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Hare species - protected in Northern Ireland, persecuted in Republic
06 January 2005

Northern Ireland's Environment Minister, Angela Smith, has announced an extension to the ban on the capturing of hares from the wild in that jurisdiction. The year-long ban which began in January 2004 has now been extended to at least March 31st 2005.

In a statement issued late last month, Minister Smith cited the following as reasons for her decision to extend the ban:

  • The "high hare mortality rate associated with a recent coursing meeting in Wexford".
  • The "stress levels that can result from hares being netted, held and coursed".
  • Concern for the general recovery in the hare population.

The Wexford meeting referred to was held at New Ross during the 2003-04 coursing season and resulted in the stress-related deaths of up to forty hares. In a letter last January, vet Peter A Murphy told the National Parks and Wildlife Service 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."

Angela Smith's positive move to help protect the hare species comes less than a month after her counterpart in the Republic, Dick Roche, outlined that "there are no proposals to change existing arrangements for the licensed netting of wild hares for live hare coursing."

Not only is coursing being allowed to continue in the Republic, those who were stopped from coursing in the North are being accommodated here. ICABS was disgusted to note from a coursing fixtures list obtained from the National Parks and Wildlife Service that the two Northern Irish coursing clubs were permitted to join forces with the East Donegal and County Cavan clubs.

Despite an eighty per cent majority of citizens wanting the blood sport banned, Ireland is set to become one of the last few remaining countries in the world to allow coursing. Scotland has already banned it while England and Wales are soon to follow.

Angela Smith
"I am also conscious of the high hare mortality rate associated with a recent coursing meeting in Wexford, and of the stress levels that can result from hares being netted, held and coursed." (Northern Ireland's Environment Minister, Angela Smith. 22nd December 2004).

Angela Smith renews ban to protect the Irish Hare
(Media Statement, 22nd December 2004)

Environment Minister, Angela Smith, MP, announced today she has decided to renew the temporary ban on the killing, taking, sale or purchase of Irish Hares.

The ban will be introduced by a special protection order under the Game Preservation Act (NI) 1928, for the period 19 January 2005 to 31 March 2005.

Angela Smith said: "I am aware of the depth of feeling that my decision to renew the Special Protection Order will cause to interest groups involved in certain countryside activities. However, I have given this matter a lot of thought and looked carefully at the arguments from the objectors. I have concluded that there continues to be merit in providing special protection for the Irish Hare, pending the outcome of the review of the Wildlife Order.

"I was very encouraged by the results of the 2004 survey into the Irish hare population, which were published recently. However, it is necessary to treat these results cautiously, since the outcome of a single survey does not necessarily indicate a general recovery in the population. The results of further surveys will be required to confirm that the increase reported is sustainable.

"I am also conscious of the high hare mortality rate associated with a recent coursing meeting in Wexford, and of the stress levels that can result from hares being netted, held and coursed. I therefore continue to believe it would be inconsistent with the policy objectives of the Species Action Plan to allow activities to continue which pose a threat to the Irish Hare.

"I am therefore satisfied that it is both necessary and expedient to provide special protection for the Irish Hare until the end of the open season on 31 March, to allow any future decision on special protection to be informed by the outcome of the current judicial review proceedings and the Wildlife Order review."

The DOE review of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 will consider the issue of additional protection for the Irish Hare. Any proposed amendments to the Wildlife Order, including any proposal to change the legal status of the Irish Hare, would be subject to a full and detailed consultation process, which will take account of everyone’s views. DOE plans to publish a consultation document on its proposals by the spring of 2005.

Notes To Editors:

The Species Action Plan is available on the DOE’s Environment and Heritage Service website –

The ban is being introduced by means of a Special Protection Order under Section 7C(1) of the Game Preservation Act (NI) 1928. This Act provides that, where satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to provide special protection for any kind of game, a Minister may, by Order, prohibit the taking, killing, or the sale or purchase of any game prescribed by the Order, for a period up to 12 months.

The judicial review application in respect of the Game Preservation (Special Protection for Irish Hares) Order (NI) 2003 was heard in the High Court last week and judgement is awaited in the New Year.

For further information contact DOE Press Office Tel. 028 9054 0003.

More Information: Coursing Cruelty

Latest News - Coursing
Trevor Sargent calls for end to coursing licences (23 December 2004)
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"Man About Dog" film has got it wrong (08 October 2004)
No funds to coursers in "last ten years" (07 October 2004)
Coursing claims are absurd: Conservationists (22 September 2004)
"Ban Hare Coursing" Poster - Download and display today! (07 September 2004)
ICABS launches campaign postcards (12 August 2004)

Ban Coursing Website
For more information on hare coursing cruelty in Ireland, please visit our Ban Hare Coursing website at

Show your opposition to blood sports by signing our Ban Blood Sports in Ireland in 2005 petition. Please print out the petition and collect as many signatures as possible among your friends, family and workmates. Thank you.

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