needed to separate them.

ICABS congratulates the ISPCA and the Gardai for helping to secure this outcome. We appeal to anyone with any information about dog fighting activities to please contact the Gardai. You can also pass on information to ICABS (044-93 49848) or to the ISPCA (043-25035).

Injured dogfight dog
A photo published in The Star showing one of the bloodied victims of the Kildare dogfight.

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