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Appeal to Minister - Make this the last ever coursing cruelty fest!
31st January 2005

Today, as the national finals of hare coursing kick off in Powerstown Park, Clonmel, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports pleads with Minister for Arts, Sports & Tourism, John O'Donoghue (who has responsibility for the greyhound industry and coursing), to call on the coursing clubs to replace live hare coursing with mechanical lure coursing.

Lure coursing (also known as drag coursing) is practised successfully in Australia, America and also in Britain where a hare coursing ban will come into effect soon. A ban is already in place in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

ICABS has also extended the appeal to the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, the Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche (who grants an annual licence to the coursers to cruelly snatch 10,000 hares from the wild each year) and to all the party leaders who have stated their opposition to hare coursing (see quotes below). We have urged them all to proactively push for the introduction of drag coursing. Videos sent to each show drag coursing in operation and convey how easily the set-up could be put in place in Ireland.

In our letters, we outlined the cruelty case and also how the introduction of drag would save the taxpayers money.

Dog chasing mechanical lure
Chasing the artificial lure at a drag coursing event. Videos sent to the government show drag coursing in operation and convey how easily the set-up could be put in place in Ireland. Please visit our Videos page to view sample video clips.

ICABS has been calling for the introduction of drag coursing for some years now, but the response typically has been that since muzzling was introduced over ten years ago, there are few kills, with the Irish Coursing Club claiming that hardly any kills ever take place.

However, according to annual reports from National Parks & Wildlife Service personnel (sourced by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act), not a coursing season goes by without fatalities, either from injuries sustained by hares being struck and mauled by muzzled dogs, or from disease brought on by the stress of capture, confinement and coursing. For example, in December 2003, 40 hares died after a coursing meeting in New Ross. Post mortems carried out by the Regional Veterinary Laboratory in Kilkenny revealed that the hares had died of a variety of clinical syndromes. Vet, Peter A. Murphy, informed the NPWS in a letter 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 are significantly stressed when corralled and coursed, and this combination of circumstances has resulted in the deaths in this case."

The conservation ranger who attended 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. This is just one example from a catalogue of cruelty documented by ICABS from ranger reports down the years.

Coursing is inherently and intrinsically cruel and the cruelty begins when the hares (approximately 10,000 annually) are snatched in nets from their natural habitat, handled by humans, confined in enclosures, fed an unnatural diet, subjected to severe stress and disease, and then terrorised by being forced to run for their lives before two greyhounds.

ICABS has outlined to the Ministers for Environment and Sports & Tourism how the introduction of drag would save the taxpayers money spent on regulating and monitoring coursing. Not only that, mechanical lure coursing would bring benefits for the coursers themselves.

Benefits of mechanical lure coursing

Public Acceptance
The vast majority of the Irish public is opposed to live hare coursing (80 per cent according to the most recent IMS poll). This majority would favour the introduction of drag coursing and the elimination of cruelty.

There are signs of a decline in the hare population. This has been identified in Britain and Northern Ireland. The netting and disturbance of in the region of 10,000 hares from the wild annually must have an unfavourable impact on hare populations.

Cost Effective for Taxpayers
Currently, hare coursing is monitored and supervised by staff from the National Parks & Wildlife Service, and to some extent by veterinary staff from the Department of Agriculture. The need for this monitoring and resultant reporting and administration would be totally eliminated with drag coursing, thus saving money and manpower, while freeing up National Parks & Wildlife staff for other vital and important duties.

Because of the cruel and controversial nature of hare coursing, hardly any companies or organisations are willing to sponsor or lend their name to coursing. With the introduction of drag, this would surely change, attracting sponsorship which, no doubt, the Irish Coursing Club would welcome.

Year Round Staging of Events
With drag coursing, events can be held at any time of year. At present, it is restricted to the winter months because of the breeding season of the hare. It would be a far more attractive proposition in terms of attracting more spectators if coursing were to be staged in the more clement months of the year, attracting more participation and spectators to the events.

Quotes from political party leaders

Bertie Ahern, TD (An Taoiseach)
"I am totally opposed to hare coursing and I hope that...many more people reject hare coursing as a past-time, which can never justifiably be called a sport." (In a letter to an ICABS supporter in 1997).

Mary Harney, TD (Tanaiste and Minister for Health and Children)
Minister Harney voted for Tony Gregory's 1993 Bill to ban coursing. (PDs granted a free voice on that occasion, and the vast majority of the party voted in favour of the Bill).

Enda Kenny, TD (Leader, Fine Gael)
"I am writing to confirm that I am opposed to the practice of live hare coursing."

Pat Rabbitte, TD (Leader, Labour Party)
"I do not support bloodsports or hare coursing." (June 2003).

Trevor Sargent, TD (Leader, Green Party)
"I feel we have reached a point in our history where almost unanimous agreement has been reached in rejecting political violence and, to ensure that society develops respecting life in general, it is important I believe to reject violence in the name of 'sport' also."

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, TD (Leader, Dail Eireann Sinn Fein Deputies)
"This is to confirm that I am totally opposed to live hare coursing." (In an email to ICABS on 23rd July 2003). And in a separate message from Sean Crowe, TD, March 2003, he stated: "Sinn Féin as a party is absolutely opposed to blood 'sports' and motions to this effect have been passed at the last two Ard Fheiseanna with overwhelming support."

Joe Higgins, TD (Leader, Socialist Party)
"I am opposed to the hunting of foxes by hounds as indeed I am opposed to live hare coursing."

Drag coursing - Q&A

What is drag coursing?
Drag coursing is a humane alternative to live hare coursing in which the greyhounds chase not a live animal but a mechanical device known as a drag. The drag, comprising a piece of cloth or plastic, is rapidly dragged along by a wire cable and can be made to be as unpredictable as a hare and to provide challenging runs for the greyhounds. A “drag course” is a competition between two greyhounds over a distance of approximately 320 metres. Greyhounds are released from slips at one end and they run into a catching pen at the other end.

In hare coursing, the dog that turns the hare gets points. How are points awarded in drag coursing?
In drag coursing, courses are judged on the principle of the first dog past the line. Though the points system in live hare coursing is different, the reality is that most courses are won by the fastest dog. The first greyhound to reach the hare or the dog that is in the lead when the hare runs into the escape is more than likely to be the winner.

What are the merits of drag coursing?
The most important and most obvious merit is that in drag coursing there is none of the animal cruelty that is integral to hare coursing. Since no live lure is needed, the netting of hares (a process that results in great stress and injury to these timid creatures) would be eliminated. There would be no need to confine hares for up to eight weeks prior to the start of the coursing meet nor to train them to run towards the “escape” area of the coursing field. And there would be no controversial hare maulings or kills. Thousands of hares would be free from the threat of coursing and its associated cruelty. Without the element of cruelty there would surely be more public participation, more dogs entered and more sponsorship.

Drag coursing can be held in venues that have modern spectator facilities. This would attract a whole new audience to coursing events. It is promoted as fun for both humans and dogs with organisers saying “it’s a family event conducted in a picnic atmosphere - you can have a great day out.”

Is drag coursing restricted to just greyhounds or can other breeds take part?
Drag coursing is extremely flexible when it comes to the breed of entries. There are special events, of course, for greyhounds only but in addition, drag coursing events can see domestic pets chasing the drag and competing for prizes. A wide variety of breeds can enjoy a day’s drag coursing. An individual course can even involve two separate breeds competing against each other.

How beneficial would a transition to drag coursing be to the hare species as a whole?
As well as eliminating cruelty to hares on the coursing field, a transition to drag coursing would also take the pressure off a species which is dangerously in decline due not only to blood sport activities but also modern farming practices and erosion of natural habitats. Numerous ICABS supporters living in the country have expressed their concern that hare populations are low and that seeing hares is not as common as it may have been in the past. A ban on hare coursing would help to allow the species as a whole to recover.

More Information: Coursing Cruelty

Latest News - Coursing

Stress and Capture Myopathy in Hares (28 January 2005)
Hare species - protected in Northern Ireland, persecuted in Republic (06 January 2005)
Trevor Sargent calls for end to coursing licences (23 December 2004)
Coursing season details revealed (11 November 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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