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ICABS responds to Galway student's hunting claims
9 April 2008

In a statement published on the Galway Independent website today, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports has addressed claims by a Galway student that foxhunting is "humane" and that foxes need to be controlled. We have clarified that fox hunting is cruel from beginning to end and that foxes biologically control their own numbers. The full text appears below.

ICABS statement on Galway Independent website

Dear Editor,

In his letter of 26 March, student David Scallan presents foxhunting as "the most natural and humane method of controlling a fox population".

This absurd and baseless claim is wholly unconvincing. Firstly, there is absolutely nothing natural about a pack of hounds chasing a fox for anything up to three hours or more. The chase and the kill are orchestrated by hunters who begin the process by introducing hounds to the taste of fox blood. The horrific ritual, euphemistically termed Autumn hunting by participants, sees coverts surrounded and hounds-in-training goaded into attacking young foxes.

Foxhunting could never in any way be described as "humane". It is unadulterated cruelty from the moment a fox is disturbed from its habitat and forced to run for dear life. Scientific research carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture leaves no doubt about the suffering endured. Autopsies performed on foxes pursued for just five minutes and then killed revealed haemorrhage of the heart and lungs and congestion of adrenal glands and kidneys. Blood analysis showed high levels of enzymes that reflect tissue damage caused by the exertion of the chase. Regardless of whether caught or not, the unfortunate fox will often subsequently suffer brain damage and paralysis.

Of course, the chase is only one part of foxhunting's litany of animal abuse. If the desperate fox manages to find temporary refuge down a hole in the ground, the hunt's terriermen are summoned to evict the animal. With their vicious terriers, these cold-hearted thugs delight in hearing the squeals of an underground attack and seeing terrified foxes being tugged back out into the open.

Foxes caught while on their last legs are not put out of their misery by a quick nip to the back of the neck as hunters claim. Their end is a despicable, bloody death with hounds pushing them over and biting their internal organs out of their bellies.

The claim that foxhunting keeps fox numbers down has long been dispelled. Back in 2002, a UK Mammal Society study confirmed that foxhunters actually play no role in fox control. "This is the first scientific study into the impact of hunting on fox numbers and it shows quite clearly that hunting plays no role in regulating numbers," concluded society chairman, Professor Stephen Harris.

Suggestions that fox control is a necessary evil in the countryside are highly questionable. Mammalogists believe that, based on the territory size and available food supply, a biological mechanism within the vixen determines how many cubs she will produce. This would suggest that by killing foxes in a particular territory, hunts are ensuring more food for the remaining foxes and promoting larger litter sizes.

Mr Scallan's outrageous portrayal of foxes as "significant predators of livestock" is as outdated as it is inaccurate. This old wives' tale has been superseded by research findings which confirm that foxes are not actually a threat to agriculture.

"A great deal many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence," former UCG zoology lecturer, Professor James Fairley stresses in his An Irish Beast Book. "When interviewing farmers, I found that in some cases, a dead, unwounded animal or the mere disappearance of a lamb were attributed to the work of the fox."

According to the Irish Department of Agriculture, predation on livestock is negligible and it is relevant to point out that foxes are not even mentioned in their statistics. The message coming from the Department appears to be that it's actually foxhunters that are the real problem and that farmers "should not allow foxhunts to traverse fields with livestock."

Mr Scallan may have been in the majority at the NUIG hunting debate but in the words of Galway Councillor, Niall Ó Brolcháin, the only thing proven by the hunters on the night was that "they can fill a room"! The fact remains that two thirds of the Irish population abhor foxhunting and want the government to ban this callous assault on our wildlife heritage.

Philip Kiernan
Irish Council Against Blood Sports

Watch the ICABS Video: Ban Foxhunting in Ireland
(Duration: 57 seconds)


Please make a special appeal to Trevor Sargent TD, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture where new animal welfare legislation is currently being drafted. Minister Sargent gave an assurance last year that the new legislation will "ensure that the welfare of animals is properly protected". Please appeal to him to push for a prioritisation of fox protection.

Trevor Sargent TD
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture
Tel: 01-6183465 (Dail)
Fax: 01-8900361

Dear Minister Sargent,

As one of the two thirds majority of Irish people who want foxhunting banned, I appeal to you to please ensure that foxes are afforded full protection from hunting groups in the new animal welfare legislation being drafted. Please do everything in your power to finally bring foxhunting to an end and protect foxes from this horrendous abuse.

Thank you. I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,



Urge the Minister for Agriculture to protect foxes and all wild creatures from unnecessary cruelty.

Minister Mary Coughlan
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2000 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

Dear Minister Coughlan,

I appeal to your sense of compassion to urgently intervene to save foxes from the barbarism of foxhunting. This blood sport is an abhorrent assault on our wildlife heritage and a complete ban is long overdue. Please ensure that Ireland's new animal welfare legislation includes protection for foxes.

Thank you. I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,



Please urgently appeal to your local politicians

Please join us in telling all of Ireland's TDs that it is now time to replace foxhunting with the humane alternative - drag hunting.

Drag hunting sees the hounds chasing an artificial lure instead of a live animal. This form of "hunting" is already practised successfully by a few groups in Ireland. In a modern and civilised country like Ireland, there should be no place for foxhunting, particularly when a transition to drag hunting would be simple.

Please stand up for the foxes so cruelly abused by hunting groups - write to all of your local politicians and ask them to act to secure a ban on foxhunting. If possible, get your friends, family and workmates to contact them too. We need as much help with this campaign as possible.

Write to your TD at:
Dail Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-618 3000 or 1890 337 889.

Write to your Senator at:
Seanad Eireann, Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Tel: 01-618 3000 or 1890 732 623.

For the names and contact details of politicians, please visit the Irish Government Website -


Contact Ireland's forestry board, Coillte, and demand an end to foxhunting on its property.

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.)

Mr. David Gunning
Chief Executive Officer
Coillte, The Irish Forestry Board
Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow

Tel: 01-201 1111
Fax: 01-201 1199

Dear Mr Gunning,

As an Irish citizen, and thereby a shareholder in Coillte, I am writing to demand an end to foxhunting on Coillte property.

I understand that Coillte currently issues permits to a number of foxhunts to carry out blood sport activities in forests. Considering the appalling cruelty of foxhunting and the fact that a majority of Irish people want it outlawed, the time has come for Coillte to do the decent thing and make all of its property off limits to foxhunting groups.

Thank you. I look forward to your positive reply.

Yours sincerely,


Videos: Drag Hunting - The humane alternative

Photos: Fox hunting cruelty

Please click on the pictures to view them in full-size.

More information about blood sports

Foxhunting: Leaflet | Photos | Videos | Petition
Coursing: Leaflet | Photos | Videos | Petition
Carted deer hunting: Leaflet | Photos | Videos | Petition

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