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Restricted licence for Ward Union deer hunt
19 December 2007

The Ward Union deer hunt has been issued a restricted licence by Environment Minister, John Gormley. While the Irish Council Against Blood Sports was hoping for a complete licence refusal by Minister Gormley, we welcome the fact that the licence issued is quite restricted and that the deer will not actually be hunted by the dogs.

However, we are very concerned about Condition No. 12 of the licence, i.e. that the deer shall be driven by mounted riders "to an end point" (to create a scent for the dogs to follow), which no doubt will terrify and stress the deer, and it should be borne in mind that it is an offence under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act to "over-drive" or "terrify" an animal.

We are also very concerned that given the manner of re-capture, i.e. wrestling the deer to the ground, with at least one deer being choked to death during same, that this abuse is to continue.

In a statement issued today, Minister Gormley emphasised that "the licence is strictly conditioned so that the actual pursuit of a stag by hounds is not permitted."

"The licence with the conditions I have granted to the Ward Union Hunt will allow for the hunting of stags in a manner which will provide for the protection of the stag and the general public," the Minister stated. "In effect it permits the Ward Union to release a deer to lay a scent trail along the course of the hunt, but I am insisting that the deer must be recaptured before the hounds are released and the full hunt gets underway. I believe that the conditions attached to the licence address my concerns from a wider public policy perspective about the public safety issues surrounding the hunting of a large animal by a large group on horseback and a pack of hounds through an increasingly urbanised countryside."

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has reiterated its contention that hunting these deer is illegal, and now more so than ever, given the recent legal opinion by Professors Clive Symmons and William Binchy, published in the current edition of the Irish Law Times. On the question of the licensing of the Ward Union under the 1976 Wildlife Act, they state that because the deer are captive deer and part of a domesticated herd, the Ward Union deer "are protected under the Irish animal welfare legislation - the Protection of Animals Acts."

Two images showing Minister Gormley and an injured deer

The licence issued to the Ward Union

The full text of the licence and its 28 conditions appear below. You may also download a pdf version by clicking on the following link: Deer Hunting (Stag Hounds) Licence (pdf, 140 Kb)

Licence No. 1/2007

National Parks and Wildlife
Wildlife Act, 1976 (as amended) - Section 26 (1) (ii)
Deer Hunting (Stag Hounds) Licence

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, by this licence authorises Oliver Russell, Palmerstown, Oldtown, Co. Dublin, Master/Person in charge of the Ward Union Hunt Club to hunt deer with that pack subject to the conditions specified hereunder. The authority given by this licence extends to all members of the said Ward Union Hunt Club.



  1. Deer may be hunted with the above-mentioned pack during the period beginning on the day of December 2007 and ending on the 31st day of March 2008.

  2. The Ward Union Hunt Club shall inform the Minister of the number and sex of all deer released and not recaptured together with an indication of where such deer were last sighted. This information shall be supplied as soon as possible after 31st day of March 2008.

  3. All hunts undertaken under the terms of this licence shall be carried out in accordance with the Implementation Document adopted by the hunt committee and attached to this licence.

  4. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may appoint a person or persons to undertake the monitoring of the Ward Union Hunt Club in a manner to be determined by the Minister and the licensee will co-operate with such person or persons. In this regard the Ward Union Hunt will, if requested, facilitate a person appointed by the Minister to travel in one of the Hunt vehicles to monitor the activities of the Hunt.

  5. The Ward Union Hunt Club shall facilitate inspection of a hunted deer by a veterinary surgeon or other suitably qualified person appointed by the Minister.


  6. The deer in the parkland to be maintained to best husbandry methods in conformity with veterinary advice and proven deer management practices.

  7. All deer in the park over two year old to be tagged and recorded in the Herd Register and records be kept of all deer released for hunting.

  8. Only sound, fit and mature deer, over four years of age to be selected for hunting and these to be separated from the main herd before the hunting season.

  9. The selected deer should be familiarised with the loading procedure prior to and throughout the hunting season.

  10. The acting Field Master is responsible for conducting the hunt and for implementing the procedures set out in Conditions nos. 11 to 18.

  11. The deer to be transported in an approved specially designed cart and the welfare of the deer during transport, to conform with Articles 4, 6, 7, 14, 15, 16 and Chapter 1 of the First Schedule, Disease of Animals (Protection of Animals During Transport) Order 1995. Once the hounds pick up the scent of the first deer, arrangements should be made for the cart containing the reserve deer to be returned to the deer park.

  12. The deer shall be driven by experienced mounted Ward Union Hunt personnel to the end point of the Hunt , having due regard for the condition of the animal.

  13. The hounds shall not be released until the deer has been recaptured. At that time, the hounds may be released and the hunt may proceed.

  14. The Huntsman and Whips are responsible for the control of the hounds.

  15. A panel of followers, competent in the capture and handling of deer, will be drawn up each season and the Field Master or his nominee will, during the hunt, call on some of these to capture a deer and lead the deer to the cart. Only these competent persons shall be allowed capture the deer. They shall be clearly identifiable in the field. Hunt members and mounted followers, other than the above-mentioned panel, shall not attempt to capture a deer. Hunt staff shall not permit pedestrian followers and spectators, other than persons on the above-mentioned panel to be with, or attempt to capture the deer.

  16. Deer to be recaptured only if this can be accomplished without danger to the deer.

  17. Opportunities for recapturing outliers should be continuously and actively reviewed by the Field Masters and Hunt staff and acted upon whenever practical.

  18. Captured deer, on return to the deer park, should be inspected at unloading, released back into the hunting group, monitored subsequently and, where appropriate, veterinary advice sought, and followed.

  19. Deer captured by whatever means should not be hunted again for at least 30 days.


  20. The Ward Union Hunt Club shall have due regard to the wishes of the owners and occupiers of land.

  21. The Field Masters and Hunt Staff shall stop the Hunt and recall the hounds if the hunt cannot or cannot reasonably be expected to be conducted safely.

  22. The Ward Union Hunt Club shall ensure that "road followers" and those participating in the hunt are fully informed of their responsibilities pursuant to the Licence and will respect at all times the requests and directions of road marshals appointed by the Club.

  23. The day, time and location of each meet of the club shall be arranged to take into account the volume of traffic on public roads, peak traffic times and school collection times.

  24. The Hunt/club will arrange for experienced 'Road Marshals' and 'Road Whips', to control hounds and assist the hunt staff, Field Masters, Mounted Followers where crossing public roads to minimise disruption to road-users.

  25. The Hunt will notify landowners in the immediate vicinity of each meet.

  26. The Hunt will make best endeavours to replace/re-instate any boundaries interfered with by the Hunt on the day of Hunting and if necessary return on further days to complete such.

  27. The hunt shall conduct its activities so as not to interfere with or inconvenience the general public, this includes the parking of vehicles, horseboxes and riding on the roads.

  28. Any substantial breach of this licence could lead to its revocation or non-renewal by the Minister having regard to the relevant circumstances.

Dated this XXX day of XXX 2007.
An officer authorised in that behalf by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

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


Note: This is a practical working document of how the conditions of the licence are to be implemented. It will be subject to ongoing review as circumstances require.

  1. In regard to Condition No. 21of the licence, the Hunt shall use two-way radios to communicate between Road Marshals, Road Whips, the Huntsman and the Field Masters to ensure that the hunt does not proceed towards unsuitable or hazardous locations such as schools, towns and main roads. Upon the appropriate command of any of the persons equipped with the radios the hunt will be stopped immediately. The Huntsman and his Whips will stop and recall the hounds and move them away form the specified location. The Field Masters will halt the mounted followers and the Road Marshals and Road Whips will proceed to the specified location as an added precaution. The Hunt will not proceed until all parties are satisfied that any potential danger has abated.

  2. In regard to Condition No. 23 of the licence for the forthcoming season, the Hunt intend to meet at 12:00 noon (rather than the customary 1pm) and shall discontinue Hunts around 3pm should the Field Masters become concerned that Hunt may interfere with local school collection time. Furthermore the hunt shall consider/examine the feasibility of hunting on different days to the customary Tuesday and Friday. The Hunt shall arrange off road parking for Horses Boxes at meets locations that would interfere with traffic (condition no. 27 refers). In addition the Hunt shall try to move where possible to the enlargement field by a route which does not interfere with traffic.

  3. In regard to Condition No. 24 the 'Road Marshals' and 'Road Whips' will be equipped with the two way radios so they can be in contact with each other and the hunt itself constantly and instantly. They shall also have hi-vis jackets and use flashing lights on vehicles where necessary. These 'Road Marshals' will be senior members of, or persons associated with the Hunt who are familiar with the areas in which the hunt goes and how the hunt should progress. They will be in constant contact with the Huntsman and Field Masters so progress can be monitored at all times. They shall be accompanied by a 'Whips' ('Road Whips') who are not mounted, in a separate vehicle, and who will also be in constant communication by way of the two way radio with the Road Marshals, Huntsman and Field Masters and be available to intercept the hounds to prevent them hunting the deer to that location. The Road Whips will also assist the Road Marshals where hounds are crossing a road or if they are entering a public area.

  4. In regard to Condition No. 25 the Hunt Club will continue to review and upgrade a database of farmers and landowners and will endeavour to ensure that they are notified of forthcoming meets by way of the traditional hunt card.

  5. The Hunt shall, as per Condition No.26, employ fencer(s) who shall re-instate fences and boundaries during the hunt particularly those boundaries adjacent to public roadways. Hunt personnel will return on subsequent days if necessary for further re-instatement of boundaries etc.

  6. In relation to Condition Nos. 20 and 27 the Hunt, prior to the commencement of the forthcoming season, shall appoint four 'Road Marshals' who in addition to assisting the hunt with regard to traffic on public roads will also endeavour to direct the 'road followers' so as to minimise interruption of the public traffic. The 'road followers' have given a commitment to organise themselves and respect the requests and directions of the Road Marshals. The Honorary Secretary has conversed with the Inspector of the Traffic Corps in An Garda Siochána for the Louth/Meath/North Dublin Area. There is agreement that the Inspector will attend at a meeting of the 'road followers' to identify problems and make suggestions and advise of the implications of the failure of the road followers to act in a manner expected of drivers. The Inspector has also agreed to appoint a liaison from his unit to communicate with the Honorary Secretary or the appropriate officer of the hunt. The Committee and indeed the general membership will co-operate with the Garda in any way possible. The Field Masters shall if they are informed by the Road Marshals or they form the opinion the 'road followers' are not acting in a co-operative way or in a manner expected of ordinary road users shall abandon that hunt. The hounds and mounted followers will be recalled and return home.

  7. The Management Committee shall, on at least an annual basis, conduct a review of this 'Implementation Document' to ensure that it is functional with regard to the conditions of the licence. In this regard and as has been the practice the Hunt shall take into consideration the views of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (National Parks and Wildlife Service) officials and implement any recommendations where possible.


Please contact Environment Minister, John Gormley, and appeal to him to take the deer entirely out of carted deer hunting. Explain to him that instead of chasing the scent of an actual deer, the hunt should be told to use an artificially laid draghunt scent.

Sample Letter
(If you have time, please compose your own personal letter. Otherwise, send the short sample letter below. Be assertive, but polite, in all correspondence. Thank you.)

Minister John Gormley
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Custom House, Dublin 1.

Tel: 01 888 2403.
Fax: 01 878 8640.

Dear Minister Gormley,

While I welcome the restrictions placed on the Ward Union and the fact that the deer will no longer be cruelly chased by a pack of hounds, I am concerned to learn that the deer will still be chased across the countryside by hunt members and will still be put into a situation where they are recaptured by hunters. There is great potential in both these situations for the deer to suffer, sustain injuries and even die. There is at least one documented case, for example, of a deer being choked to death while being recaptured.

I understand that the licence you have issued is for a one year period. I ask you to please make this the last year that the Ward Union deer are chased and to insist that the hunters practise drag hunting instead.

Thank you, Minister.

Yours sincerely,


Videos: Carted deer hunting cruelty

Slideshow - Ward Union
Duration: 04:06
Ban the Ward Union
Duration: 00:30
Carted deer hunting
Duration: 04:51


Photos: carted deer hunting cruelty

A deer, drenched in sweat, stands weakly in the Ward Union's livestock trailer at the end of a gruelling cross-country chase. Please ask your local TDs and Senators to save deer from this cruel blood sport

Ward Union "deer handlers" wrestle the deer head-first into the ground at the end of a hunt. Animals are at great risk during this merciless move and at least one has been choked to death.

At the end of a hunt, one of the Ward Union hunt's "deer handlers" prevents an exhausted and injured deer from escaping by grabbing hold of its mouth and ear. Another handler attempts to hide the head injury by holding his hand over it.

The Ward Union's "deer handlers" surround an exhausted and injured deer at the end of a hunt and grab hold of its body to prevent it from escaping.

Ward Union hunt members push and pull the injured deer back towards the deer cart at the end of a hunt.

More information about carted deer hunting

Carted deer hunting: Leaflet | Photos | Videos | Petition

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