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Foxhounds pose danger to human health
31 July 2007

The danger to human health posed by foxhounds has once again been highlighted. In a letter published in the Irish Examiner, ICABS Agricultural Correspondent, Dick Power, cites research which found that hounds can act as an "avenue leading to the human population" for Trichinella. Among the human diseases caused by Trichinella is the potentially fatal trichinellosis.

The full text of Mr Power's letter appears below.

Hunt squires leave a potentially fatal legacy
Irish Examiner, 30 July 2007

You reported (July 23) on the “first case of a possibly fatal disease,” saying that the trichinellosis diagnosed in a Polish man in Dublin was “previously found only in foxes”.

As part of an investigation of factors relating to trichinella outbreaks, researchers in the UCC zoology department, in the late 1960s, discovered that foxhounds in this country were hosts of two difficult parasites — trichinella and echinococcus.

After the research team had carried out a thorough investigation, it was concluded that hounds were infected as a result of eating foxes caught during hunting.

The pack of hounds investigated killed an average of 120 foxes per season and, presumably, at least another 100 during cub-hunting.

“Its ability to pass from the wild fox to the domesticated foxhounds in the man-made conditions of hunting shows that trichinella has an alternative avenue leading to the human population,” stated the UCC report.

It concluded by pointing out that trichinella was now seen to be well established in this country and that the foxhound perpetuates both parasites, bringing them closer to mankind.

In 1986, following an outbreak of trichinellosis in Paris involving 300 cases linked to the eating of horsemeat, the cull-horse trade in this country collapsed and two of the four Irish horse abattoirs were forced to close, never to reopen.

Sarcocystosis, an incurable brain disease of livestock, is another disease in the spread of which foxhounds are known to have taken a major part.

According to Black’s veterinary dictionary, “some seven people are known to die of it in England and Wales each year”.

The sooner the legacy from those 18th century English hunting squires — “the cricket of savages,” as Arthur Young called it — is abolished, the better for the countryside, its farmers and our farm animals.

Dick Power
Boherload, Ballyneety, Co Limerick.

Foxhounds and terrier biting into the body of a fox
Foxhounds bite into the flesh of a fox at the end of a hunt in Cork. Research has shown that trichinella can pass from fox to hound and be brought back by the hounds to human populations.

Foxhunting: More information

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