Foxhunting Cruelty: A focus on earth blocking

The blocking of fox earths and badger setts to prevent pursued foxes from escaping underground is just one of the cruelties of foxhunting in Ireland. Earth-blocking is carried out to force the fox to run for longer and so prolong the chase for hunters. In this video, we see the sickening aftermath of a foxhunt's earth-blocking activities.

If a fox does manage to find refuge below ground, the hunt's terriermen are called in - they send terriers down the hole in the ground to attack and corner the fox. The earth is then dug away from above and the fox is brutally killed.

Other foxes are killed by the pack of hounds - when they are caught, the hounds bite into their flesh and tear them apart.

Foxhunting must be banned in Ireland. Please join the campaign for a foxhunting ban. See below for action alerts.


Sign our "Ban Blood Sports in Ireland" petition
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Please join us in appealing to the Minister for Agriculture to give wild animals the same protection that is given to domestic animals. Tell the Minister that since all animals are capable of suffering, all animals should be protected from cruelty. Demand the removal of an exemption for foxhunting from Ireland's Animal Health and Welfare Act.

Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Tel: 01-607 2000 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.

Contact An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and An Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore. Ask them to show compassion for foxes and hares and ban hunting and coursing.

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Government Buildings,
Upper Merrion Street,
Dublin 2
Telephone: 01-6194020
Fax: 01-6764048

An Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore
Office of the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade,
Iveagh House,
80 St. Stephen's Green,
Dublin 2.
Tel: 01 6183566 (Dail)
Tel: 01 408 2000 (Iveagh House)
Fax: 01 408 2400
Email Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore:,

Appeal to all Irish politicians

Please join us in telling the Irish Government 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 contact all your local politicians and ask them to express their opposition to this blood sport. Encourage your friends, family and workmates to contact them too.

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.

Find out the names of your TDs and their email addresses

If you have information about badger setts being interfered with, please report it to your location conservation ranger and forward details to ICABS.

Videos: Foxhunting cruelty

Slideshow: The cruelty of foxhunting in Ireland

Leaflet: The Facts About Fox Hunting

View More ICABS Leaflets

The cruelty of foxhunting

The following list conveys just some of the cruelty of foxhunting and the suffering caused to foxes.

A 2011 Farmers' Journal hunting report told of how sixteen mounted followers of the Westmeath hunt, along with 29 hounds, found a fox that was caught and "chopped." Later on, another fox was "overhauled before he managed to put any distance between himself and them." Both "chopped" and "overhauled," in hunting terminology, mean that the fox was caught by the hounds and brutally killed.
A fox being chased by a pack of hunt hounds was forced to swim across a canal twice in a desperate bid to try and save its life. "The fox and the pack swam across the canal and continued along the banks to the Mullingar/Ballynacargy Road...the fox, with four and a half couple (9 hounds) in pursuit, swam the canal again before retracing their steps back to Newman's Bog." From a report about Westmeath Foxhounds, Irish Field, 2nd February 2008.
In 2007, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports called for a Garda investigation into allegations that the Westmeath Foxhounds club threw a live fox, which had been dug out of the earth, to a pack of hounds to be killed. In an Irish Independent article (November 23 2007), a local landowner who was quoted as having said "They tied the rope to his leg and pulled him out of the burrow and fed him straight to the dogs. They ate the fox alive."
The following are extracts from a report which was published in the Irish Field of March 3rd, 2007. They provide a grim reminder of the plight of foxes chased by foxhunting groups. "Hounds were hunting within 15 minutes of moving off and there was a brace (of foxes) afoot. One was hunted up the valley with great cry but was lost. They soon found again and caught it after a nice hunt."

"[Each pack of hounds] must be serious fox-catchers...the fox had to work very hard to keep ahead of the hounds...Eventually they pushed hard enough to force [the fox] to make good his escape and he was away across open country. After a fine hunt, hounds were rewarded [i.e. the fox was killed]."

"They found within 10 minutes and hunted and caught the fox as he headed for Stran. Another sharp 50 minute hunt followed and the rest of the day was spent hunting the glen..."

The hounds "caught this fellow [a fox] and drew back towards Jerry Leahy's land where they found another who managed to go to ground..."

"They first drew above the village and had a fox on the move. He ran through some young plantings and up the hill, across the land and into a more mature planting. Four couple had hunted the line and it was not long before Ryan had the rest in the plantation. They manage to push him out and he went back to where he came..."

"The fox swung in a big circle and ran back along the bottom of the valley and hounds checked by the stream...they were put right and soon pushed him out into the open land above."

"As well as giving many people a lot of fun, it also managed to raise 3,200 for cancer research"

Crassly described as "vulpine suicide", an Irish hunting report has described how a pair of foxes perished after desperately trying to get away from the pursuing pack of hounds. The Irish Field of February 3rd, 2007 included a disturbing account of the horrific deaths. The following is an extract from the report.

"[The Limerick Harriers huntsman] told of twice this season when a good hunt had been spoiled by the fox committing the equivalent of vulpine suicide. As his hounds were pressing their quarry in one hunt, it turned to the road for sanctuary, only to be run over by a car. On another occasion hounds had pressed their fox hard and were not very far behind him when he jumped into a slurry pit and drowned."

A fox had to endure a gruelling 80 minute chase during a hunt in County Galway, according to an Irish Field report. "As soon as [the huntsman] cast his pack in Pump Bog, they found a fox and were away for what was to be a run of one hour and twenty minutes," the report stated, adding that the hunt terrier was among the dogs chasing the unfortunate fox.
"...a fox can keep ducking in and out of close-knit coverts so it is a case of getting your hounds close on a fox so that you give him no respite and keep him on the move." (The Irish Field, January 3rd, 2004).
"We hunted a fox as fast as we could go for 1 hour and 20 minutes. All the time we could hardly keep the hounds in sight as the snow was falling so heavily." A foxhunter described his "best hunt" outing. (The Irish Field, January 31st, 2004).
"Here we got a marvellous view of a smallish dark red fox with a good white tag crossing the winter barley, all in the winter sunshine. Hounds were only seconds behind..." (From a report on the Coolnakilla Harriers, The Irish Field, January 10th, 2004).
"Probably one of the most enjoyable hunts was on foot last year when we had a joint-meet with Macroom Foot Foxhounds at Tullylease on St Patrick's Day. We had a run of about 14 miles as the fox just ran on and on." (The Irish Field, February 7th, 2004).
"The problem for both Irish and British hunting people is that their sport, no matter how traditional or how highly eulogised by its supporters, is a minority sport with the damning spectre of cruelty hanging over it. This is the key issue. Is hunting cruel? The answer, of course, is that it is. How can such cruelty be justified? The answer is that it cannot." Nicholas O'Hare, hunting columnist, "The Irish Field" (1992)
"Foot followers stayed with the three couple of hounds and got a great view of a smashing red fox as he crossed the Cullenagh Road. He wasn't exactly rushing and took a minute to look back to see where the hounds were. Little did he know that they had accounted for [killed] one of his relations on the way and now had him in their sights." (Report on the Limerick Harriers Hunt, Irish Field, 21st February 2004).
"Hounds hunted a cub along my boundary fence..." (The Irish Field, September 10th, 2005)
"Terriers were some time in coming as car followers were the wrong side of the wind for hearing. A quick dig followed and two foxes were dispatched. Eamon had a brush for Clarissa and a fox's tongue which he intends pickling in vinegar to cure warts and draw thorns." Westmeath Foxhounds, Hunt Report, Irish Field, December 1991.
"Hunts are more likely to kill the old, maimed and infirm foxes...a sort of mopping up operation." James Norton, PRO, Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association. Morning Ireland, RTE, August 8th, 1997.
A fox disturbed from a hedgerow was forced to run for a gruelling 30 minutes, according to a report in the Irish Field newspaper. The fox was one of several terrorised during a Galway Blazers hunt earlier this year. Another desperately ran across a road to try and lose the pursuing pack.

"Another fox had been sitting tight and was not disturbed by the pack when they were passing through on the previous occasion," the January report outlined. "He broke cover and crossed the road in the direction of The Fingerboards in anticipation of shaking off the pack. The bitches were having none of it though and ran him through to Shangarry, turning him and then running him in a circle all the way back to the find. This was over some of the very best stone wall country, including many well-built doubles."

A third fox referred to in the report was disturbed from an "overgrown boreen" and was chased by hounds along "a fast run downhill through the plantation and to ground".

I have been to a hunt in a place called Knockbrack, Athenry, and I saw all this going on. It's a vulgar act. No fox deserves to be killed in such a horrible way...Digging out of foxes at their dens and killing should be stopped completely...There's no sport in digging the clay away from his den and letting the hounds in on top of him, dragging him out and tearing him to pieces. I have heard the huntsman on one occasion when the hounds were killing a fox, shout "break him up." That's not sport. Hunter, turned anti-hunt campaigner, Tom Hardiman
Extracts from "Earth Dog, Running Dog" magazine, 2009 (Ballymacad Hunt): "Hounds hunted hard for about 20 minutes before the fox broke away and made for cover...he was headed for a big badger sett which had been stopped and so he had to kick on a bit. His safe haven being denied to him, he had to get a move on for hounds were flying and really pushing him and after another ten minutes of hard hunting he went to ground..."

"We were there very quickly [with hunt terriers] as we tried for a quick bolt. My own little bitch, Gem, was entered and she was soon at her fox. It was evident that he was not for bolting and so [the huntsman] lifted his hounds and headed for the next draw leaving us with a nice little dig..."

"We could hear Gem working away, starting to boss her fox and we still hoped for a bolt for we had set nets and sure enough, after 15 minutes, [the fox] hit the net like a runaway train with my bitch close behind her. Magic, first of the day..."

"On to the next draw and we soon heard "gone to ground" again as our hounds pushed a dog fox and a vixen into a tight spot under a stone wall. As we got there, [the whipper-in] was blocking two was a very tight stone wall so I used a small bitch of mine called Nala...Nala entered the tight gap and found immediately. We gave her ten minutes to settle and then got a mark at two feet, just off the wall. It took us about 15 minutes to reach her with the vixen but it looked as if the dog would be a tricky customer and cause a few problems. He was further along and had managed to find a place up on a ledge where he could give a good account of himself. We dug to her but the fox had gained himself a good position and was certainly making things difficult for her and giving her a hard time."

"I had with me that day a very good Border dog...and so I sent for him. I lifted out the small red bitch and dropped in Skipper, the Border. He banged straight in there, took a hold and drew this big dog fox back to me. Job done, another two accounted for."

A fox was pursued for over 3 hours during a hunting festival in County Limerick, the Irish Field newspaper has reported.`The eight day festival - praised by the paper as "a marathon of hunting" - was organised by Limerick's Abbeyfeale Harriers and involved several harrier and fox hunts. "Plenty of foxes were found," the report stated, focussing particularly on the one which had to endure several hours of hunting. "With no horses, Will was in Wellingtons and a Barbour but his hounds hunted none the worse for that. They found and hunted the same fox for three hours and 10 minutes."
Hounds were seen "pushing a fox for 50 minutes in terrible driving rain before catching it". From a hunting report.
The Irish Field outlined how "the fox ran on through Rusheen near Drewscourt Bridge, swinging left-handed back into Co Limerick. He then took a line that brought him back to the plantation close to where they found him. They gave him best as they were running back into the country already hunted after a run of one hour and 35 minutes at a cracking pace."

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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