Animal Voice, Summer 2004
Section 2 - Pages 8-14

Help expose Ireland's illegal cockfighters

Despite being illegal in Ireland, the blood sport of cockfighting still takes place in some parts of the country. The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has called on members of the public to report any information about cockfighting activities to the Gardai.

The phone numbers of Garda stations all over Ireland can be found at You can also pass on information to ICABS (044-49848) or to the ISPCA National Cruelty Helpline (048-9081 4242).

Similar to other blood sports like foxhunting, hare coursing and carted deer hunting, the typical cockfight involves horrendous animal cruelty. Two cocks are thrown into an enclosed pit and encouraged to rip each other apart until one succumbs and dies. This bloody combat is cheered on by spectators, many of whom will be gambling on the outcome.

Birds such as the Irish Game Cock and the Large Old English Game Cock are traditionally used since they are particularly territorial and will instinctively chase rivals away.

Cockfight victim with bleeding head and bloodied feathers
Bloodied and dazed: A victim of cockfighting in Ireland.

During the season (Easter Sunday up until the end of July), two forms of cockfighting are carried out - "naked heel" and "spur fighting". In naked heel, the birds' natural spurs are sharpened to maximise the injury they can inflict.

Spur fighting, meanwhile, sees three-inch long steel spurs being attached to the sides of their legs. These are designed to cause even greater injuries and result in more savage battles. Cock fights can last up to 25 minutes or as long as the birds can withstand the injuries.

To help expose the sheer barbarity of cockfighting, ICABS has added a new video and photo gallery to our website.

Man fined €250 for interfering with Mullingar badger sett

A man who interfered with a badger sett in a midlands nature reserve has been fined €250.

45-year-old plasterer, Michael O'Dowd, of Grange Crescent, Mullingar, pleaded guilty to the charges of interfering with the breeding place of a protected wild animal and failing to comply with the request of a ranger.

At Mullingar District Court on 3rd June, 2004, Judge David Anderson heard how three wildlife rangers called to O'Dowd's home after discovering a freshly dug out badger sett at Rochfort Demense near Lough Ennel.

The rangers were acting on a complaint that the man had been hunting badgers on Westmeath County Council land on the lake shore.

The court was told that O'Dowd admitted he had been hunting with his dogs that morning, but he claimed he was hunting foxes. The rangers made a complaint to the Gardai, however, after he refused to comply with their request to see his dogs and the spade he used.

In a statement to the Gardai, O'Dowd admitted digging out the badger sett on 26th May, 2003. He said his terrier had gone into the sett and he had to dig him out.

Judge Anderson imposed a €250 fine for interfering with the sett and €100 for failing to comply with the rangers' request.

Paper criticised for coverage of hare coursing

The Clare Champion newspaper has been criticised for its coverage of hare coursing.

In the sports pages of its 6th February edition, the paper featured a half-page report on coursing. Appearing alongside a photo of a hare running for its life, the report described the coursing finals in Clonmel as "another great day for Clare".


Please contact the editor and appeal to him to stop giving positive coverage to blood sports.

Gerry Collison, Editor, Clare Champion, Barrack Street, Ennis, Co Clare. Tel: 065-6828105. Fax: 065-6820374. Email:

Bord na gCon poised to grant aid coursers
Coursing clubs hoping to get their hands on €1/4million of taxpayers' cash

The unthinkable may be about to happen and we flagged it in a previous newsletter.

The Irish Greyhound Board - Bord na gCon - has approved "in principle" a quarter of a million Euro for hare coursing from their annual €12-13 million grant from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

A Bord na gCon spokesperson is on record as saying that the board "has in principle approved financing to support the Irish Coursing Club in the improvement of integrity and welfare issues".

"The ICC did submit a proposal in respect of the funding and this proposal was not accepted by the Board. No funding has yet been committed in respect of this support and the Board is awaiting specific proposals from the ICC in respect of the utilisation of the proposed funding for animal welfare and integrity issues."

Answering questions at an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in April, the Chief Executive of Bord na gCon told Green Party TD, Dan Boyle that: "The board has not supported the Irish Coursing Club financially."

However, with a massive grant being approved in principle, there is a real risk that this could all change.

An article in the Sporting Press referred to a statement made at the end of March by the Irish Coursing Club's president in which he indicated that a handout was imminent.

He said that he had met Irish Greyhound Board chairman, Paschal Taggart, who was "genuinely keen to see the problems solved". He added: "We more or less agreed a [financial] package which could benefit the ICC."

This response is at odds with a previous statement from the board. In 2003, Animal Voice reported how they expressed their belief that giving money to the coursers would "mark the beginning of the end for greyhound sports".

So the public purse may now possibly fund animal cruelty. And to add insult to injury, Bord na gCon states that this proposed grant to the coursers is for "ANIMAL WELFARE" purposes. This spin is utterly stomach churning and hypocritical in the extreme.

We have no doubt that the funds would go towards prizemoney for coursing events.

In any event, welfare for hares in coursing can't be improved as taking hares from the wild and using them as live lures is inherently and intrinsically cruel, and there is no way the cruelty can be alleviated by one cent, never mind a quarter of a million Euro.

This ludicrous suggestion is a spin too far and the Irish public will not buy it.

Welfare for hares can only be improved by leaving them alone in the wild and outlawing hare coursing.

If there is a quarter of a million Euro up for grabs, then we suggest that it could be put towards some real animal welfare causes. There are many struggling animal rescue centres around the country which would be grateful for even a fraction of this grant.


Please join us in urgently calling on the government to ensure that not a penny of taxpayers' money is given to the Irish Coursing Club.

Minister John O'Donoghue Department of Arts, "Sports" and Tourism, Frederick Buildings, South Frederick St Dublin 2, Ireland. Tel: 01-631 3802. Locall: 1890-383 000. Fax: 01-679 9291. Email:

An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern Government Buildings Merrion Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-619 4020. LoCall: 1890-227 227. Fax: 01-678 9791 Email:

Majority want coursing ban

Successive opinion polls over the past three decades have shown that a huge majority of Irish people want coursing made illegal.

The most recent poll (Sunday Independent, 1998) showed that 80 per cent of both rural and urban dwellers want coursing banned.

The newspaper concluded that: "There is very little support across the country for hare coursing, even when the dogs are muzzled...hare coursing should be banned outright, a huge majority of Irish people now believe."

For more poll results, click on "More Info" at

National Parks will remain hunter-free

ICABS has welcomed the good news that Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, is to retain the policy of keeping hunters out of our national parks and nature reserves.

The decision comes following a four year wrangle with the gun clubs who wanted the 30-year policy changed.

In 1999, the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC) requested the then Minister with responsibility for wildlife, Sile De Valera, to reconsider this policy and she initiated a review into hunting on state lands.

The review was carried out by consultants for the Heritage Service who advised in 2000 that no shooting should be allowed in national parks and nature reserves. Regardless, the NARGC continued to press for the policy to be changed.

On January 29th 2004, Minister Martin Cullen (who is responsible for the national parks) wrote to gun club boss, Des Crofton, and told him that the no hunting policy was to remain. Among the reasons cited for the refusal were public safety and the protection of wildlife.

Minister Cullen said that "the NPWS (National Parks & Wildlife Service) sites were acquired, using public funds, for the purpose of nature conservation and they should serve as refuges and breeding places for species of wildlife" and that "the general public understands that the role of NPWS is to protect wildlife and would view hunting on NPWS property as inconsistent with that role."

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports very much welcomes Minister Cullen's decision to stand firm against the gun clubs and keep our national parks hunter-free.

We are much relieved that these sanctuaries for wildlife, of which there are precious few in this country, are kept safe and free from hunters.

It would have been a retrograde step if this policy was overturned in the interests of gun men. We know that the vast majority of people would be horrified to have the peace and tranquillity that they have come to enjoy in our national parks shattered by gun fire.

Thanks very much to all the ICABS campaigners who contacted the government over the years and urged them to make this common sense decision.

Tony Gregory condemns JP McManus

ICABS vice-president, and Independent TD, Tony Gregory, has condemned hare coursing sponsor, JP McManus.

The Manchester United shareholder - said to be Ireland's eighth richest person - sponsored the three day Irish Cup coursing meeting in February. The total prize money on offer was €140,000.

Quoted in the News of the World, Deputy Gregory stated: "I don't understand the mentality it must take to sponsor an event like that...this so-called sport has no place in a modern Ireland and no one who is forward thinking should be involved in it."

Is Bertie Ahern anti-coursing?

Is Bertie Ahern for or against live hare coursing? That's what ICABS has been trying to find out in recent months.

Despite being in possession of a letter from 1997 in which the Taoiseach claims that he is "totally opposed to hare coursing", we remain unconvinced. If he is truly opposed to this blood sport, why does he not use his power as the prime minister to work towards banning it.

Appeals from ICABS for the Taoiseach to confirm his views on this issue have been repeatedly ignored. We need your help.


Please write to Bertie Ahern and ask him to clarify his views on blood sport cruelty. Bertie Ahern, TD, Department of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-6194020 Lo-Call: 1890-227227 Fax: 01-6789791 E-mail:

Forty hares die at coursing meeting
Vet states stress of coursing is the cause

Following the deaths of up to forty hares after a coursing meeting at New Ross, County Wexford, a veterinary surgeon cited stress as the cause.

Vet Peter A Murphy told the National Parks and Wildlife Service, in a letter last January, that "under the influence of stress, the hare's immune system is compromised and these organisms suddenly multiply rapidly to cause a severe clinical disease and ultimately death."

"Hares being normally solitary animals," Mr Murphy wrote, "are significantly stressed when corralled and coursed, and this combination of circumstances has resulted in the deaths in this case."

Post mortems had been carried out by Mr Murphy and the Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Kilkenny, after the hare deaths.

The ranger who monitored the coursing meeting stated in his report that "it was obvious that the hares were not in good condition".

There were eleven hares hit by dogs and six were dead by next morning. The following day, according to the ranger, it was the same, with hares "not willing" to run and four being hit by dogs.

ICABS asks the question, why was this meeting not stopped on day one when it was noted that the hares were obviously not in good condition?

This again highlights the utter callousness and cruelty of the coursers whose only priority is that their "sick" sport carries on, despite the suffering of the hares.

Hare injuries and deaths continue in coursing

Hares continue to be mauled, injured and killed at coursing meetings, according to National Parks & Wildlife Service reports.

The reports, filed by conservation rangers, were issued to ICABS Vice-president, Deputy Tony Gregory, in Dail Eireann.

Relating to the 32 coursing meetings observed by rangers (out of a national total of around 100), the reports show that 174 hares were "struck" with 41 hares injured while up to 46 hares died of so-called "natural causes".

Another clear indication that there is absolutely no way, despite claims by the Irish Coursing Club, that injuries and kills can be eliminated from coursing. It is as clear now as it ever was that the muzzling of coursing greyhounds has failed to save hares.

As regards the 124 hares out of 174 which survived being "struck" by muzzled dogs, they were documented by the rangers as having been returned to the wild after coursing. ICABS can only speculate on the welfare of these creatures.

All hares used as live lures, whether struck or not, are deeply stressed and traumatised by the experience, and their welfare seriously compromised.

Please keep the pressure on your local Dail/Senate representatives. Tell them that the time has come to finally rid Ireland of this cruel and unnecessary blood sport.

Ranger critical of pregnant hare coursing

In a memo from one National Parks and Wildlife Service official to another, "serious reservations" were expressed about "a vet allowing pregnant hares and hares which have just given birth to be coursed".

The conservation ranger who attended the Westmeath United coursing meeting in Raharney, Co. Westmeath, was told by a coursing club official that "some hares return to the coursing field after a coursing meeting as some give birth while penned up in the enclosure prior to the coursing meeting."

The ranger noted a small hare in the enclosure and was told by the coursing club official that it had been born there.

In the memo, Dr Linda Patton stated that "since these animals are protected and it seems that the populations may be declining, we should surely be aiming to protect the pregnant and suckling adults and their young with a view to conserving the species at a favourable conservation status."

Incredibly, according to the licence to net hares, there is no condition regarding the taking of pregnant hares. This points up again the gross interference by coursing clubs in the life cycle of a timid wild species and the state's willingness to continue licensing this abuse regardless.

This is another significant reason, among many, for an end to live hare coursing.


Please send the enclosed campaign postcard to the Minister for the Environment who grants a licence for the taking of hares from the wild. If you require extra copies to give to your friends/family, please get in touch with us.

Millionaire members of deer hunt exposed

"Powerful millionaire business moguls who get their kicks hunting terrified animals" - Star Sunday's description of Ward Union members, Michael Bailey and Johnny Ronan.

"Two of Ireland's most prominent businessmen get their kicks chasing defenceless deer across the countryside," the report stated. "Property developer Michael Bailey is one of the masters of the controversial Ward Union stag hunt, whose members like nothing better than to pursue a fleeing deer on horseback with a pack of hounds."

Michael Bailey
Michael Bailey: gets kicks chasing defenceless deer. (Photo: ICABS)

"Millionaire Treasury Holdings boss Johnny Ronan is also a member of the club and he participated in a hunt north of Dublin two weeks ago with Bailey and other members. Mr Bailey [of Flood Tribunal fame] owns the large building company Bovale Developments, while Mr Ronan - also a property developer - was ranked at 61 on Ireland's rich list last year."

The article appeared in March following a day's observing of the Ward Union by ICABS. Accompanied by Tony Gregory, TD, we filmed the hunt's deplorable activities. Among the disturbing scenes witnessed was an exhausted deer with its tongue hanging out trying to escape the pursuing hunters and hounds.

An image of Michael Bailey captured by ICABS on the day was supplied to the Star Sunday and appeared alongside their report.

Hunt reported for alleged littering

A hunt which placed fliers on car windscreens in a village in County Meath has been reported to the local litter warden.

ICABS reported the incident after spotting the advertisement leaflets stuck on parked cars. The placing of leaflets or fliers on car windscreens is prohibited under the Litter Pollution Act, 1997.

Although thanking ICABS for reporting the incident, the Environment section of Meath County Council outlined that the "burden of proof which falls on the Council to prove an alleged litter offence would not appear adequate in this instance".

The Council revealed that the details required before a fine can be considered are: "registration number of vehicle(s) that the leaflet was placed upon, photographic evidence, verification of the date and placement of leaflets by a witness and where and how the leaflet was placed on vehicle."

Litter laws also forbid the putting up of posters/signs (e.g. signs advertising hunt point-to-points) on poles or on other structures in public places unless the permission of the owner has been granted. If you spot any form of litter which originated with a blood sport group, please report it to a litter warden.

Mastercard credited for compassion

Mastercard have been credited as a compassionate company after responding positively to appeals for an end to their circus promotions.

As reported in the November 2003 edition of Animal Voice, the company had been promoting the Barnum & Bailey and Ringling circuses by sending out discount vouchers to their customers.

The campaign against the promotion was spearheaded by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who sent a circus video to the Mastercard president and board of directors.

This video revealed the standard training methods used by circuses all over the world. Undercover footage showed screaming and terrified elephants being attacked with sharp metal bullhooks and electric prods during behind-the-scenes training sessions.

"MasterCard has done the right thing," commented PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "A credit card company's business should not include keeping chained and caged animals lonely, stressed, and a long way from their homes."

Congratulations to all the ICABS supporters who got involved in this campaign by contacting the president of Mastercard.

Bird shoots promoted on Ear to the Ground

In February, Ear to the Ground featured an item on pheasant shooting in Wexford. A shooter interviewed described blasting birds out of the sky as a "healthy pastime".


Please write to John Cummins (Executive Producer of Ear to the Ground and Managing Director of Agtel Communications). Appeal to him to stop giving positive coverage to activities which involve the killing of animals for fun. John Cummins, Agtel Communications, 22 Fitzwilliam Street Upper, Dublin 2. Email:

Galway goats gunned down

Aideen Yourell reports on a horrific incident in County Galway which epitomises the vulnerability of our feral goat population.

While leafing through the April edition of an Irish gun magazine, I was horrified to see a trio of trophy hunters, two armed with lethal weapons, and one holding up a stricken male goat by the horns. The majestic creature had been gunned down for "sport" by shooters keen to try their hand at "big game hunting".

Feral goats in Galway provided the day's entertainment for these shooters and very easy targets they proved to be - the herd were found lying in the sunshine. Five of the animals, including a lame one, were promptly shot down.

Most horrifyingly, it took more than one shot to kill them. A description is given of one goat surviving "a large wound in his forehead" and trying to rise from the ground to escape. One can only imagine the terror and suffering endured.

The article on the day's carnage made for thoroughly sickening reading, with the author going into cold, clinical and forensic detail about the merits and de-merits of various guns, bullets and "the ability of the common Irish goat to absorb punishment".

A black and white goat with large horns
Vulnerable: Goats are given no protection under the Wildlife Act. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Sadly, there in no protection in law for these beautiful creatures. Though effectively wild, they are afforded no protection under the Wildlife Act. No licence is required to shoot them, hence the indiscriminate slaughter by shooting gangs.

In the Burren, goats have been found wounded by gunshot, their young kids left orphaned. It is left up to local animal welfarists to find and rescue them.

Despite a reputation for being an occasional nuisance to farmers, goats do play a positive role in ecological terms. For instance, in the Burren, they eat plants and grasses which smother rare plants, therefore helping to maintain the natural balance of this world famous site.

Thankfully, a new campaign has been launched to help secure protection for feral goats around Ireland. Those interested in getting involved are invited to contact The Burren Feral Goat Preservation Society on 087-7954351 or visit

Law professor insists deer hunt is illegal

Professor William Binchy, School of Law, Trinity College, said during an interview on RTE's Primetime on March 9th, that "privatised hunting of deer should not be permitted".

Expressing his legal opinion, Professor Binchy commented: "When a deer is in a park under the ownership of an owner - a confined park such as the Ward Union have - that would constitute a tame deer. I don't see that as being ambiguous or uncertain."

"I don't accept for a moment that when a deer is enlarged - that is to say, chased by a pack of hounds - that it reverts to a wild state," he continued. "Of course, it does its best to protect itself, but having been tame when it arrived at the field in question, it remains in the category of a tame animal.

"I think the public are entitled to know the basis on which the Department considers that it's acting legally in this particular context. On the face it, as I say, the 1911 Act applies and the 1976 Wildlife Act does not give permission to the Minister to grant an authorisation or licence to hunt domesticated deer."

Website removes coursing content

Thank you to everyone who contacted Roscrea Credit Union, sponsors of the Roscrea Online website.

Further to our January appeal, references to hare coursing have been eliminated from the website.

ICABS thanks those responsible for making these changes.

If you spot positive references to blood sports on websites or in newspapers and magazines, please send us details immediately so that we can follow it up.

Bank of Ireland defends loan scheme for wildlife shooters

The Bank of Ireland has defended a loan scheme for members of the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC).

A leaflet published by the bank entitled "Preferential Loans exclusive to scheme members of NARGC" includes the NARGC logo on the cover.

In a letter of complaint, ICABS asked why the Bank of Ireland is giving preferential treatment to those who slaughter Irish wildlife.

Responding to our letter, a spokesperson stated: "Bank of Ireland provides preferential loan schemes to members of a wide variety of clubs, associations and groups throughout Ireland.

A leaflet displaying the Bank of Ireland and NARGC logos
The Bank of Ireland leaflet.

"These schemes offer preferential rates to individual members on loans for personal use and are not for the benefit of the organisation. The same lending criteria applies to members of group schemes as it does to individual borrowers and is based entirely on repayment capacity."

"The establishment or existence of such schemes should not be taken as an endorsement by Bank of Ireland of the clubs or associations, or in this case, blood sports generally," she added.

Among the species killed by members of NARGC are: fox, hare, mink, rat, feral cats, deer, Canada Geese, Cock Pheasant, Curlew, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Goldeneye, Grey Crow, Greylag Geese, Jack Snipe, Magpie, Mallard, Pintail, Pochard, Red Grouse, Red-legged Partridge, Ruddy Duck, Scaup, Shoveler, Snipe, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Woodcock and Woodpigeon.


Please write to Bank of Ireland and ask them to stop associating with a group whose members slaughter tens of thousands of defenceless Irish creatures every year. Mary Brennan, Group Corporate Communications, Bank of Ireland, Head Office, Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2. Email:

Ganly Walters remove hunt references from website

Thank you to everyone who responded to the January appeal in which we asked real estate agents, Ganly Walters, to stop presenting blood sports as a property attraction.

We are pleased to report that the offending reference to hunting ("[This property is] adjacent to Meath and Louth foxhounds, Tara Harriers and Ward union Staghounds") has now been removed from the company's website.

Reporting on the success, the Sunday Times quoted a Ganly Walters agent as saying: "The anti-blood sports people highlighted the issue for us and so we decided to have a rethink on it.

"Whether we like it or not, the anti-foxhunting lobby has grown stronger and we came to the conclusion that many more people would be offended today by references to foxhunting. It seemed to make sense to rectify the situation."

ICABS thanks Ganly Walters for their positive move.

Clare FM responds to complaints

Clare FM has insisted that coursing was not promoted on the station's Cormacology show in February.

Presenter, Cormac Mac Connell, announced coursing results and, in conversation with a coursing enthusiast, made the ridiculous claim that hares enjoy being chased by greyhounds.

Though stressing that it is "not the station's policy to espouse the cause of hare coursing", Clare FM CEO, Liam O'Shea, responded as follows to complaints: "I would take issue with your suggestion that we were promoting [coursing]. The fact is that a considerable number of our listeners have an interest in hare coursing and I feel that it is not unreasonable for us to cater in some small way to their needs."

"As regards Cormac McConnell's treatment of the issue I readily accept how it will have offended sensibilities," he added.

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