Campaigns: Ban Cruel Ferreting

ICABS has renewed its call for ferreting to be banned after a newspaper article highlighted the appalling cruelty of the activity. A profile of a ferreting enthusiast published in a midlands newspaper told of how ferrets are used to blind rabbits by biting into their eyes.

ICABS has called on the Department of Agriculture to act urgently to end the horrendous practice. Ferreting involves sending a ferret down a burrow to trap rabbits. The rabbits are either chased out of the hole and into nets or viciously gripped in place by the ferret while a hunter digs away the earth from above them.

The following is a ferreter's first-hand description of the activity published in the Westmeath Topic of March 13th, 2008.

"On a typical day I'd get up at six in the morning while it's still dark. People contact me, often lads with greyhounds. These lads would be looking for rabbits...I bring my nets, cages, and of course my ferret finder. It's a collar you put on the ferret before he's sent underground. It beeps like a metal detector, so you know where he is...It's handier, because he 'pooches' the rabbit ('It's a certain kind of cul-de-sac where the rabbit goes up into to hide, where the ferret tries to tear at him to make him move). If he doesn't move the rabbit you have to use a barn spade (which is called a ferreting bar) to dig him out...You have two different types of hunting ferret; you have the 'eye' ferret and you have the 'brain' ferret. An eye ferret in a hole only goes for the rabbit's eye - he blinds him. The 'brain' ferret, he'll bite straight onto the head between the ears."

"Like I said, most of the rabbits go into the nets. The fellas who called me out would often take them off me. They sometimes use them for teasing the greyhound in a thing called a 'rolling cage' which is a small round cage they put the rabbit in to tease the dog before a race."

Cruel ferreting activities leave rabbits like this one injured, and sometimes blinded, after vicious underground attacks. (Photo: Mike Rendle)

It is highly questionable that greyhound men suddenly have mercy on the traumatised, and probably injured, rabbit and release it back to the wild. It is much more likely that the rabbit is let out of the cage and used a live lure for the greyhounds.

This highly illegal act of "blooding" is thought to be commonplace in the industry. Unscrupulous owners and breeders believe that letting greyhounds tear a rabbit asunder will keep them keen for running on the track or up a coursing field.

Greyhound scene commentator, John Martin, is on record as saying that "greyhound racing would not continue to exist without blooding [and] it follows that, with a constant greyhound population of close on 30,000, blooding must be widespread."

Writing in the Irish Independent of January 12th, 1994, Mr Martin added: "Do not expect an admission of that from Bord na gCon, the country's semi-state greyhound racing authority. To concede the point would be to accept that they are the custodians of a sport whose very existence is based on blooding."

In our appeal to the Department of Agriculture, ICABS stressed both the cruelty of ferreting and its links to the illegal act of blooding.

"We believe that the new animal welfare legislation should take into account that this activity is ongoing, and the banning of ferreting, which of itself is a cruel activity, would assist in tackling this ongoing cruelty. Furthermore, given that this industry is enshrined in legislation (Greyhound Industry Act) and grant-aided by the taxpayer, we believe it should be scrutinised in depth in terms of the welfare of greyhounds as there are ongoing cruel practices and indeed illegal practices engaged in by greyhound owners and trainers with regard to the use of drugs and indeed the treatment of greyhounds past their racing best."

A ferret - Photo: DSPCA
"You have two different types of hunting ferret; you have the 'eye' ferret and you have the 'brain' ferret. An eye ferret in a hole only goes for the rabbit's eye - he blinds him. The 'brain' ferret, he'll bite straight onto the head between the ears."


Please appeal to the Agriculture Minister to amend the Protection of Animals Act to outlaw ferreting.

Minister for Agriculture
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Email: [with a copy to An Taoiseach]
Tel: 01-607 2000 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

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