Animal Voice - August 2008
Campaign newsletter of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports
In This Issue:
01. Urge Minister Gormley to refuse coursing licence
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has this week called on the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, to refuse the granting of a licence to the Irish Coursing Club to net hares from the wild for use as live lures before greyhounds at coursing matches. Please join our urgent appeal to Minister Gormley now.
Now more than ever, there are compelling and urgent reasons for the Minister to stop the netting of hares. Only last May, Minister Gormley himself issued a report on the Status of EU Protected Habitats & Species in Ireland, which signalled grave cause for concern about some of our native species, including the Irish hare, whose overall conservation status was rated as "POOR". The reasons given included loss of habitat, increased urbanisation and hunting.
The coursers themselves are complaining about a lack of hares. For example, a National Park and Wildlife Service monitoring report outlined that Offaly's Ballinagar coursing club complained of a scarcity of hares, with one official admitting to the NPWS ranger that the club found "this particular year the most difficult ever to find and capture wild hares". He went on to tell the ranger that "more man-hours were spent this year looking for hares and yet the number caught was low...the hares are just not out on the land anymore."
ICABS has reminded Minister Gormley of Ireland's obligations in relation to the EU Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna and Flora. As we understand it, the exploitation of protected species must be "compatible with their being maintained at a favourable conservation status." (Article 14, 1). We believe that the hare, which, ironically, is designated a highly protected species in this country, should now get that much needed protection, if Ireland is to avoid being in breach of the EU Directive. All hare hunting should be suspended as has been done in Northern Ireland. Minister Gormley's counterparts in the North suspended all hare hunting, due to a decline in the hare population there. However, not to be outdone, the two Northern Ireland coursing clubs now travel south and are welcome guests of the Republic's coursers, with Co. Cavan and Tubbercurry hosting them since 2004.
Please help save hares from the cruelty of coursing and hare hunting. Urgently contact Minister Gormley. Also, contact all of your local TDs and Senators and urge them to support the call for Ireland's hares to be given the protection they so desperately need. For contact details, please visit http://www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist/
Please urgently contact Environment Minister, John Gormley, and appeal to him to prohibit all forms of hare persecution, including hare hunting and hare coursing.
Minister John Gormley
Dear Minister Gormley,
The conservation status of the Irish Hare has been described as "poor" in the recently published "Report on Status of Habitats and Species in Ireland". Furthermore, the NPWS division of your department has confirmed on its website that "numbers have decreased in recent years". This is cause for enormous concern to myself and the majority of Irish people who value the hare as an important part of our precious heritage.
Minister, as you are no doubt aware, most people in this country want the hare to be allowed to live free from persecution by coursing and hare hunting clubs. We oppose the cruelty inherent in these outdated activities but also the threat they pose to regional hare populations and the species as a whole.
In coursing, hares continue to die at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity, during the coursing meetings and also subsequent to their release back to the wild. Such deaths have been documented by the NPWS. These timid and fragile creatures die as a result of physical injuries or from the stress caused by human handling and being chased by greyhounds.
I implore you to act on the wishes of the electorate, and on the stark findings of the habitats and species report, and immediately ban coursing and hare hunting.
Thank you, Minister.
Over the coming weeks, Minister John Gormley will be making a decision on the granting of a licence to the Ward Union carted deer hunt. Carted deer hunting is a cruel "sport" which causes horrific suffering to defenceless red deer.
According to official monitoring reports obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, the victims include deer dying of aneurisms, a deer drowned in a quarry, a deer that died after sustaining fractured ribs, a deer hanging by its front leg on barbed wire and a deer that dropped dead after trying to escape over an 8ft wall.
Please join us now in urging Minister Gormley to refuse a licence for this cruel activity.
Minister John Gormley
Dear Minister Gormley,
I am writing to urge you to refuse a licence to the Ward Union hunt for carted deer hunting activities. The captive bred, domesticated deer used by the hunt are protected animals under the Protection of Animals Act and may not be legally hounded by hunters. It is contrary to existing legislation to licence the activities of this hunt.
As a Green Party Minister opposed to blood sports, I trust that you will do whatever it takes to prevent the Ward Union from resuming their terrorisation of deer. Your decision to refuse a licence will be widely welcomed, not only by the majority of locals in County Meath who want this hunt stopped but also by the compassionate majority across Ireland who abhor animal cruelty.
Thank you. I look forward to your response.
In its pre-election manifesto, the Green Party made a historic pledge to ban blood sports if they succeeded in getting into government. With two Ministers and a Minister of State now in position, the Green Party is today firmly in government. Please join us in urging the Green Party to honour its promise to bring hare coursing, carted deer hunting, fox hunting and mink hunting to an end in Ireland.
This promise is one that could very easily be fulfilled, given that Minister John Gormley is now in a prime position of power in the Department of Environment and is the decision-maker on whether live hare coursing and carted deer hunting is licensed again this year.
Please send a message of support to the six Green Party TDs and urge them to stand firm on their pledge to protect Irish animals from the terrible cruelty of blood sports.
Minister John Gormley
Ciaran Cuffe, TD
Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture
Minister Eamon Ryan, TD
Mary White, TD
Paul Gogarty TD
I am writing to urge the Green Party to please honour its pre-election promise to ban blood sports in Ireland.
The Irish animals so cruelly abused and killed in our countryside are depending on your commitment to bring blood sports to an end.
As a first step, I appeal to you to please refuse licences to the Irish Coursing Club and the Ward Union deer hunt.
Your historic move will be widely welcomed across Ireland and the world.
Thank you and best wishes.
ICABS has learned that a hare with a bleeding leg was discovered by a National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger at a coursing meeting in Balbriggan last November. According to a document obtained by ICABS, a ranger also reported hearing hares "crying out" while being handled at the meeting.
The NPWS Memo reveals that "at the boxing stage, it was noted that one of the hares was bleeding from its hind leg" and adds that after being seen by a vet, the animal was considered unsuitable for coursing.
Another hare was seen by the club's vet after it was hit by two greyhounds. The ranger outlines that, the following day, he was "shown two dead hares - including the animal that was seen by the vet the previous day". It is unclear if this includes the hare with the bleeding leg.
A second ranger present at the Balbriggan meeting described how one hare was chased by three greyhounds - "a third dog slipped on to the pitch and resulted in 3 dogs chasing the hare." Another hare was hit and pinned to the ground after the muzzle of a greyhound "seemed to loosen". "The dog held the hare in the air," the ranger states. "After the intervention of 2 coursing men the hare got away and ran into the escape hatch." [ICABS note: It is very likely that this hare sustained serious internal injuries]
Reporting on observations made at the Balbriggan and Trim coursing meetings, this ranger goes on to highlight the coursing-related stress caused to hares. "At both meetings, the odd hare will cry out while being handled when the ear tag is being identified, causing more stress to the animal. This is the first year I have heard hares crying out."
The ranger also highlights how coursers attempt to hide the suffering caused to hares, saying that "I have noticed at several meetings down through the years that if the dogs hit and pin the hare, the guy on the horse always gets in front of the ranger to prevent us from seeing what is happening."
ICABS has brought these further instances of coursing cruelty to the attention of Minister John Gormley as part of a renewed appeal to him to ban coursing.
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is calling for the Irish Hare to be taken out of coursing in Ireland. We have again brought to the attention of Minister John Gormley a series of video presentations which show the humane alternative - drag coursing. It is clear from these that there is absolutely no need for hares in coursing. You can watch the drag coursing playlist on our Youtube Channel - http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=429C65F8B84B0783
Revelations in National Parks & Wildlife Service reports that coursers are finding it difficult to find hares have sparked fresh fears for the future of the species. In an appeal to Minister Gormley to halt coursing, ICABS stated that this latest data adds to the already compelling conservation reasons to refuse a hare netting licence to the coursers.
A report on coursing in Offaly says that the Ballinagar club could only find 63 hares (including one leveret) for use in their blood sport.
The quality of the hares caught "appeared to be poor", the NPWS ranger outlined, pointing out that the club had to reduce the number of courses over the 2-day meet.
The ranger added that a club official told him that the coursers found "this particular year the most difficult ever to find and capture wild hares" and that "more man-hours were spent this year looking for hares and yet the number caught was low."
"He said that the hares are just not out on the land anymore," the ranger continued. "He also told me that his club might have to amalgamate with Edenderry as the Ballinagar club is struggling to find hares any more."
The reports also revealed that other clubs had low numbers of hares with Galway and Oranmore with just 49, Trim with 50 and Loughrea with 55.
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has brought this to the attention of Minister Gormley as part of our latest appeal to him to refuse further licences to the Irish Coursing Club.
"As you are about to make a decision on the granting of a licence to net hares from the wild for use as live lures at coursing meetings, we appeal to you not to grant this licence for compelling conservation reasons," we stated. "Your own report issued last May stated that the conservation status of the Irish hare was 'poor'. These revelations from the NPWS should be sounding further alarm bells in relation to pressure on our hare population."
As part of our appeal to Minister Gormley to refuse a licence to coursers, ICABS stressed the impact that this year's unprecedented wet weather will have had on the hare species. We quoted from an article in the Irish Examiner in which wildlife journalist, Dick Warner, stresses the dangers posed by heavy rain to birds and animals.
"Persistent rain is one of the commonest causes of death among young birds," the article outlines. "If their feathers get wet they lose their insulating properties and the birds die of hypothermia. Some mammal species are vulnerable in the same way. Young rabbits and hares have a reduced life expectancy if they are born in a long spell of wet weather."
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is excited to announce the launch of ICABS TV 1 and Ban Bullfighting TV - online channels which provide a continuous stream of videos and action alerts. Please click on "Videos" at www.banbloodsports.com to watch the channels. Please consider displaying one or both of the channels on your website to help highlight the cruelty of blood sports.
The wait is finally over! Now showing in cinemas, The Fox and the Child is the latest offering from Oscar-winning director Luc Jacquet ("March of the Penguins"). Narrated by five-time Academy Award-nominated actress, Kate Winslet, this highly anticipated family drama follows the friendship between a 10-year-old girl and a wild red fox and is described as a cross between a fable and a nature film.
The kind-hearted youngster, played by French actress Bertille NoŽl-Bruneau, becomes the fox's guardian as he faces continuous danger from hunters and animals.
Says director, Luc Jacquet: "This film is a fable that reflects the relationship man has with animals and nature. It is our hope to reveal the wonder of nature that surrounds us every day."
To watch the trailer, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPp7jkgKmPw
ICABS has welcomed the IFA president's shunning of a pro-hunting seminar held in Dublin. Criticising the organisers for presenting him as a speaker at the event, Padraig Walshe stated: "The organisers have used my name in a totally inappropriate way to promote their own agenda. I will not allow my name or the IFA to be hijacked in this way. There will be no IFA participation in this event."
A brochure for the "Consumer Intimidation, the Vegan/Animal Rights Agenda" seminar listed Padraig Walshe as one of three scheduled speakers but the Irish Farmers Association President denied that he had agreed to take part.
In an IFA statement issued to the Irish Times, Mr Walshe said his name had been used in relation to the event without permission. "I am very dissatisfied about this," he said.
Quoted in the Times today, event organiser, Gavin Duffy of the Hunting Association of Ireland, apologised to the IFA President: "Apparently Padraig Walshe now feels he cannot attend the event and says his name was used inappropriately. If this is his view of events, I apologise unreservedly. It was never my [intention] to cause any embarrassment to Padraig or the IFA in inviting him to represent Irish live exporters."
In a letter to Padraig Walshe today, ICABS welcomed his decision to avoid the event. "Every hunting season, Irish farmers are plagued by hunters coming on to their land disturbing livestock, damaging pastures and boundaries and posing a serious threat to biosecurity," we stated. "It is very fitting that the IFA stays away from pro-hunt events."
We also renewed our appeal to the IFA to stop encouraging blood sports enthusiasts to join its IFA Countryside scheme. The IFA Countryside website acknowledges that "the Irish countryside is a great national resource which Irish farmers work hard to maintain and enhance" but goes on to outline how the scheme is open to those with "an interest in...field sport activities".
In our letter to Mr Walshe, we stated:
"Every hunting season, farmers and landowners around the country suffer very serious affects to their livelihoods from hunts which come on to their land uninvited. Among the ongoing complaints and concerns are damage to boundary fences, crops and pastures, the disturbance of livestock and pets, the spread of disease and abusive and threatening behaviour from hunters when told to stay off private land.
"Recent opinion polls show that a majority of Irish citizens, in both urban and rural areas, are entirely opposed to 'field sports' like foxhunting and hare coursing. IFA Countryside's eagerness to accommodate those who abuse our wildlife heritage is offensive and unacceptable to this majority.
"Surely, the IFA would agree that its primary duty is to its core farming supporters and not to a minority who pose a threat to biosecurity, cause inconvenience and anguish to landowners and endanger livelihoods.
"We hope that the IFA will act to ensure that its policy of putting farmers first extends to the IFA Countryside."
Following an ICABS complaint to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, cruel glue traps have been confiscated from a shop in Leinster. We understand from correspondence from Minister John Gormley that a file is now being prepared for the Chief State Solicitor's Office recommending a prosecution.
ICABS applauds the member of the public who originally brought the shop in question to our attention. We also thank ICABS Vice-President, Tony Gregory, for joining us in our calls to Minister Gormley to investigate and take appropriate action. Thanks also to the NPWS for this latest confiscation of unlawful traps.
Glue traps (also known as glue boards) are one of the world's most inhumane traps. Among the victims are mice, rats, small mammals, birds and pets. In a futile effort to escape from the sticky base, creatures have been known to bite off their own limbs.
Help us ensure that glue traps remain off the shelves of Irish shops. Please read on to find out how you can help.
Help rid Ireland of illegal glue traps
Please help rid Ireland of glue traps - one of the world's most cruel and inhumane traps. Visit your local hardware stores, discount shops, pet supply outlets, builder provider stores, etc to make sure that these illegal traps are not being sold. If you spot glue traps (also known as glue boards) for sale, please contact ICABS immediately with the details and we will pass them on to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Also, if you are aware of any company using glue traps, please get in touch with us now.
A submission made by ICABS to the Department of Agriculture has called for the new Animal Health & Welfare Bill to completely ban blood sports activities. Our comprehensive submission covered hare coursing, fox hunting, carted deer hunting, mink hunting, ferreting, terrierwork, the blooding of hounds, earthstopping and snaring.
In our 27-page presentation, we emphasised the need for all animals to be given equal protection and expressed concern about the Department's stated intention to provide for "differentiated levels of welfare for farmed animals, protected animals and all animals".
"It is our contention that all animals - domestic or wild - should receive full and equal protection from 'needless pain or unnecessary suffering' on the basis that all are sentient creatures and all should be protected from cruelty and unnecessary suffering," we stated. "If there are to be differentiated levels of welfare, with farmed animals receiving the highest level, this would be a retrograde step - the existing 1911 Protection of Animals Act does not discriminate among farmed and other domestic animals as regards the level of protection from suffering they should receive."
ICABS welcomed the stated intention of the new act to prohibit "potentially cruel activities involving animals" and to make it an offence to be involved in such activities.
Foxhunting is one of Ireland's most cruel and inhumane activities. Foxes are chased to exhaustion and ripped apart by packs of hounds. If they manage to find refuge underground during a hunt, terriers are sent after them to viciously drag them back out into the open. If a domestic animal was abused the same way that foxes are abused by foxhunts, it would be a criminal offence.
Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Irish people want foxhunting made illegal. Please make your voice heard. Call on Agriculture Minister, Brendan Smith, to ensure that foxhunting is banned under the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill.
View our Foxhunting Cruelty Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjN67BVuk9I
SAMPLE LETTER 1
Minister Brendan Smith
Dear Minister Smith,
I am one of the majority of Irish people who want foxhunting banned. Please ensure that the Animal Health and Welfare Bill prohibits the chasing of foxes with packs of hounds and the associated foxhunting cruelty of terrierwork, digging out and earthstopping. Foxhunting is an abhorrent assault on our wildlife heritage and a complete ban is long overdue. Thank you. I look forward to your response.
SAMPLE LETTER 2
Minister John Gormley
Dear Minister Gormley,
I am writing to appeal to you to amend the Wildlife Act so that foxes are protected from the terrible cruelty of foxhunting. Foxhunting is one of Ireland's worst blood sports; it is totally unacceptable that our wildlife legislation is failing to save foxes from the horrific injuries and deaths they suffer during hunts.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive reply.
Appeal to all Irish politicians
Please join us in telling the Irish Government that it is now time to replace foxhunting with the humane alternative - drag hunting. Drag hunting sees the hounds chasing a scent which is artificially laid across the countryside. This form of "hunting" is already practised successfully by a few groups in Ireland. In a modern and civilised country like Ireland, there should be no place for foxhunting, particularly when a transition to drag hunting would be simple.
Write to your TD at: DŠil …ireann, 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 www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist/.
The status of the otter species is "poor" according to the "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report published by the Department of the Environment in May 2008. According to a National Parks and Wildlife Service survey in 2006, otters have declined by 18 per cent in the past 25 years and numbers are continuing to fall. It is clear that urgent action must be taken to help halt the decline in the otter population. It is imperative that this includes a ban on mink hunting, a blood sport which is not only cruel to mink but also results in huge disturbances to the otters which inhabit the same stretches of rivers.
Thanks to years of lobbying by ICABS and an EU Directive, otter hunting is now illegal in Ireland. However, to circumvent the ban, otter hunters simply started hunting mink instead. We have always maintained that since mink and otters inhabit the same stretches of river, any form of hunting will significantly disturb the now protected otter. Please contact Minister John Gormley and ask him to urgently bring mink hunting to an end as a way to help halt the decline in otter numbers.
View our Mink Hunting Cruelty Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Cmsp7SjfVE
Dear Minister Gormley,
I was dismayed to learn from the recently published "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report that the conservation status of the otter is "poor". A survey carried out by the NPWS division of your department has previously found that otters have declined by 18 per cent and are continuing to decline.
I urge you to ensure that this precious species is given every possible protection. This protection must include a ban on mink hunting. With otters and mink inhabiting the same stretches of river, mink hunting is a significant threat to the otter species and its habitat. The disturbance caused by hunters on riverbanks and in the water can be clearly seen in an Irish Council Against Blood Sports presentation at www.youtube.com/icabs
As someone who opposes the cruelty of mink hunting and wants the otter's future safeguarded, I urge you, Minister, to bring mink hunting to an end in Ireland.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.
Tens of thousands of badgers (a "protected" species in Ireland) have been cruelly snared and killed by the Department of Agriculture to-date. The assault on the badger species is part of their so-called TB Eradication Scheme, a failed and discredited operation that has been described as "slaughter masquerading as science".
View our Badger Snaring Cruelty Video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMHFoPaeHo8
Please appeal to Agriculture Minister, Brendan Smith, to show compassion and suspend the cruel badger snaring operation. Remind the Minister that the badger is a protected species in Ireland and that the Protection of Animals Act, for which he is responsible, makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Tell him that a recent report stated that "badger culling apparently has the capacity to increase badger-to-badger transmission of infection, potentially undermining anticipated reductions in badger-to-cattle transmission."
Minister Brendan Smith
Please write to the Minister for the Environment and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Remind them that the Wildlife Act, for which they are responsible, lists the badger as a protected species. Demand that they stop licensing the snaring and killing of thousands of badgers as part of a cruel and discredited TB eradication scheme.
Minister John Gormley
* Dr Ciaran O'Keeffe
I wish to register my outrage that tens of thousands of badgers have been cruelly snared and killed by the Department of Agriculture in recent years. There is absolutely no justification for using these cruel snares which cause terrible stress and suffering to badgers. When caught, the badgers struggle frantically throughout the night to escape before being shot to death by a Department of Agriculture employee.
This failed approach to eradicating bovine TB has been described as "slaughter masquerading as science" and it's not difficult to understand why. Tackling the disease should focus fully on developing a bovine TB vaccine (as is being done in the UK) and not using defenceless badgers as scapegoats. The badger is a protected species under the Wildlife Act and should be given the protection it is entitled to.
Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.
The directors of Paddy Power have been criticised by ICABS for allowing the company to profit from bullring bets involving the removal of bulls' ears. In a letter to the editor published in the Irish Independent, we stated that the directors "should collectively hang their heads in shame".
Please contact the CEO of Paddy Power and demand an end to its bullfighting bets. Ask as many of your friends as possible to respond to this action alert and post it on your website and social networking pages.
Dear Mr Kennedy,
I am writing to express my absolute disgust that Paddy Power is accepting bets on the number of ears carved off the heads of bulls at Spanish bullfighting events.
Removed after the tortured bulls collapse in agony, the ears are kept by the matadors as grisly trophies. Sometimes the animals are still alive when the ears are hacked off and this can be seen in video footage at www.youtube.com/icabs
As bets are being placed on the Paddy Power website, bulls are stumbling around bullrings with blood spurting from their backs and spraying from their noses and mouths. How can your company justify making money from this disgusting animal abuse?
Paddy Power - Stop the bloody bullring bets NOW!
The following report appeared in The Milford Mercury - 6 June 2008
Dogs' tail case a legal first
Dogs' tails were the unlikely subject of a legal 'first' in Haverfordwest magistrates court this week as Pembrokeshire County Council brought a test case to clarify the law banning the docking of puppy tails in the UK.
Caroline Terry of Badger's Break, Foxhall, Llangwm, had taken her three rottweiler pups to the Irish Republic to have their tails docked by a vet.
The puppies were then advertised for sale on the internet for £500 each, they were described as being "legally docked'".
Terry was charged with three offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and appeared in court on Wednesday.
UK law closely regulates the docking of dogs' tails. Only a few working breeds are allowed to be docked and it is an offence for a vet to remove the whole or part of a dog's tail of other breeds unless it is for medical reasons.
Wednesday's case was considered as a point of law. County council prosecutor, Jeff Harries, contended that "causing" the act of docking was initiated in the UK and was therefore an offence within the jurisdiction of the court.
Wyn Rees, defending Terry, maintained that because the deed was done in the Republic of Ireland, it was outside UK law.
However, magistrates decided that taking the pups abroad with the intention of having the tails removed was an illegal act.
As a result, Terry was found guilty and fined a total of £600. Costs of £400 were also awarded against her.
Nigel Watts, the county council's trading standards and animal welfare manager, said afterwards: "The recent Animal Welfare Act prohibits the docking of dogs' tails in the UK except for certain breeds used for work, and only then by a veterinary surgeon.
"The court's decision indicates that it is not an option to take any other breed of dog abroad for tail-docking just for cosmetic purposes. Any dog-breeder or owner should contact their local authority to clarify their legal position."
Urge Agriculture Minister, Brendan Smith, to ensure that cruel tail docking is banned under the new Animal Health and Welfare Bill.
Minister Brendan Smith
Contempt for butchers offering a cruel show of animal torture
Ernest Hemingway's novel, 'The Sun Also Rises', brought Spanish bullfighting to a global audience. Don Mullan found nothing courageous or edifying on a recent visit to the bullring
An ensemble of nine musicians played lively fiesta music for the unfolding drama. The magnificent animal raced into the evening sunlight, relieved to be free from the pen that had imprisoned it and at least five other powerful beasts, before its 20-minute Barcelona finale.
The setting was Plaza de Toros Monumental, built in 1914, a 10-minute walk from Antoni Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. It was 6.30pm on Sunday, August 3rd last, and I was on an eight-day holiday in Spain. I decided to go and see a "bullfight", erroneously assuming the event, which would feature six bulls in all, would consist of one-on-one contests between bull and matador.
I was surprised to discover the arena less than half full, an indication of the dwindling support in Catalonia and throughout Spain for this national "sport", which is depending more on curious foreigners who want to see some "Spanish Culture".
Outside, a dedicated contingent of protesters, one wearing white clothing daubed in red, stood across the plaza from three queues at the ticket booths.
In the ring, the bull's powerful dash slowed and it appeared momentarily disorientated as the unfamiliar circle offered no escape. A voice in the creeping shadow cast by the western stands drew its attention. The bull stopped, clearly confused, before turning to face its adversary and giving way to its instinct to charge.
There were elements of bravery and grace involved in the movement of two assistant matadors who accompanied the primary matador. Their role, allegedly, is to enable their master to determine the strength of the bull as they goad it to make a number of turns and passes with their pink-purple capes.
The crowd cheered as one assistant caused the bull to turn and pass at least a half dozen times, as it focused on attacking.
To the sound of blaring bugles, the assistants retreated behind wooden safety boards, distracting the bull's attention from the emergence of other assistants and two overweight lance-carrying picadors on blindfolded horses covered in heavy armour. The bull's attention was then drawn to its new adversaries. It assessed the situation before charging at one cape and then another.
Soon the assistants turned the bull to face a rider and horse. Responding to a tug of its reins the unseeing horse unwittingly moved towards the bull, which charged. The beast rammed the horse's armour and the horse showed distress as the bull's impressive strength threatened to topple it.
All the while the picador above made several short cuts in the bull's shoulder area, causing painful agitation and drawing first blood. This, the first of three Acts in the drama, is intended to injure and fatigue the bull's powerful neck and shoulder muscles, causing its head to droop.
After a minute or so, the assistants drew the bull away from the horse, turning it one way and then the other with their pink-purple phantoms, before positioning it again to face a horse and picador for its second lancing.
Blood freely flowed down the bull's shining coat as the bugles sounded the retreat of the cavaliers and the beginning of Act Two. Two banderilleros emerged, each carrying banderillas which, to my eyes, looked like colourfully dressed-up harpoons.
Their task was to engage the bull in a charge and, at the last moment, jump clear while landing both banderillas into the same area where the bull had already been speared, near its spine. This was repeated three times, resulting in six harpoons hanging from the bull.
If a banderillero's harpoon was dislodged he was ridiculed by the Catalan spectators, increasing his determination to inflict a deeper wound on the second run.
By now it was clear the bull was stunned and suffering. Blood was pouring freely below its sagging neck. You could clearly see it convulsing. It shook its back in a futile attempt to extricate the harpoons, all the while inflicting greater injuries on itself due to razor hooks designed to ensure the weapons would not be dislodged.
The final bugle call heralded their retreat and the start of Act Three, emergence of the primary assailant - el matador - who shielded a sword in his red cape.
Here was the "hero" of the evening, dressed in a costume known as el Traje de Luces - the suit of lights.
For six or seven minutes he toyed with the dying animal. The crowd cheered as he goaded the bull to charge. At times he stood a metre or two from the head of the sapped animal. The crowd were ecstatic, especially when he reached forth and contemptuously touched the bull's right horn. The cheering and clapping grew louder as the matador turned his back and arrogantly strutted around.
The moment of reckoning came when the sword emerged from behind the cape. This he exchanged for the "killing sword", a sharper and more lethal weapon, as the bull's attention was, again, distracted by the assistants. Then the matador stood and stared as though he had tamed the powerful beast. The reality was far less glamorous. He was playing with a grievously wounded creature.
The final assault came as the matador distracted the bull with his cape and lunged forward, plunging the metre-long sword deep into the bull, aiming to sever its aorta and accelerate death. In all six killings I witnessed, instant death did not occur.
One of the bulls, after being run through, began to bleed profusely from its mouth and nose. Blood fell in torrents for the last minutes of its life, its tormented cries clearly audible, before its front legs buckled and its body collapsed in a heap of bloodied exhaustion.
The last of the six bulls was defiant to the last. After the killing sword had been thrust, the assistants homed in to cause the bull to accelerate its own demise.
By now it was no longer able to charge. All it could do was move its head in the direction of the tormenting capes, the front half of its body all in liquid crimson.
The matador signalled his assistants to leave the ring. He moved with movements reminiscent of a male ballet dancer. With a grand gesture he stretched forth his arm and index finger and commanded the bull to lie before him and die.
The Catalan spectators willed the bull to collapse, and but for the pain it was enduring, I wanted it to defy him. For an eternal minute the bull and matador faced one another as a harrowing hush descended upon the arena.
The bull rested its head upon the earth, resting for 20 or 30 seconds before it collapsed. There followed a cascade of cheering, applause and fiesta music.
Once the carcass had been dragged out by two horses and the blood raked into the earth, the matador and assistants took their lap of honour. Bouquets of flowers, hats and scarves were thrown into the ring by men and women.
Many were on their feet, cheering and clapping. I sat feeling sick and guilty at having paid to watch such an atrocious spectacle.
As the final matador, Pedro Gutiťrrez Lorenzo, "El Capea", and his assistants pranced about, I felt utter contempt. I saw, not heroes, but cowardly butchers who had created an illusion of theatre where the reality had been an astonishingly cruel display of slaughter and animal torture.
Shame on the Coca-Cola corporation for being official sponsors to such hideous "entertainment". Shame on me for backing it with my tourist euro.
Don Mullan is a journalist, author and documentary film-maker
Barbarism of the bullring
Madam, - Don Mullan's harrowing account of the barbarism that is bullfighting was a necessary warning to unsuspecting tourists to Spain not to support this sickening cruelty (Opinion Analysis, August 16th). The European Union not only turns a blind eye to this disgusting torture - it actually funds it with millions of euro in subsidies, as does the Spanish government, even though over 70 per cent of Spaniards are not interested in bullfighting, according to a recent poll.
Shockingly and shamefully, in early June of this year the EU allowed the bullfighters into the European Parliament in Brussels to set up an exhibition. For two days they occupied a large circular space in which they recreated a bullring with scenes of bullfights and cheering crowds adorning the walls, while they wined and dined parliamentarians and their own supporters who travelled from Spain.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the parliament building a harrowing video of bullfighting that I could hardly bear to look at was being shown to an international group of anti-bullfighting campaigners, including the Irish Council Against Blood Sports. There were precious few parliamentarians in attendance, apart from a committed few.
Here at home, despite repeated pleas, bookmaker Paddy Power continues to take grotesque bets on the number of ears that are cut off bulls after the torture sessions! - Yours, etc,
Sponsorship Of Bullfighting
Madam, - Bravo to Don Mullan for exposing the sickening cowardice that is bullfighting (Opinion Analysis, August 16th).
Mr Mullan, journalist, author and documentary film-maker, has added his very honest comments to the global outcry against this legalised animal torture.
His final comment of "Shame on the Coca-Cola corporation for being official sponsors to such hideous 'entertainment' " needs an addendum, however: shame on Ireland's Paddy Power Bookmakers for taking bets on the number of ears sliced off the heads of bulls tortured in Spanish bullrings.
The Spanish section of the Paddy Power website invites punters to either guess the total number of ears cut off or predict whether the number will be even or odd. And shame on Vodafone Ireland for featuring bullfighting in its latest TV advertisement. Let consumers vote with their wallets - there's always an alternative to spend on, and let consumers do so with their brains and consciences engaged. - Yours, etc,
Vulnerable species need protection
In criticising Minister John Gormley's recent decision to restrict the hare hunting season, Fine Gael's agriculture spokesperson, Michael Creed, displays a lamentable disregard for one of our most vulnerable species.
Concern for the future of this delicate and much-loved creature is currently at a peak. Published last month, the Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland Report stresses that the overall conservation status of the Irish hare is 'poor' and confirms that 'factors likely to reduce hare numbers include hunting'.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service is also sounding alarms, warning that 'the Irish hare is found in every county but numbers have decreased in recent years.'
While Minister Gormley's move is welcome as a step in the right direction, it is clearly not nearly enough. What the hare urgently needs at this pivotal point in its survival struggle is a complete ban on all forms of persecution.
Beagling represents a major threat to the species, with hares being disturbed from their habitats and chased to their doom by packs of dogs.
'The hounds caught up with the hare and totally demolished it' is how one distraught eye-witness described the hunting's finale. 'All that was left was a tiny piece of fur blowing in the breeze.'
Taking a punt on blood sports
The directors of Paddy Power Plc should collectively hang their heads in shame for allowing the company to profit from bullfighting barbarity.
The Spanish section of its website is disgracefully asking punters to wager on the number of ears that will be carved off tormented bulls and presented to matadors as trophies.
All the directors have been informed, through impassioned pleas from Ireland and Spain, that while bets are being cast, bullfighters are proceeding with the torture -- cutting flesh open with lances and impaling muscles with spears. They have been shown sickening photos of matadors holding up severed ears while the victims squirm on the ground.
And to dispel any possible doubts about the cruelty, each has been presented with explicit video footage. In one scene, a grounded bull with blood dripping from its mouth can be seen expending its last ounce of energy to react to the pain of dismemberment.
Perhaps one shouldn't expect much decency or compassion from an industry that thrives on the misery of losers, but few would disagree that inviting bets on body parts really is scraping beneath the bottom of the barrel.
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports implores company shareholders to urgently demand that Paddy Power stops courting cruelty and contaminating profits with blood money.
IFA right to shun hunt seminar
The decision by IFA President, Padraig Walshe, to stay away from a pro-hunting seminar in Dublin last week was a good one. Hunting animals with packs of hounds is incompatible with farming interests; it was very appropriate for our national farming organisation to shun the hunters. The Irish Farmers' Association's move can be seen as an acknowledgement of the threat hunting poses to agriculture and is undoubtedly being applauded by farmers across the country who have suffered the consequences of rampaging hunts.
It is to be hoped that Mr Walshe's stance will inspire even more farmers to close their gates to hunters and help hasten the demise of this cruel and destructive activity.
Cruel bullfighting depicted in advert
Vodafone's inclusion of a bullfighting scene in its current television advert is both insensitive and offensive.
The footage of a matador taunting a bull was used, the company maintains, because 'bullfighting is seen as an important part of Spain's tradition and culture'. This may be the view of advertising executives stuck in the past, but it's certainly not based on any modern truth. Bullfighting is now to Spain what hunting and coursing are to Ireland -- an offensive anachronism which most want ended.
A Gallup opinion poll carried out last year leaves no doubt whatsoever that Spaniards are overwhelmingly rejecting this horror show. A mere seven per cent expressed support for the activity. Matadors, like the one featured in the Roaming Passport ad, are despised for their cold-hearted abuse of bulls. The creatures are stabbed with lances, spears and swords and after they collapse into a puddle of blood their spinal cord is severed and their ears and tail are carved off as trophies. Vodafone should recognise that torturing animals is cruelty, not culture, and immediately cut this scene.
Hare today, gone tomorrow?
The Northern Ireland Assembly is facing an opportunity to safeguard the future of the Irish hare, a species endemic to Ireland, which is in serious decline.
Hare populations have dipped over recent years and could soon reach a point from which the species will not recover.
Sadly, much of this decline is due to human cruelty, namely hare coursing, a cruel sport which causes considerable suffering and stress to the hare. This barbaric practice has no place in a modern society, an opinion which is supported by much of the Northern Ireland public. A Millward Brown poll found that 84% of people in Northern Ireland think coursing is cruel and 73% of rural residents wish to see an end to this 'sport'.
A consultation is ending, seeking views on a number of wildlife issues and the Assembly now has the opportunity to grant permanent protection for the Irish hare, which will not only aid the recovery of population numbers, but put an end to hare coursing in this country.
The League Against Cruel Sports is urging the Assembly to move into line with the rest of the UK which has already implemented legislation to stamp out this form of animal cruelty and protect the future of the Irish hare.
Shedding light on the dwindling number of moths
Madam, - Your edition of June 23rd carried a report on the declining number of moths in Britain.
In Ireland, too, this decline over the past few years has become a collapse. Anyone can confirm the phenomenon by just considering when they last had to clean dead moths off the car headlights after an evening journey.
Recent correspondence in Atropos, the butterfly, moth and dragonfly magazine, postulated that a main cause of this decline is "light pollution" - our fondness for intrusive floodlighting and generally excessive lighting results in the unfortunate moths aimlessly circling lamps when they should be reproducing.
For those interested in recording the numbers of moths there is now a specifically Irish system at www.mothsireland.com.
20 greyhounds disappear a day
This coming weekend July 26/27 is National Greyhound Remembrance Weekend. This is a special commemorative weekend set aside in memory of all the unwanted/abandoned racing greyhounds that have lost their lives at the hands of the greyhound racing industry.
In a recent government report in the UK, (there are none here), the RSPCA stated that 'at least 20 greyhounds a day -- either puppies which do not make the track, or "retired" dogs aged three or four -- simply "disappear", presumed killed'.
This is a travesty and as a supposed nation of dog lovers we should hang our heads in shame.
For those members of the public that support the racing industry by betting on greyhounds, many of them may not be aware that they are contributing to the suffering and slaughter of thousands of unwanted greyhounds every year.
Recent national media articles have revealed the shocking and appalling truth of the suffering and abuse that racing greyhounds are subjected to. In Ireland dogs have been found dead and alive without their ears, which have been cut off to remove tattoos which would identify their origin.
Visit the www.greyhoundaction.org.uk to learn more about the plight of racing greyhounds.
"Hares caught for coursing are removed from the wild and held captive in unnatural conditions for around six weeks. Pregnant and nursing hares are caught and coursed resulting in increased infant mortality. Many hares die from stress-related illness brought on by capture, captivity and transport." (Mike Rendle, Irish Hare Initiative - Belfast Telegraph, June 25, 2008)
"The second bull was ceremoniously dedicated to the Duke of Almodovar by Matador Morenita. It proved to be an ugly fighter and gored the blind horse of a picador. This bull was also dispatched. Another bull killed five horses, four of them dying in the arena, while the fifth, terribly gored, staggered outside and died." (New York Times, February 5, 1906)
"[Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo] says he 'adores' bullfighting and owns a portrait of himself dressed as a matador. But campaigners have criticised him for glamorizing the bloody Spanish sport. Barry Hugill, a spokesman for the League Against Cruel Sports, said: 'Ronaldo ought to be ashamed of himself.'" (from Ronaldo Slammed By Animal Activists - Sky News website - March 20, 2008)
"Wimbledon 'breaking law by killing pigeons' - There were ruffled feathers and no small amount of flapping at the world's most genteel tennis tournament yesterday after a threat of legal action from animal rights lobbyists over the culling of pigeons that had the temerity to bother some players...Yesterday, the club was reported to the Metropolitan Police wildlife crime unit for alleged infringement of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. In a letter to the club's chairman, Tim Phillips, from Bruce Friedrich, the vice- president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which bills itself as "the world's largest animal rights organisation", the club was warned it could face court action for shooting pigeons." (The Independent - 25 June 2008)
"Buy one Kill one. When you buy an animal from a breeder, you're responsible for a new member of the family! You're also responsible for the death of an animal in a shelter or pound who needed a home. If you want to bring an animal into your life, always adopt from an animal shelter." (from the Dublin SPCA website - July 2008)
"The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is this week calling on betting company, Paddy Power, to put compassion before cash and scrap its controversial bullring bets. On the company's Spanish website, punters are invited to guess the number of ears cut from the heads of bulls at bullfighting events...In a letter of appeal to Paddy Power's directors, ICABS campaigner, Philip Kiernan, described how bullfighters 'stab the bulls with spiked spears and impale them with swords', resulting in the animals 'collapsing into a pool of their own blood'" (Round Town News, Costa Blanca, Spain - 27 June 2008)
Become a supporter of ICABS
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports relies entirely on the generosity of its supporters to continue campaigning for an end to blood sport cruelty. Please become a supporter of ICABS today. Annual rates are just 15 Euro (Individual), 20 Euro (Family) and 8 Euro (Unwaged).
Download a subscription form at www.banbloodsports.com/subsform.htm and send a cheque (made payable to the Irish Council Against Blood Sports) to ICABS, PO Box 88, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Ireland.
You can also become a supporter or make a donation by using your paypal account or credit card. Please visit www.banbloodsports.com and click on the "Shop" button. Thank you.
Fund an ICABS campaign postcard
Campaign postcards are an important part of our campaign to highlight cruelty and call for change. Please consider funding an ICABS postcard. The printing costs for a postcard are approximately 150 Euro. ICABS postcards are made available on demand to individuals and animal welfare groups. If you are interested in funding a postcard, please contact us for further details. Thank you.
ICABS Campaign Text Alerts
Sign up for the Irish Council Against Blood Sports' Campaign Text Alerts service and receive occasional campaign updates to your mobile phone. To subscribe to this free service, simply text the word GO to our textline on 086-0386617. If, after subscribing, you wish to unsubscribe at any stage, simply text the word STOP to the same number. Your number will not be passed on to anyone else.
Tune in to the ICABS Channel
Footage of blood sport cruelty and the humane alternatives can be viewed on the ICABS Channel on Youtube - www.youtube.com/icabs or by clicking on "Videos" at www.banbloodsports.com Please ask your local TD/Senator to view our videos and back a blood sports ban.
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Help us to highlight our campaigns to even more people. If you have friends who would like to receive "Animal Voice", please ask them to send an email to email@example.com with "Animal Voice - Subscribe" in the subject line.
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