Animal Voice, Summer 2004
Section 1 - Pages 1-7

Welcome Message

Welcome to the Summer edition of Animal Voice, and a grateful thanks to all you loyal and generous supporters who sent in subscriptions and donations, wrote letters to the Minister for the Environment on the Ward Union deer hunt issue, and responded to our appeals in the last edition.

It's important to keep in mind that every letter and email counts. We've got to keep reminding our legislators on an ongoing basis about the campaign, despite the fact that they continue to deflect and dodge the issues, judging by the type of written response you will have received to your letters from, for example, the Department of the Environment.

The present government party, Fianna Fail, has recently received a major slap on the wrist from the ordinary people of Ireland, as witnessed by the latest election results. They have been punished for their seeming arrogance and total lack of concern on many important issues which affect everybody - health, education and many other vital services.

While our campaign may seemingly rank low in the order of government priorities, it is nonetheless deserving of attention by our legislators, and we must renew and redouble our efforts to get their attention, now that they have decided to listen to the people. If they get enough letters, on a regular basis, from those of us opposing cruelty to animals, perhaps they will listen.

It's up to us to make them pay attention, and we can do this by consistently putting our campaign issues in front of them in a polite, assertive and logical manner.

Enclosed in this edition are postcards. We would be most grateful if you would complete your name and address on the space provided on each and post to the Minister. One is calling for him to stop licensing the Ward Union carted deer hunt, and the other is calling for an end to the licensing of hare netting for coursing. If you have family or friends who would like to help our campaign by sending postcards, we will be very happy to supply more.

A word of encouragement - the Bill to outlaw hunting with dogs in the UK is expected to be passed in the House of Commons later in the summer. When hunting is finally outlawed in Britain, it will give impetus to the campaign here.

With apologies to those of our supporters who are smokers, it is very interesting to note that now that Ireland has become the first European country to ban smoking in all public places and work-places, the UK may follow suit and implement a ban.

I mention this to demonstrate that a ban on smoking was a highly contentious issue here, and looked like it would never happen, but it did become a reality, despite a very strong campaign against it.

So, whether you agree with the smoking ban or not, it shows that the seemingly impossible can be achieved, if the political will is there.

That is why we've got to keep putting our campaign in front of the legislators at each and every opportunity. Your support is therefore vital. So keep those letters and emails going in to the various Ministers, and please respond to the action items on the various stories in this issue of Animal Voice. Again, grateful thanks for your continued support. Aideen Yourell Campaign Director

Renewed call for end to deerhunt

A hard-hitting report on RTE's Prime Time has once again exposed the Ward Union Hunt's abusive treatment of deer. Broadcast in March, the programme included shocking new video footage captured by ICABS observers showing an exhausted and injured deer at the end of a hunt.

The animal, with a bleeding wound on its head, stands panting for breath after being chased across the countryside by hunters and hounds. Seven men are surrounding the animal and they proceed to drag it along towards the hunt's trailer. From there, it is returned to the hunt's private deerpark to be used again in a future hunt.

This internationally condemned blood sport is unique to Ireland. The Ward Union is the only known hunt in the world that hunts domestic animals - the deer are bred in captivity and kept in an enclosure between hunts.

Member of Ward Union Hunt grabbing the ear and mouth of the captured deer. The deer's head is bleeding and its tongue is hanging out.
A bleeding deer at the end of a Ward Union hunt. Minister Cullen says there is no reason to stop licensing this cruelty.

Despite repeated calls for the activity to be banned, the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, is continuing to insist that there is no reason to refuse an annual licence to the hunt. Even after ICABS (with the help of our vice-president, Tony Gregory) unearthed a secret 1997 report which concluded that the hunt is inhumane.

This Department of Agriculture document found that the transportation, release and capture of the deer are all inhumane. Please see article inside for more details on the report's damning conclusions.

ICABS will continue to lobby the government to ban this blood sport. We believe that the Department of the Environment's licensing of carted deer hunting is illegal under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act because of the domesticated nature of the deer used. A similar hunt was banned in Northern Ireland a few years ago because the deer were deemed to be domestic and therefore illegal to hunt.


Please join us in appealing to Minister Martin Cullen to stop licensing carted deer hunting. Send the enclosed postcard and/or contact the Minister at: Dept of the Environment, Custom House, Dublin 1. Tel: Locall 1890-202021 (Request to speak to Minister Cullen or his secretary) Tel: +353 (0) 1 888 2000. Fax: +353 (0)1 888 2888. Email:

Government subverting animal protection laws

In a Dail Debate in March, Tony Gregory, TD, criticised the Government's "appalling record of disregard of animal welfare" and demanded action to end blood sports.

Referring to the licensing of carted deer hunting by the Department of the Environment, Deputy Gregory said he considered this to be "a flagrant breach of the Protection of Animals Act".

This Act states that it is an offence of cruelty to terrorise or cause unnecessary suffering to a domestic animal. This should prevent the Ward Union from getting a licence since the domesticated deer they hunt are from a herd which has been in captivity for over 150 years.

Furthermore, according to a Department of Agriculture report, the herd is "augmented regularly by stock from captive herds farmed solely for venison production".

"It was for that very reason that, in 1997, the Department of Agriculture in the North took legal and veterinary advice and concluded that deer tamed by their semi-intensive rearing system must be regarded as domestic animals and hunting them would be an act of cruelty and in breach of their welfare of animals Acts," Deputy Gregory reminded the Dail. "The authorities in the North ceased to issue hunt licences and outlawed the practice. What happened in the Republic? The Attorney General's advice was sought but never revealed. It seems it is top secret, for whatever reason, and licences continue to be issued."

Tony Gregory smiling
ICABS Vice-president and Independent TD for Dublin Central, Tony Gregory. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Appealing to Minister Martin Cullen to re-examine the issue of carted deer hunting, Deputy Gregory remarked that "it must be a scandal that the Government should connive in the manner I have outlined to subvert the protection of animals legislation in this State."

"This matter demands action and a resolute stand against the vested interests involved in torturing helpless animals," he added.

In response, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Pat the Cope Gallagher, TD stated: "Section 26 of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, which governs the licensing of the hunting of deer by stag hounds, refers generically to deer, and the question of whether deer are domestic or wild is not an issue in that section.

This was "sufficient to empower the Minister to licence the Ward Union hunt", he maintained.

ICABS does not accept this as a valid reason for continuing to licence carted deer hunting and will continue to press for a ban on this barbaric activity.

For a full transcript of this Dail debate as well as a variety of other Dail Questions relating to blood sports, please visit the Politicians section of our website at

Minister continuing to defend cruel coursing

Greyhounds would not follow an artificial lure. That's the absurd claim made by the Minister for Arts, "Sports" and Tourism, John O'Donoghue.

The statement came following questions in the Dail from Tony Gregory, TD.

While acknowledging correspondence from ICABS (which explained the viability of drag coursing) and the "availability" of a drag coursing video which ICABS sent to him, the Minister insisted on quoting misinformation from the Irish Coursing Club which claims that coursing hounds wouldn't chase a mechanical lure as they do in greyhound racing.

"Does the Minister agree that, due to the activities of a small minority, we unfortunately have a dismal and appalling record in animal welfare and does he further agree that the continuation of such a medieval, archaic and anachronistic activity as hare coursing is part of that culture of cruelty?" Deputy Gregory asked.

In response, Minister O'Donoghue claimed that "coursing is a popular sport among a considerable number of people."

The claim was challenged by Independent TD, Finian McGrath who pointed out that the coursers are "a small minority of the population".

Nature fund now inviting applicants

Vodafone and Conservation Volunteers Ireland have established a nature fund which is aiming to promote an appreciation of wildlife and the environment.

Applications are being invited for funding for projects which "display a practical commitment to understanding, enhancing and protecting our environment". Submissions will be considered all year round and are assessed in June and December.

Those eligible to apply for funding include individuals, wildlife organisations, environmental organisations, schools, youth groups, residents associations, landowners, farmers, community based organisations, local authorities, businesses and tidy town committees.

Among the projects listed as being eligible for possible funding include: wildlife conservation, habitat protection, education and awareness raising, waste recycling, research or data collection and restoration projects.

For more details, visit or

Animal Voice via email

Would you like to receive Animal Voice via email direct to your computer?

The electronic version of the magazine appears more frequently and will keep you even more up-to-date on campaigning news and appeals.

You can receive the email version instead of, or in addition to, the printed version. Simply send us your email address and you will automatically receive future editions.

Aertel publicises hunt fundraisers

Aertel have promised to consider an ICABS appeal in which we called on them to stop including point-to-points in their sports listings.

In making the appeal, we explained how point-to-point races are a major fundraising activity for foxhunts.

"Point-to-points are a way to raise the funds which are vital to the continuation of their blood sport activities," we stated. "Without point-to-points (and the other major fundraiser - hunt balls), foxhunting would effectively be starved of cash."

Also highlighted was the fact that point-to-points are exclusively carried out by foxhunts. Quoted to Aertel was an Irish Independent article from August 2002.

This stated that "the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association holds the monopoly" regarding point-to-points.

This is evident from the fixtures and results which have been featured on Aertel. Among the point-to-points that have been included are those organised by the infamous Galway Blazers.

In a letter to ICABS, Aertel Managing Editor, Richard Murphy, said he would "investigate this matter further" before making a decision.

The listings in question were being shown on Aertel Page 508 (Network 2) and on Aertel's website.


Please join us in calling for an end to point-to-point listings on Aertel. The majority of Irish people are opposed to foxhunting and RTE should not be helping to publicise events which are directly benefiting blood sports groups. Richard Murphy, Managing Editor, Aertel , RTE TV, Donnybrook, Dublin 4. Email:

Boylesports confirmed as sponsor of coursing

In the last issue of Animal Voice, we highlighted how both Paddy Power and Boyle Sports bookmakers accept bets on the blood sport of coursing.

ICABS was disgusted to learn that Boyle Sports is also among the handful of remaining companies in Ireland who shamelessly sponsor coursing. The "Boyle Sports Derby" was one of the events at the national coursing finals in February.

We have written to Boyle Sports, asking them to disassociate themselves from this animal cruelty. "It is regrettable that your company deems it appropriate to help keep this blood sport alive through financial support," we said in our letter. No reply has been received.

ICABS was also disgusted to note that hare coursing results were included on the Boyle Sports website and that the Managing Director was photographed posing at a coursing meeting in County Kerry.


Please contact Boyle Sports and ask them to reconsider their policy in relation to sponsoring blood sports. Point out, if relevant, that until they change their policy, you will not be visiting any their outlets in the future. John Boyle, Managing Director, Boyle Sports, 31 Shop Street, Drogheda, Co. Louth. Email:

Blood sport listings removed from county council website

Waterford County Council has finally removed blood sport listings from its website, ICABS is happy to report.

The references to hunting and coursing appeared in the council's county sport directory pages and prompted ICABS to launch an appeal in late 2002.

We told the council that it was entirely unacceptable for them to allow their website to be used to promote animal cruelty.

We are now pleased to be able to bring you the news that the directory in which the coursing and hunting listings appeared has been removed from the website.

In its place is a link to the website of Waterford Sports Partnership. No mention of coursing or hunting appears on this site. ICABS thanks Waterford County Council for this positive move.

And thank you also to everyone who contacted the council and helped to bring this campaign to a successful conclusion.

Coillte urged to bar hunters from forests

Pictured is a sign at the entrance to one of Ireland's most tranquil and animal-friendly forests. The Coillte-owned beauty spot is a rare haven where wildlife can live free from persecution.

In a recent submission to the forestry board, ICABS expressed our wish to see such signs displayed at every Coillte forest.

Our presentation to the board was in response to a review being carried out by the semi-state company into its recreational policy. The objective of the review, say Coillte, is to "develop recreation to meet the needs of both stakeholders and the company for the next two decades".

ICABS supporters will recall how previous lobbying has revealed that Coillte "neither encourages nor permits hunting [with hounds] on its lands except where traditional hunting rights already exist". This still means, however, that a few foxhunts remain free to terrorise and kill foxes on Coillte property. It is an unfortunate situation which should be ended by the company.

In addition, much of Coillte's 445,000 hectares (6.5 per cent of the national land area) is accessible to trigger happy shooters who find fun in gunning down the resident birds and animals.

Brown Coillte sign with the message: Wildlife Sanctuary - No Hunting, No Shooting
A sign of things to come, we hope. ICABS is urging Coillte to make all of its 445,000 hectares of land off-limits to hunters. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

"We wish to see all those who kill wildlife being kept out of Coillte forests," ICABS outlined in our submission. "Even knowing that these individuals are allowed access to the forest (without necessarily having to see or hear them) makes the forest experience less attractive. Instead of being a place of undisturbed natural beauty, it is transformed into a location where the wildlife is vulnerable and continually faces the possibility of becoming a target."

"The majority of Irish citizens who visit the forests oppose the killing of animals for fun," we added. "For those who have a love and respect for Irish wildlife, it is distressing to see hunters arriving to harass and kill animals that inhabit the forest."

Another issue highlighted in the submission was that of public safety. How many people's enjoyment of the forest has been overshadowed by the sound of gunshots? Knowing that someone with a lethal weapon is in the vicinity is sure to cause unease. Particularly with a string of incidents being highlighted in the media involving members of the public being hit by so-called stray bullets.

For the sake of both wildlife and members of the public present in the forest, Coillte must change their policy. Please follow our action item and help convince Coillte to make their land off-limits to hunters.


Appeal to Coillte to bar all hunters from its property. Hunters cast a shadow over other people's enjoyment of the forest and pose a risk to public safety. Daithi de Forge, Recreation Policy Review Group, Coillte, Bridge Street Centre, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. Tel: (0502) 21617 or 60655 Fax: (0502) 60524 Email:

Woman struck by "stray" rifle bullet

A woman hit by a "stray" rifle bullet in Boyle, Co Roscommon miraculously survived the ordeal.

The incident, described by local Gardai as being "more than likely an accident", occurred on a Saturday afternoon when the woman was walking from her car towards the town's library.

The bullet, which thankfully did not penetrate the skull, was subsequently removed from her head at Sligo General Hospital.

Boyle Gardai appealed for information about anybody out shooting in the vicinity.

Shooter posed threat to forest walkers: mag

The lives of forest walkers may have been put at risk by a reckless thug with a rifle. That's the suggestion made in the April edition of the Irish Shooters Digest magazine.

Reporting on the vandalisation of road signs by shooters, the article was particularly critical of the blasting of a sign near a forest walk.

"For sheer trigger happiness, cowboyism, guntoting vandalism, this takes the biscuit," the article stated. "For a rifle man to take a shot at a target on the ground is one thing, but to take a shot at eye level, is nothing short of insanity."

"At this particular spot, this shooter fired directly towards a forest walk, some of which is less than 100 yards away from it, and going in a circle around it, frequented by many walkers on an every day basis...Even if the shot was taken at night, the danger is still there."

Yellow road sign with bullet hole near top corner
A road sign with a bullet hole in it. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Outrage over handout to hunt-owned centre

As reported in the December edition of Animal Voice, the Punchestown Centre, which is half-owned by the Kildare Hunt, received a massive grant from the government.

We can now reveal the exact amount of taxpayers' money given to the centre.

Following a Dail Question in February from Green Party TD, John Gormley, the Department of Agriculture revealed that the handout amounted to an enormous €14,642,869.33.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is outraged that the Kildare Foxhunt is the beneficiary of this massive grant. We feel that this is tantamount to an endorsement by the government of this hunt and thereby their barbaric activities.

ICABS is also concerned that the Kildare Hunt will direct profits earned from the Punchestown Centre towards their cruel activity - the hounding down and killing of foxes for fun.

We ask the general public to bear this in mind when considering attending events at the Punchestown Centre.


To express your disapproval over public funds being given to blood sports groups, please write to the Minister for Finance, c/o Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Email:

Death of Dr Anne Behan

It is with great sadness that we report the death on 1st February 2004 of environmental consultant Dr Anne Behan.

Dr Behan operated the Hidden Wilds service which involved bringing people of all ages on eco-tours and giving lectures. She also wrote a weekly column for the Leinster Leader newspaper. In 2003, she won an award for video footage she captured which showed the beauty of nature.

At an ICABS seminar in 1998, Dr Behan gave an informative talk on the theme of "History of Hunting with a Modern Perspective". She also spoke on the issue of habitat destruction, highlighting the plight of wildlife when their habitat is destroyed. "They have no choice but to move on elsewhere," she said. "With suitable habitats being continually eliminated, however, the places to which displaced wildlife can retreat to are becoming very scarce."

Those who attended the seminar will recall Dr Behan's infectious enthusiasm and dedication to preserving wild places and wildlife.

ICABS extends its sympathy to Dr Behan's partner, family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.

Dr Anne Behan
Dr Behan giving a talk at an ICABS seminar.

Suppressed document damning of deer hunt

A Department of Agriculture report regarding the controversial Ward Union deer hunt has finally come to the surface - after more than seven years of suppression.

Despite several attempts by ICABS to obtain a copy, the tightly guarded document remained inaccessible. And now we know why.

Thanks to a Dail Question from Tony Gregory, TD, the 15-page report was finally released in Autumn 2003.

Entitled "Monitoring of the Stag Hunts conducted by the Ward Union Hunt", the 1997 report was authored by Department of Agriculture Veterinary Inspector, Kieran Kane. Many of his conclusions are damning of the hunt and should have marked an end to carted deer hunting in Ireland.

He found that the transportation of the deer, the chasing of the deer and the capture of the deer at the end of the hunt are all inhumane. What follows is a small selection of Mr Kane's key quotes. If you would like to read the full text of the report, please visit the ICABS website or email us for a copy.

"The transportation of the stags in the cart is inhumane in its manner and in the design of the cart. The enlargement of the stags is inhumane in that they are ejected suddenly into a strange environment and alone. A stag which has been hunted previously appears, before the hunt starts, to be distressed and aware that he is about to be hunted again."

"Stags being hunted appear to be terrified of the hounds. A stag is aware when he is being hunted and continues to flee even when the hounds are far behind. Stags are sometimes wounded or injured during hunts by physical incidents or by the hounds. Stags are terrified by people and motor vehicles during the hunt. Stags are apparently distressed and exhausted towards the end of hunts and will hide and lie down at this stage. At the end of the hunt, the fact that a man can catch and hold him would seem to be adequate evidence of physical exhaustion by the stag. The handling of the stag when taken at the end of a hunt must be terrifying and stressful to the animal."

"At one hunt it was notable that of the two stags in the cart one, which had been hunted previously, was showing body tremors, excessive salivation and panting whereas the other stag, which had not been hunted previously, appeared relatively calm."

"…a farmer who saw, at very close range, the stag at bay on 7th February told me that it was bleeding from one leg."

"In the early stages of the hunt the stag runs constantly but as the hunt progresses he may stop running and hide or even lie down and it is at this stage that the hounds may catch up with him."

"A major hazard encountered by stags is barbed wire. One stag was seen attempting to jump a fence and getting his front leg caught on a top strand of barbed wire and hanging, thus suspended, for some seconds before his struggles and/or weight tore him free."

"A stag observed, down to 30 yards range through binoculars, having run at least 8 miles in 90 minutes showed extreme physical distress, panting through its mouth and with a lather of white foam around its muzzle..."

"A significant number of stags are not taken at the end of the hunt. Some of these are subsequently hunted as outliers and may then be taken; others are captured when they return to the vicinity of the deerpark and are lured in: others are captured by being immobilised by means of a projectile dart loaded with a narcotic drug."

"Stags are hunted until about 9 years of age at which time they may get "stiff" or fail in condition and I was told that they are then sold or exchanged with commercial deer farms or slaughtered for venison."

"As the Red Deer herd presently kept at Green Park by the Ward Union Hunt has been maintained in captivity for something in the region of 150 years and is augmented regularly by stock from captive herds farmed solely for venison production, it is hard to see how they avoid falling into the category of 'domestic animal' for the purposes of the Protection of Animals Acts, 1911 and 1965."

"As the Red Deer at Green Park are obviously not wild animals it is equally hard to see how they fall into the ambit of the Wildlife Act."

"Domesticated Red Deer are obviously completely unfit for a prolonged chase by hounds."

"I am very conscious that my conclusions may have some influence on decisions which may eventually lead to a loss of much pleasure to a large number of people who do not believe that they might have been doing anything cruel; I regret that loss to those people and trust that they will accept that I arrived at my conclusions objectively and without bias and only after much reflection."

Sections: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Full Contents (1-4)

Contents | Subscribe | Top | Home