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Pressure mounts for hares as beagling licence issued
03 March 2006

ICABS was alarmed to learn this week that despite widespread concern about the status of the Irish Hare population, a licence has just been issued which allows beagling clubs to hunt hares during March.

The licence (see copy below) was granted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the end of February to the Irish Masters of Beagles Association. It allows 20 hunts to chase and kill hares in Counties Clare, Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick, Limerick, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Tipperary, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow.

ICABS understands that no licence is required by hunts to target hares during the open season but if they want to extend their blood sport period past the end of February, a licence must be sought.

This latest licence, issued under sections 9 and 26(2) of the Wildlife Act 1976 (amended), allows the hunters to operate between the 1st and 31st of March, 2006.

What makes this facilitation of hare hunting even more disturbing is that it comes at a time when concern about the Irish Hare species is prevalent. For example,

  • The Heritage Council has described the hare as a "declining species"
  • A senior UCD zoology lecturer has stated that the hare is "vulnerable to extinction"
  • The Irish Wildlife Trust has warned that hare hunting and coursing "may prove to be the final straw for some of the more isolated populations"
  • In a 23rd May 2005 article, the Irish Independent placed the hare alongside the corncrake and the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly as species under severe threat in Ireland, stating that "hunting has affected its numbers" and that it is "only found in significant numbers on Bull Island in Dublin and a Wexford reserve".
  • The Irish Hare Initiative has highlighted in a report that "Irish hare numbers are low and the species is locally extinct in some areas of Ireland. The hare population of Ireland as a whole is fragmented and potentially vulnerable to the cumulative effects of local extinction." It recommends that hares are given full protection under the relevant wildlife legislation and that Special Protection Orders are implemented until this protection comes into effect.

Due to concerns about the status of hares in Northern Ireland, hunting of the species is currently prohibited and it is hoped legislation will be introduced to secure permanent protection. A national hare population survey is currently underway in the Republic to establish the distribution of the hares but the project is not due to be completed until June 2007.

With this in mind, ICABS finds it entirely inappropriate for the National Parks and Wildlife Service to give permission to any group to hunt or capture hares. We have appealed to them to withdraw the beagling licence and to refuse future applications from hunts and coursing clubs. We will also be renewing our appeal to Minister Dick Roche to amend the Wildlife Act to give hares full protection.

Action Item

Please write to the NPWS and to the Minister for the Environment to express your concerns about the continued persecution of the hare species. Remind them that the hare is considered to be a species in decline and that it should be afforded full protection. Ask for the beagling licence to be revoked and for no further licences to be issued to hunts or coursing clubs.

Jamie Mulleady
National Parks and Wildlife Service
7 Ely Place
Dublin 2

Minister Dick Roche
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Custom House
Dublin 1
Tel: 01-8882403
Fax: 01-8788640

Licence To Hunt Hares With Pack Of Beagles

Licence No. 1/2006

Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
National Parks And Wildlife
Wildlife Act, 1976 (As Amended) - Section 26(2)
Licence To Hunt Hares With Pack Of Beagles

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (hereinafter referred to as "the Minister"), in exercise of the powers conferred on him by sections 9 and 26 (2) of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended) (No. 39 of 1976), as adapted, hereby grants to the Irish Masters of Beagles Association and to the Association members as specified in the schedule hereto, a licence to hunt hares with a pack of harriers in the district(s) specified in the schedule hereto during the period beginning on 1 March, 2006, and ending on 31 March, 2006, subject to the conditions specified hereunder. All National Parks, Nature Reserves and the townlands of North-East Slob, North-West Slob, Big Island, Beggering Island and The Raven in Co. Wexford are excluded from the provisions of the licence.


  1. Hares that have been in any form of captivity or handled in any way shall not be hunted.

  2. The Association shall provide the Minister with such information at such times as requested by the Minister.

  3. The Licence shall be produced for inspection on a request being made in that behalf by a member of the Garda Siochana or any person appointed by the Minister under Section 72 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (as amended), to be an authorised person for the purposes of the said Act.

  4. On expiry of the licence a return giving the dates, the number of hares (a) hunted and (b) killed on each of the days specified shall be made to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, 7 Ely Place, Dublin 2.

Dated this 28th day of February 2006

An Officer authorised in that behalf by the said Minister.

NOTE: This licence does not authorise any person to enter on any land without the permission of the owner or occupier.


Hunt Name Hunt Location
Balgarrett BeaglesCo. Westmeath
Ballydine BeaglesCo. Tipperary
Ballyvolane Foot BeaglesCentre Co. Cork
Bride Valley BeaglesWest Co. Cork
Cashel BeaglesCo. Tipperary
Castlelyons Foot BeaglesNorth East Co. Cork
Curragh Foot BeaglesCo. Kildare/Co. Wicklow
Goldburn BeaglesCo. Dublin/Co. Meath
Kerrs BeaglesCo. Wicklow
Louth BeaglesCo. Louth/Co. Monaghan
Maigue Valley BeaglesWest Co. Limerick
Maryboro Farmer BeaglesSouth Co. Cork
Maryboro & Midleton BeaglesSouth & East Co. Cork
Oakfield BeaglesCo. Limerick / Co. Clare
Pallaskenry BeaglesCo. Limerick
Riverstown BeaglesCentre Co. Cork
Tory Foot BeaglesCo. Kilkenny
Wexford BeaglesCo. Wexford
Woodrock & Blackwater
Valley Beagles
NW Co. Cork/E Co. Kerry
Westmeath BeaglesCo. Westmeath

The Wildlife Act: Relevant sections

Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000
Section 8

The Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution of the following for section 9:

"9.—(1) The Minister may—

(a) attach conditions to any licence granted or permit issued for any of the purposes of the Wildlife Acts, 1976 and 2000,

(b) vary such conditions, and

(c) revoke any such licence other than a licence granted by the Minister under section 29 of the Principal Act or withdraw any such permit.

(2) Subject to section 32(5) of this Act, a licence granted or a permit issued by the Minister under the Wildlife Acts, 1976 and 2000, shall, if so expressed, operate to authorise the doing by any person who is of a class or description specified in the licence or permit of—

(a) anything allowed to be done by the licence or permit, or

(b) anything which is a thing so allowed to be done and is of a class or description so specified.

(3) The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, prescribe fees payable in respect of licences granted or permits issued by the Minister under the Wildlife Acts, 1976 and 2000, and different fees may be prescribed for different classes of licences or permits.

(4) Regulations prescribing matters to which this section relates may provide for such incidental or related matters as are, in the opinion of the Minister, necessary to give effect to such fees.".

Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000
Section 35 (Section 26 of the Wildlife Act 1976 amended)

Licences to hunt otters or deer and to hunt or course hares.

(1) The Minister may grant to—

the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack, during such period or periods as is or are specified in the licence.

(2) The Minister may grant to the master or other person having charge for the time being of a pack of beagles or harriers a licence to hunt hares in any district or districts specified in the licence with that pack on such day or days (being a day or days which are not specified in a hares order) as are both specified in the licence and are in the year in which the licence is granted.

(3) The Minister may, on an application made by any coursing club which is affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club, grant to the applicant a licence to hold, on such day or days (being a day or days which are not specified in a hares order) as are both specified in the licence and are in the year in which the licence is granted, regulated coursing matches.

Hunting a "protected species" - the cruel blood sport of beagling

Beagling is the hunting down of hares in their wild and natural state with a trained pack of beagle dogs. Despite the fact that hares are a normally protected species in Ireland, beagling not only remains legal but during the open season (September-February), those responsible for organising this savage blood sport don't even require a licence.

Hunting the hare with beagles takes place across the countryside by hunt followers on foot and is carried out in a slow, methodical manner. The hunt bring their dogs to the hare habitat and let them loose onto the land until a hare is disturbed and sets off running for its life. At this stage, the foot followers position themselves so that they have a good view of the hunting grounds.

Hares seldom run straight for any length of time but usually circle. They often double back the way they came so that usually in a day's hunting, the area of country covered will be relatively small. The distance each hare is chased, however, can be as much five miles.

When the hare starts running, the beagles lock onto its scent and with their heads close to the ground, they track the animal down. If they happen to lose the scent, hunt officials - dressed in green jackets and white pants - are standing by to direct them to the hare. Meanwhile, the hunt's "whipper-in" stays on the outskirts of the hunting grounds to prevent hares from escaping.

During the chase, the hare does its best to escape. It "jinks" (makes a sharp, right-angled jump to one side), "claps" (flattens its body to the ground) and tries to confuse the scent by running through fields of livestock. Should the hounds lose the scent, they lift their heads and look to a huntsman for direction.

Hares are faster than hounds, but hounds are bred for stamina rather than speed and can usually outrun their quarry. When they catch up with the unfortunate hare, they move in and kill as a pack. It can take minutes for hounds to tear a live hare apart.

During the beagling season, packs hunt at least once a week - usually on Sundays - and also on major holidays such as St Stephen's Day and St Patrick's Day. A day's hunting can see any amount of hares being terrorised and killed. Due to the stress, injury and death caused to hares, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports remains firmly opposed to this barbaric blood sport.

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