Animal Voice - May 2007
Campaign newsletter of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports
In This Issue:
01. Fianna Fail committed to coursing continuing
Fianna Fail has declared that the party is "committed" to the continuation of coursing in Ireland. Responding to an ICABS appeal to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a spokesperson defended the blood sport, claiming that the muzzling of greyhounds results in less hares being killed.
"Fianna Fail in government is committed to ensuring coursing in Ireland is run in a controlled and responsible manner which takes into account the animal welfare of hares and greyhounds alike," stated Gerry Hickey, Special Adviser to An Taoiseach.
ICABS is enormously disappointed at this response, particularly as the Taoiseach is on record as saying that he is "totally opposed" to coursing and that he hopes that "many more people reject coursing".
Considering that coursing is intrinsically cruel, ICABS finds the suggestion that it is, or could ever be, carried out in an animal welfare-friendly fashion to be absolutely absurd. As long as hares are used in coursing, there is no possibility whatsoever of it being compatible with acceptable animal welfare standards.
We also find this response to be an affront to the majority of the electorate who want hare coursing banned. Past polls have put the opposition as high as 80-90 per cent of the population.
ICABS will be urgently renewing our appeal to Fianna Fail to reconsider its stance on blood sports. We will remind them once again that muzzling has not, and never will, eliminate the cruelty of coursing.
Thousands of hares continue to be snatched from the wild and chased by greyhounds every year. Some are battered and mauled into the ground by the dogs; some sustain injuries so severe that they will die during or after the coursing meeting; some die from stress-related conditions; all suffer the fear of being taken out of their natural environment and forced to run for their lives.
Please join with us in urging Fianna Fail to condemn coursing and to give a commitment to banning it in the coming months.
ACTION ALERT 1
Please contact Mr Ahern and urge him to update Fianna Fail's policy in relation to blood sports. Tell him that a majority of the electorate want these cruel activities banned.
Dear An Taoiseach,
I am very disappointed to learn that, in a recent letter to the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, your Special Adviser stated that Fianna Fail is "committed" to the continuation of coursing in Ireland.
This announcement totally disregards the fact that as many as eight in ten Irish citizens (from both rural and urban areas) want this deplorable activity outlawed. It is regrettable that Fianna Fail is siding with the minority who get pleasure out of snatching timid hares from the wild in nets, keeping them in captivity for several weeks and forcing them to run for their lives ahead of greyhounds.
The muzzling of greyhounds hasn't, and never could, eliminate the cruelty from hare coursing. Photographs and video footage presented on the ICABS website clearly show the suffering being endured by hares in this outdated activity. Hares are not only killed as a result of being pounded into the ground by the hounds but they are also all at risk of succumbing to the stress-related condition known as capture myopathy. At one coursing meeting, a veterinary inspector highlighted how 40 hares died as a result of the condition.
How long more is the government going to tolerate those who abuse this most cherished of creatures? No amount of monitoring will spare the hare from the cruelty of coursing. That can only be achieved by an outright ban on the blood sport. I hope that you can do the right thing for both the hare species and the international image of Ireland as a civilised nation and urgently bring coursing to an end.
Thank you. I eagerly await your positive response.
ACTION ALERT 2
Please write to Minister Dick Roche and demand that he stop licensing hare coursing.
Minister Dick Roche
ACTION ALERT 3
Please appeal to Minister Mary Coughlan (she is responsible for animal welfare and the Protection of Animals Act) to intervene to end hare coursing.
Minister Mary Coughlan
In the weeks preceding the general election, please take the opportunity to contact all your local candidates. Ask them for their views on blood sports and other animal welfare issues and express your desire for these issues to be seriously addressed.
Write to your TD at: Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-618 3000 or 1890 337 889.
Write to your Senator at: Seanad Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-618 3000 or 1890 732 623.
For the names and contact details of politicians, please visit the Irish Government Website at: www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist/.
For the views of current TDs and Senators and for contact details of political parties, please visit our Politicians Page.
The leader of Fine Gael has confirmed that, although his party supports drag hunting, they have no plans to ban blood sports.
"There are no proposals to ban hunting or coursing under consideration by Fine Gael," Enda Kenny, TD stated in a letter to the Irish Council Against Blood Sports in April.
ICABS is greatly disappointed at this response, particularly as Mr Kenny has expressed his personal opposition to hare coursing in the past. We have renewed our call to Fine Gael to reconsider their policy and to match an anti-blood sports commitment given by the Green Party. The Greens have pledged to put a complete ban in place if they get into government after the next election.
Although not considering a ban on cruel blood sports like foxhunting, coursing, mink hunting and carted deer hunting, Deputy Kenny maintained that his party supports the growth of the humane drag hunting alternative.
"Fine Gael is supportive of the development of alternatives to conventional hunting such as drag hunting, which are growing in popularity in many parts of the country," he said. "In addition to the removal of the fox from this form of hunting, the course of drag hunts can be planned in advance thereby minimising disruption to farmers and landowners."
If Fine Gael truly wants to see foxes and other animals being removed from hunting, the most effective way forward is to come out in favour of a ban on hunting with hounds. ICABS has renewed its appeal to Enda Kenny and his party to condemn blood sports and commit to outlawing them in Ireland.
A major opinion poll carried out across the Irish Republic has shown that around two in three people here want foxhunting banned. The Millward Brown survey also found that nearly 70 per cent of the Irish public view foxhunting as cruel. The results confirm that most people in both rural and urban areas want the blood sport outlawed.
A total of 68 per cent of those surveyed expressed their view that foxhunting is cruel with 64 per cent saying they wanted to see foxhunting banned in Ireland. Just 19 per cent thought it should remain legal while 16 per cent replied that they didn't know.
The independent poll, conducted by Millward Brown Ulster on behalf of the League Against Cruel Sports, took place between 23rd January and 3rd February 2007. It involved 978 face-to-face interviews at 62 randomly selected sampling points throughout the Republic of Ireland. Sampling was quota controlled to ensure that the sample was representative in terms of sex, age, and socio-economic class, and all aspects of the research were conducted in conformance with the Code of Conduct of the Market Research Society.
Responding to the results which were released in April, ICABS Campaign Director, Aideen Yourell stated: "It's no surprise that this latest opinion poll confirms the huge desire for this blood sport to be banned. Routinely trespassing on farmlands, damaging meadows and boundaries, dangerously scattering livestock and, of course, terrorising Ireland's favourite wild mammal, foxhunters have never been more unpopular among the public."
"We are confident that it's only a matter of time before this loathsome activity is banned in the Republic and we are continuing to press politicians to do the right thing and outlaw it sooner rather than later," she added.
ICABS has brought the survey results to the attention of all Irish TDs and Senators and renewed our appeal for blood sports to be finally made illegal.
A sports calendar sponsored by Eagle Star has included hare coursing in its events listings. ICABS has called on the company to clarify its views on the blood sport and to exclude activities involving animal cruelty from future calendars.
The "Irish Examiner 2007 Sports Calendar Sponsored by Eagle Star" presents listings for genuine sports such as snooker, basketball and rugby. On the February page, however, two "blood sports" events are listed. Under the heading "Coursing", the national meeting in Clonmel and the Irish Cup in Limerick are included along with the respective dates.
In a letter to the insurance company's head office, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports expressed our concern about the inclusion of an activity involving animal cruelty. Through a series of photos showing hares being hit and mauled by greyhounds, we highlighted to the company that coursing results in horrendous suffering to the Irish Hare.
"Most companies would not in any way wish to be associated with this cruelty and we hope that Eagle Star can assure us that your company does not condone coursing," we stated.
We also asked for Eagle Star to confirm that, if it decides to sponsor a similar calendar in the future, references to coursing will be strictly excluded.
We are currently awaiting a full response after being told that the matter is being discussed with the Irish Examiner.
Contact Eagle Star and enquire about their policy on hare coursing. Ask them to give a firm commitment that future editions of the calendar will exclude references to coursing.
Tel: +353 (0)1 2092117
I was disappointed to learn that a listing for hare coursing appears in a calendar sponsored by Eagle Star.
I would like to point out that coursing is NOT a sport but rather a form of animal cruelty which as many as eight in ten Irish adults want outlawed (It is already illegal in England, Scotland, Wales).
I hope that your company can urgently clarify its stance on this issue and assure the public that coursing will be excluded from any future editions of the calendar that you sponsor.
Thank you very much. I look forward to your reply.
The Socialist Party has reiterated its support for an end to blood sports in Ireland. Responding to correspondence from ICABS, the party confirmed that it would support a ban on the cruel activities.
"The Socialist Party is opposed to blood sports and would support a ban and the goals of your campaign," stated national party organiser, Kevin McLoughlin. "We wish you well in your work."
Previously, Socialist Party TD, Joe Higgins assured us that: "I am opposed to the hunting of foxes by hounds as indeed I am opposed to live hare coursing."
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is grateful to the Socialist Party for their support.
For more information on the Socialist Party, please visit www.socialistparty.net
Environment Minister, Dick Roche, has revealed that he does not support foxhunting. The minister made the statement in an email response to a member of the public.
"Neither you or anybody else will ever find any support from me for fox hunting," the minister stated emphatically.
ICABS has welcomed this revelation but we desperately want the Minister to use his power to bring foxhunting to an end.
"We implore you to amend the Wildlife Act to save foxes from the cruelty of hunting," we urged Minister Roche at the end of April.
Reminding the minister of the cruelty of foxhunting, we detailed how foxes:
Contact Minister Roche and urge him to amend the Wildlife Act so that foxes are free to live safe from the cruel barbarity of foxhunting.
Minister Dick Roche
I was pleased to learn that you are one of the majority of Irish people who do not support foxhunting.
In order for this horrendous activity to be banned in our country, we need people in power such as yourself to take action.
Please urgently do everything in your power to spare the foxes the cruelty of foxhunting. With a major opinion poll confirming that most of Ireland wants foxhunting outlawed, now is the ideal time to act.
Thank you. I look forward to your reply.
International music star, Robert Wells, has angrily withdrawn from a fundraiser for a group which promotes hunting. The anti-blood sports pianist said that he initially agreed to perform at the Countryside Alliance event after being told that they didn't have "anything to do with foxhunting".
The Countryside Alliance, previously known as the British Field Sports Society, is a pro-hunting organisation which has defended not only foxhunting but other cruel activities such as hare coursing and terrier work. It has called for the repeal of the UK's Hunting Act which brought foxhunting to an end in England and Wales.
Robert Wells says that he was unaware of this when he agreed to be one of the top performers at the event. In an interview with a Swedish newspaper, Mr Wells commented that he "felt that they were keeping something from me when they denied that the Countryside Alliance had anything to do with foxhunting".
"As far as I knew, this concert was in support of nature and countryside, and then this crap shows up," he said. "That's when I said 'that is against my beliefs', and I cancelled. I warned them not to mess with me or I'd get really pissed off."
It is believed that Mr Wells became aware of the CA's pro-hunting campaigns after a Swedish journalist contacted Animal Aid, the UK's largest animal rights group.
Commented Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler: "Robert Wells is a musician of talent, sensitivity and discernment. He was therefore appalled to think he'd nearly been conned into performing at a concert promoting the killing of animals for pleasure. It's time Eric Clapton and company followed his life-affirming example."
In a letter to Robert Wells, ICABS commended his decision to withdraw from the gig.
"We can confirm that the Countryside Alliance is involved in promoting hunting," we said. "In a recent newspaper article (Irish Examiner, 8th March 2007), a spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance was quoted as saying that 'we will always have field sports [i.e. blood sports] at our core'."
About Robert Wells: Born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1962, Robert Wells is a world famous pianist, entertainer, singer and composer. He has toured the world for over a decade with his "Rhapsody in Rock" show and several of his albums have gone gold and/or platinum. He has been invited to compose and perform the music for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. More info can be found on the Robert Wells Official Website - www.wellsmusic.se.
A hare was forced to swim across a river twice and run for over 90 minutes to escape a pack of hounds in County Meath.
According to a report in the Irish Field, the joint meeting of the Goldburn Beagles and the Balgarrett Beagles saw the hare doing everything possible to evade the dogs.
The unfortunate creature "swam the river" with hounds in pursuit, before running across slurry in an attempt to mask its scent.
"This strong hare completed yet a second circle before hounds lost her," the report stated, revealing that it had been chased for over one and a half hours and across the River Skane twice.
The Coca Cola company has removed a bullrun scene from its current TV ad following an appeal by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.
The ICABS appeal focussed on the First Taste advert which revolves around a man who gets to drink coke for the first time, prompting him to wonder what other new experiences he has missed out on throughout his life. The segment we objected to showed the man running with the bulls at a bullrunning festival. In our correspondence to Coca Cola's Atlanta HQ, we highlighted the danger bullrunning poses to human participants as well as the animal cruelty.
Responded Gavin O'Doherty, Senior Brand Manager at Coca Cola Ireland: "At the Coca-Cola Company, we certainly do not condone or endorse physical harm to animals."
"We wish to confirm that we do not have any plans to run the edit of the First Taste TV commercial which features the bull running scene," he added. "We will continue to run various different versions of this successful commercial but can confirm that none of these will feature the scene mentioned above." ICABS has thanked Mr O'Doherty and the Coca Cola company for this positive response.
Aer Lingus has told ICABS that they "regret any offence caused" by a reference to bullfighting which appeared in a recent promotions email. The company has promised that they will "avoid any further mention of this activity".
Customer Service Manager Caroline Crawford stated: "I am aware of your concern regarding our reference to bullfighting in Madrid. In emails of this kind it is common for our email copywriters to refer to various tourist attractions and activities available at our destinations. We acknowledge that the activity referred to could be upsetting to many of our customers. Our Head of Marketing, Fintan Lonergan, and Digital Marketing Manager, John Maguire, have asked me to assure you that this was certainly not our intention. In this instance, the reference in question was not picked up in our copy approval procedure and we sincerely regret any offence caused."
"I can confirm that we will review future marketing copy and will avoid any further mention of this activity," she added.
ICABS welcomes this response. Thank you to all who contacted Aer Lingus and asked them to stop publicising bullfighting.
ICABS has called on budget airline easyJet to stop publicising bullfighting and bullrunning in its in-flight magazine.
In a letter to the company, we drew particular attention to the March 2007 edition which mentioned:
The Pamplona bullrun: "Sixty miles inland is Pamplona, whose famous 'running of the bulls' down the town's cobbled streets takes place for a riotous week each July during the Fiesta of San Fermin."
The Pamplona bullring: "A few decades ago, the city fathers erected a marble bust of the writer, complete with beard, and placed it in front of the Pamplona bullring. For good measure, they rechristened a lane running alongside the bullring La Calle Hemingway."
A bullring in Ronda: "Just 60 miles away is Ronda. This is Ordonez family terrain, home to Spain's oldest bullring (200 years old), and the Pedro Romero restaurant, named after the man deemed to be the godfather of modern bullfighting."
We urged the company to watch the bullfighting presentation on our video channel (www.youtube.com/icabs) which explicitly shows "the absolute cruelty of this gross activity"
Contact easyJet and ask them to stop publicising bullrunning and bullfighting in their magazine.
A round-up of extracts from hunting reports which convey the awful plight of foxes during the 2007 Abbeyfeale Harriers hunting festival in County Limerick. A copy of this list has been forwarded to the Irish Cancer Society who accepted a donation from the organisers of the event.
The following extracts are from Hounds Magazine, March 2007...
"The fox was now under severe pressure and made the fatal mistake of leaving the valley for the open country and here he was soon bowled over. Drawing back towards the village another fox was found and with scent improving we had a wonderful run of over an hour..."
"Eventually hounds found at 2.30pm and the cry in the valley was 'something else'. They hunted very strongly for almost two hours in the large plantation, before the fox was marked in the densest part of the woodland. With all the pack there it was time to go home, when the fox bolted and hounds were still hunting at 8 o'clock in the evening before the last one was called to the van."
"The first fox was rather slow to leave the small wood, but some good hound work pushed it out onto the hill top where the pressure was kept up by the pack. They hunted over several roads and through farm yards before the fox was marked to ground in a strong badger sett. Drawing on along the valley hounds found again and scent was excellent for this mixed pack of harriers, old English and Welsh cross foxhounds. They pushed this fox for fifty minutes in terrible driving rain, before catching it in the open at 4pm."
"For fifty minutes they hunted through heavy country into a large valley, where the pack caught their fox against a small bank. Drawing back towards the meet, hounds were soon hunting again and on the right side of the wind the cry was tremendous. The fox was reluctant to leave the covert, but avoided the large crowd on the road by going under them through a pipe...".
"There was a brace in the gorse and after thirty minutes, the first fox was marked to ground. The second fox tried to do likewise but these hounds are very sharp and this proved to be fatal."
"...a number of foxes were afoot. Here hounds had a busy two hours before they marked in a large earth."
"Soon a fox was viewed in front of the pack and quickly made for a large track of forestry. This did not deter the hounds and they drove the fox out into the open towards Listowell. Here the fox turned back and came through some beautiful open farmland, where the large crowd could see hounds putting pressure on their fox. The cry in the valley was tremendous as they closed in on their fox. Hounds checked on a farm track but quickly corrected themselves and hunted on. After a hunt of over seven miles, they had their reward."
"A large crowd followed hounds to the first draw where a fox was quickly found. With great cry hounds hunted for thirty-five minutes before the fox was lost on a roadway. A second fox was found and we enjoyed a good hunt of an hour through heavy country. We saw hounds at their best hunting a very twisty fox which eventually took refuge in a roadside drain and was left."
The following extracts are from the Irish Field of March 3rd, 2007...
"Hounds were hunting within 15 minutes of moving off and there was a brace [of foxes] afoot. One was hunted up the valley with great cry but was lost. They soon found again and caught it after a nice hunt."
"[each pack of hounds] must be serious fox-catchers"
"the fox had to work very hard to keep ahead of the hounds."
"Eventually they pushed hard enough to force [the fox] to make good his escape and he was away across open country. After a fine hunt, hounds were rewarded [i.e. the fox was killed]."
"They found within 10 minutes and hunted and caught the fox as he headed for Stran. Another sharp 50 minute hunt followed and the rest of the day was spent hunting the glen..."
The hounds "caught this fellow [a fox] and drew back towards Jerry Leahy's land where they found another who managed to go to ground..."
"They first drew above the village and had a fox on the move. He ran through some young plantings and up the hill, across the land and into a more mature planting. Four couple had hunted the line and it was not long before Ryan had the rest in the plantation. They managed to push him out and he went back to where he came..."
"The fox swung in a big circle and ran back along the bottom of the valley and hounds checked by the stream...they were put right and soon pushed him out into the open land above."
"As well as giving many people a lot of fun, it also managed to raise 3,200 for cancer research"
The Irish Field has highlighted an often overlooked problem experienced by farmers as a result of hunts interfering with farm boundaries.
In the past, ICABS has documented one of the primary problems experienced by farmers - damage to the hedges and fencing which form a crucial boundary around their property. It's destruction which hunters try to play down, claiming that they return the following day to make repairs.
However, with the farmer already having suffered the inconvenience and worry of having a breach in the farm boundary, any repair that actually takes place is little consolation, particularly when the hunt didn't have permission to be on the property in the first place.
The Irish Field has pointed out an additional problem caused in this situation, i.e. the "repair" of gaps that were purposely there before the hunt came charging through.
"[The hunstman] gives much praise to those who go out after hunting and do the fencing," the report outlines. "But sometimes it can go against him when they block a previously used natural gap."
This is yet another reason for farmers to keep hunts off their land.
Stop torturing and killing animals in Andalucia (Spain)
Ask the Pope not to wear fur
Sign an ICABS petition at:
Raw reality of the hunt (Irish Independent, February 26th, 2007)
After standing in glorious sunshine, soaking up the hospitality of the Kildare Hunt and documenting the colours of hounds and hunt attire, Kevin Myers turned around, walked away and sacrificed the true story of this loathsome blood sport (Irish Independent, February 20).
"I watched them all disappear," he wrote. "I went home, my heart rejoicing in the glorious traditions of the countryside."
If he had hung around with a pair of binoculars, perhaps he might have managed to witness the suffering which underlines a day's hunting, a glimpse of the creature he casually refers to as "he-that-outwits-them-all".
Past the "low green hills, gorse-brakes and tall hedgerows" which usually help to obscure the barbarity of foxhunting, Mr Myers might have spotted a fox, or vixen, being pushed hard across the Kildare countryside, its eyes bulging and tongue dangling as frenzied hounds close in to the sound of a crescendoing horn.
Had he seen a trembling fox being knocked off its feet before having its entrails chewed out of its belly, maybe we might have been presented with a more apt set of adjectives.
"A greyhound which failed a drugs test in England has been nominated for Ireland's 'Greyhound of the Year' awards by a Bord na gCon judging panel. Trained by Paul Hennessy, Heart Rumble tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone when running in a puppy event at Sunderland." (Dog that failed drug test up for Bord award, Irish Independent, April 3rd, 2007)
"It would be impossible to defend bullfighting in ethical terms. It is a cruel and atavistic sport..." (Trinity News, 20th February 2007)
"It was a difficult place to hunt, with main roads and heavy traffic making it dangerous. The terrierman, an important part of any successful pack, played a key role in protecting hounds as they crossed." (from a report on the Co Limerick Foxhounds - Irish Field, January 13th, 2007)
"The first draw was behind the Station House Hotel in Kilmessan. The hotel has had a long association with hunting when it was a railway station on the main Dublin/Navan line..." (Irish Field, January 20th, 2007)
"The Irish Wildlife Trust are dismayed at the actions of Cavan County Council Roads Department to a woodland at Corrard near Dowra, Co. Cavan where they have widened an existing road on safety grounds and have bulldozed over 650 metres of natural woodland...The habitat destruction of this rare riverine woodland with the presence of the threatened red squirrel, pine martins, long -eared owl and bats has completely compromised the survival of these species in this area..." (IWT press release, 21 February 2007)
"I am delighted that such a significant amount of funding has been allocated to Fossett's Circus in Lucan." Fianna Fail TD John Curran after learning from Minister John O'Donoghue that the circus is to receive a massive Eur200,000 (two hundred thousand euro) under the Arts and Cultural Enhancement Support Scheme II (ACCESS II) - 27 April 2007.
"Although it was a children's meet there were not that many out..." (from a hunting report on the Stonehall Harriers - Irish Field, January 27th, 2007)
The first national hare survey of Ireland is "almost completed" according to a notice on the National Parks and Wildlife Service website.
The fieldwork for the survey took place between February and March in both 2006 and 2007. Results are being analysed and the final report is due in July 2007.
The first ever Irish National Biodiversity Week takes place between May 20th - 26th and will see environmental groups hosting a range of events around the country in association with the Department of the Environment's Notice Nature public awareness campaign. Activities will range from family days out in natural amenities to discussions about threats to biodiversity. The event is also aiming to highlight international issues such as climate change, deforestation and extinction and encourage the public to become active in conservation projects.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is currently conducting a survey of wildlife killed on Irish roads.
"Road kill may be a significant cause of mortality for some animals," the NPWS outlined in a statement. "In certain species (e.g. otter) the loss of only a handful of individuals is likely to have a significant impact on local population dynamics."
The survey data collected will be used to help inform strategies to protect these animals.
Now the hunter becomes the hunted
I welcome the Millward Brown opinion poll finding that two out of every three Irish people want fox hunting banned (Irish Independent, April 9). The reaction of the field sport lobby was predictable. It has once again dredged up the old arguments in favour of hunting that, despite the serious nature of the subject, have always been good for a laugh.
To say that the pro-hunting case is flawed would be a gross understatement. It relies completely upon a set of contradictory claims and delightfully subjective hyperbole.
"We serve the farmers well by keeping down the fox population" they say, before, almost in the same breath telling us that "sure, we hardly ever catch a fox, most of them get away".
So which is it? They cannot be controlling fox numbers if they seldom catch the wily creatures.
"The farmers and country folk love us and extend a warm welcome to hunts in the countryside", they say, despite the pages full of hunt ban notices from farmers that appear in the provincial print media at the start of every hunting season.
"We hate to see a fox get caught, we're only in it for the chase and the clean fresh air of the countryside," they say, and yet every hunt employs men with spades and terriers to dig out any fox that goes to ground, so that the trapped and terrified animal can then be tossed to the pack.
"Foxes take hens and lambs, so farmers breathe a sigh of relief when the hunt arrives," they assure us. These, one presumes, would be the farmers whose fields of crops are not churned up by rampaging horses and hounds, and whose herds are not scattered to the four winds by the "fox-controlling" hunt cavalry.
"We rarely catch the strong, healthy foxes. It's mainly the old, sick and diseased ones." A peculiar "sport" that targets the old, sick and diseased. And wouldn't the strong, healthier fellows pose a greater threat to poultry or lambs?
And for people so vocally committed to protecting farms from foxes, isn't it rather odd that hunts go out of their way to introduce fox cubs into areas where foxes have become scarce.
Following the UK ban, the day of its deliverance cannot be too far off. The hunters are becoming the hunted, and this chase can end only with the death of fox hunting in Ireland.
Time for a ban on fox hunting
Sir - Depicting the deaths of desperate and disorientated foxes as "suicide", a recent Irish hunting report encapsulated the insensitivity and heartlessness of those involved in this horrendous activity.
"A good hunt was spoiled by the fox committing the equivalent of vulpine suicide," the article's author light-heartedly lamented.
"As hounds were pressing their quarry, it turned to the road for sanctuary, only to be run over by a car.
"On another occasion hounds had pressed their fox hard and were not very far behind him when he jumped into a slurry pit and drowned."
Further troubling examples of this merciless persecution include hounds "pushing a fox for fifty minutes in terrible driving rain, before catching it", terrified foxes being chased for up to three hours and a fox taking temporary refuge under the roots of an old tree before terriers were called in "to do their bit", i.e. savagely bite into the fox's flesh and drag it back out in to the open to be killed.
Hunters are keen to claim that a transition to the humane alternative of drag hunting - the pursuit of an artificially scented inanimate object - is not viable. However, this has been unequivocally dismissed by a spokesperson for the UK's Council of Hunting Associations.
Although referring to "the chasing of old socks soaked in essence of fox" as "the uncomfortable in pursuit of the undignified", Brian Fanshawe leaves no doubt that this is indeed the future for foxhounds.
"People who really know how to handle hounds are able to train them to do most things," he said.
With the latest opinion poll confirming that a majority of Irish people want foxhunting banned, the time is now ideal for legislators to act. If a pack of dogs can be trained to change, so too can the humans following them.
Now is a great time of year to watch foxes and cubs in the Irish countryside. If you're interested in observing these most fascinating of creatures, head over to the Foxwatch Ireland website to listen to the latest podcasts filled with useful tips and advice. The address is http://homepage.eircom.net/~foxwatchireland (click on Podcasts). Don't forget to send us in your fox photos. Thank you.
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