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Act now to save precious wildlife

Letter to the Editor - Irish Independent, May 26, 2008
By Aideen Yourell, Irish Council Against Blood Sports

Last week, a report issued by Environment Minister John Gormley revealed shocking and stark news about the state of our wildlife and their habitats, with some species being described as being on the brink of extinction, while the status of others - including Ireland's hares and otters - is "poor".

The Irish hare is designated as a highly protected species under the 1976 Wildlife Act. Yet it is persecuted, legally, by hare hunters, including harrier and beagle packs, while hare coursers are permitted to snatch, under licence from the Minister of the Environment, up to 7,000 hares from the wild, annually, for use as live lures at coursing meetings.

Meanwhile, illegal hare hunters with lurchers and greyhounds routinely trespass on farmlands, hunting hares with impunity, while an under-staffed and under-resourced ranger service endeavours to enforce the Wildlife Act.

In the case of the otter, it took a directive from Europe to stop its persecution by hunters with hounds up and down Munster riverbanks, but the danger still remains from the hunters who, since the ban, have switched to mink hunting along those same riverbanks, thereby creating huge disturbance for otters. We strongly suspect they continue to hunt otters under the guise of hunting mink.

For many years now, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been calling on successive ministers for the environment to stop issuing hare-netting licences, and for harrying and beagling to be outlawed, all to no avail, while our neighbours in Ulster have adopted the precautionary principle and have suspended all hare hunting and coursing.

As for the badger, it continues to be cruelly snared and shot in its thousands by the Department of Agriculture, as part of the long-running TB debacle, while the Minister for the Environment, who is responsible for its conservation, is told to butt out!

Will we have to wait for that slap on the wrist from Europe to protect our wildlife?

Hopefully, Mr Gormley will take the initiative now and move to give our precious wildlife the protection it so desperately needs.

Status of Irish hares is "poor": Latest report
21 May 2008

The overall conservation status of the Irish Hare is "poor" according to the "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report. Issued this week by the Department of the Environment, it states that "factors likely to reduce hare numbers locally include loss of refuge areas, change from grassland to silage growing, increased urbanisation and hunting."

The report confirms that the "Main pressures" and "Threats" to the hare include "trapping, poisoning, poaching" and concludes that the overall assesment of the hare is "unfavourable" and "inadequate".

You can download the full report from:
(Section 5 deals with the hare)

You can download the report's Annex from:

In the "Background to the conservation assessment", we are told that "local factors likely to negatively influence hare numbers include loss of refuge areas for daytime shelter, such as hedgerows and rushy areas; changes in farming practices, such as the conversion of semi-natural grassland to ryegrass (Lolium spp.) dominated pasture or marginal land to forestry; increased urbanisation; hunting."

Referring to coursing, it adds: "During the coursing season (September to February), 6-7,000 hares are taken from the wild (under license), and run at coursing meetings. They are then returned to their place of capture. Re-release data suggests approximately 90% of hares are returned to the wild after coursing. However, further research is required to establish the reproductive viability of these hares post-coursing and the impact on local population demographics of hare removal and return."

ICABS has continually stressed to the Environment Department that the welfare of hares is severely compromised once they are snatched from their habitats by coursers and that their chances of survival diminish as a result of human handling and being terrorised by greyhounds.

For many years now, we have been calling on successive Environment Ministers not to issue licences for the capturing of thousands of hares for use as live lures and for all hare hunting, beagling and harrying to be outlawed.

The alarm bells have been ringing for a number of years for the Irish Hare and this report is another wake-up call for those charged with the responsibility of conserving our wildlife. It's time now for Minister Gormley to move swiftly to ensure the survival of our hares by protecting then from all hunting and coursing.


Please urgently contact Environment Minister, John Gormley, and appeal to him to prohibit all forms of hare persecution, including hare hunting and hare coursing.

(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,

The conservation status of the Irish Hare has been described as "poor" in the recently published "Report on Status of Habitats and Species in Ireland". This is cause for enormous concern to myself and the majority of Irish people who value the hare as an important part of our precious heritage.

Minister, as you are no doubt aware, most people in this country want the hare to be allowed to live free from persecution by coursing and hare hunting clubs. We oppose the cruelty inherent in these outdated activities but also the threat they pose to regional hare populations and the species as a whole.

In coursing, hares continue to die at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity, during the coursing meetings and also subsequent to their release back to the wild. Such deaths have been documented by your NPWS division. These timid and fragile creatures die as a result of physical injuries or from the stress caused by human handling and being chased by greyhounds.

I implore you to act on the wishes of the electorate, and on the findings of this latest report, and immediately ban coursing and hare hunting.

Thank you, Minister.

Yours sincerely,


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