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Scrap falconry centre: Appeal to County Council
12 October 2005

Westmeath County Council has been asked to scrap a falconry centre at Belvedere House and Gardens in Mullingar. The centre, consisting of cages and enclosures, sees some of nature's most magnificent birds incarcerated.

Visitors to the anachronistic "attraction" have expressed their disgust at seeing birds - the epitome of freedom - being restrained. The birds on show include eagles, hawks, owls and falcons and, we understand, the only opportunity they get to fly is during daily demonstrations.

Disturbing photographs taken at the centre, show the birds with a short restraint attached to their feet. At feeding time, they sit on perches eating dead day-old chicks, a by-product of factory farming. They are also vulnerable to being injured by visitors. A sign at the entrance states that items are often found in the enclosures which "could have only got there by being thrown at them". "Do not throw stones or anything else at the birds," the sign adds. "A stone can injure a bird."

When we reported the situation to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, we were surprised to learn that a licence had been issued to the falconry centre to keep the birds in captivity.

Earlier this year, ICABS turned down an invitation to attend a Birdwatch Ireland-organised event held at the venue. The guided walk through the grounds of Belvedere House and Gardens was part of a nationwide Dawn Chorus Day event to promote the beauty of birdsong. ICABS declined the invitation from Westmeath County Council's Heritage Officer in protest at the caging of the birds.

"We think it is ironic that the Dawn Chorus event which celebrates the beauty of birds is being held at a venue which finds it acceptable to keep birds in captivity," ICABS stated in a letter to Birdwatch Ireland. We have urged the bird conservation group to join us in our appeal to the management of Belvedere House to scrap the falconry centre.

Action Item

Please write to Belvedere House management to express your views on the keeping of birds in captivity. Send a copy of your letter to Westmeath County Council and ask them to intervene to scrap the centre.

Bartle D'Arcy
General Manager
Belvedere House
Co Westmeath.
Tel: +353 (0)44-49060
Fax: +353 (0)44-49002

Cllr Mark Nugent
Westmeath County Council
County Buildings
Co Westmeath.

Photos: Belvedere birds in captivity

Falcon on perch
Flight cancelled: A falcon sits awkwardly on a perch at the Belvedere House falconry centre. Like many of the birds at Belvedere, a restraint is attached to its foot to prevent it from escaping.

Owl sitting on wooden stump
A sleepy owl squints against the sunlight. The red rope attached to its foot prevents it from flying.

Orange-eyed bird behind bars of cage
One of several birds caged at the Belvedere falconry centre.

Bird on wooden stump with its left foot upraised
A bird stretches its foot which has a restraint attached to it. Westmeath County Council has been asked to scrap the falconry centre.

Bird on wooden stump with its left foot upraised
A bird of prey tearing apart the flesh of a day-old-chick at feeding time. The bird is one of the exhibits at the Belvedere House falconry centre.

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