"I have no plans to ban hare coursing": Shameful statement from Simon Coveney
27 November 2015
Despite the continuing suffering of hares in Ireland's cruel coursing, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has once again announced: "I have no plans to ban hare coursing". The Minister's shameful statement - in response to a Dail Question from Maureen O'Sullivan TD - came just days after ICABS filmed hares being hit and mauled at a coursing meeting in Balbriggan, County Dublin.
Hare coursing continues thanks to an exemption in Minister Coveney's Animal Health and "Welfare" Act which gives coursers immunity from prosecution for their animal cruelty.
In his reply to Maureen O'Sullivan, Minister Coveney repeats a farcical claim that those involved in snatching hares from the countryside for use as live bait for greyhounds "go to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of welfare are adhered to".
Shame on Minister Coveney for making excuses for those involved in some of the country's worst cruelty to animals and lacking the courage to ban this obscenity.
Dail Question and Answer
Maureen O'Sullivan TD: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will condemn the treatment of hares here, legally and illegally, in the name of sport; his views that a debate is required on this draconian cruel form of entertainment and his further views that there are real opportunities to stop animal cruelty, while retaining jobs through humane versions of coursing.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 25th November, 2015.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney: Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon (BnG).
The welfare of greyhounds involved in coursing is provided for in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which inter alia requires that persons who course greyhounds must have regard to the “Code of Practice in the Care & Welfare of the Greyhound”, developed jointly by the ICC and BnG.
The ICC has assured my Department that it has extensive systems and practices in place to underpin the welfare of hares and greyhounds involved in coursing and that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of welfare are adhered to.
A Monitoring Committee on Coursing is in place, comprising officials from my Department, the ICC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to monitor developments in coursing and in that regard the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interests of both hares and greyhounds.
Hares can only be collected for coursing by clubs affiliated to the ICC in accordance with the terms of two licences granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
These licences contain 26 conditions which have refined over the years, the majority of which are central to hare welfare. These include a variety of measures, including a requirement that a qualified veterinarian attends at all coursing meetings to report on the health of the hares, a prohibition on the coursing of hares more than once in the same day, a prohibition on the coursing of sick or pregnant hares, and a requirement that hares be released back into the wild during daylight hours.
The ICC also attends to the welfare of the hare and undertakes a range of actions to address issues related to health and welfare. Coursing clubs are required to comply fully with directives, instructions and guidance notes issued by the ICC in all matters relating to the capture, keeping in captivity, tagging, marking, coursing and release of hares, and the muzzling of greyhounds. A review of the outcome for the most recent season indicates that the procedures and processes in place in terms of animal welfare are appropriate given that 99.4% of hares were released back to the wild at the conclusion of coursing.
I have no plans to ban hare coursing, but I have no hesitation in saying that it is critically important that those involved in the sport must operate in accordance with the regulatory framework and with the welfare of both hares and greyhounds in mind at all times.
Demand an immediate ban on hare coursing. Tell Minister Coveney to remove an exemption for hare coursing from the Animal Health and Welfare Act.
Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2884 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.
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Urgently contact An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and ask him to ban hare coursing.
An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Department of the Taoiseach,
Upper Merrion Street,
PREVIOUSLY: Minister Simon Coveney: I have no plans to ban hare coursing
18 December 2014
Despite being aware of the cruelty of coursing and the suffering caused to hares, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has insisted that he will not ban the bloodsport.
Responding to a Dail Question from ICABS President, Maureen O'Sullivan TD, the Minister repeated farcical coursing club claims that they adhere to the "highest standards of hare welfare". He also made reference to an Irish Coursing Club (ICC) seminar relating to "care for hares", apparently not recognising the absurdity of associating "caring for hares" with an activity based on using hares as bait for dogs.
Disappointingly, Minister Coveney again dismissed a call for live hare coursing to be replaced with drag coursing, in which greyhounds chase an artificial lure pulled along the ground.
"I am informed by the ICC that drag/lure coursing is not a feasible alternative to coursing because coursing greyhounds will not chase a drag/lure indefinitely and that after chasing a drag/lure once or twice the coursing greyhound will lose interest and disengage from the chase," the Minister declared.
This is in direct contrast to information provided by ICABS to the Minister, as well as footage filmed in Kerry showing greyhounds repeatedly and enthusiastically chasing an inanimate lure. We have previously informed the Minister that in countries where hare coursing is illegal (UK, USA, Australia, etc) drag coursing has been the replacement.
Rejecting calls for a ban on coursing, Coveney concluded: "It is my belief that the systems in place to oversee coursing are effective, proportionate and working well and, accordingly, I have no plans to ban hare coursing."
Please join our appeals for hare coursing to be banned in Ireland by responding to the action alerts below.
Deputy O'Sullivan's Dail Question and Answer
Question 36 - Answered on 12th November, 2014
Maureen O'Sullivan, TD (Dublin Central, Independent)
To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the fact that hare coursing is now a criminal offence in Britain, Northern Ireland and much of Europe, if it is time to make this barbaric so called sport a practice of the past, follow in the footsteps of Australia by replacing live hare coursing with drag coursing to ensure no loss of jobs in the industry; if he acknowledges the extent of injuries to hares and greyhounds to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney
Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon (BnG).
The welfare of greyhounds involved in coursing is provided for in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which inter alia requires that persons who course greyhounds must have regard to the “Code of Practice in the Care & Welfare of the Greyhound”, developed jointly by the ICC and BnG. The ICC has assured my Department that it has extensive systems and practices in place to underpin the welfare of animals participating in coursing and that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of hare and greyhound welfare are adhered to.
An enhanced system of regulation for the detection of prohibited substances in coursing greyhounds, accompanied by more stringent sanctions, was put in place by the ICC in August 2012. The Executive Committee of the ICC has also established a sub-committee (the Testing Review Committee) to examine current practices for the detection of prohibited substances in coursing greyhounds with a view to extending the scope and frequency of testing. The Committee will report back to an EGM with recommendations for consideration and approval by members before the end of March 2015.
The ICC has established a “Hare and Field Committee” charged with assisting individual clubs in improving their infrastructure, facilities and knowledge base. Furthermore, the ICC provides a grant to individual clubs to improve their facilities.
An inspection is carried out by the ICC in advance of every coursing meeting to check that all arrangements are in place and ready for the event to proceed. This inspection is carried out by an ICC Control Steward, a member of the ICC Hare and Field Committee and a veterinary surgeon.
Each coursing meeting is overseen by one ICC Control Steward, one veterinary surgeon and one member of the ICC Executive Committee. The ICC Executive Committee member has wide-ranging powers to curtail or abandon a meeting The ICC has on occasion postponed coursing coursing meetings due to adverse weather conditions.
The role of the veterinary surgeon at coursing meetings has been expanded, including the inspection of hares before and after coursing.
As a further control measure, Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and veterinary inspectors attend from my Department attend a number of coursing meetings in a monitoring capacity.
The ICC organised a seminar, attended by the vast majority of clubs, giving expert advice on how to care for hares. The ICC also has a guidance document on the “Care of the Hare” almost ready to roll-out to clubs; much of the information in the document has already been relayed to Clubs.
Hares are assembled for coursing in accordance with a licence granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These licences have 26 conditions attached, dealing with items such as welfare and veterinary supervision at coursing meetings. Conditions of the licences require Coursing Clubs to:
o have a veterinary surgeon in attendance at a coursing meeting,
o not course hares more than once per day,
o not course sick or injured hares,
o have adequate escapes for hares during coursing,
o comply with Irish Coursing Club directives,
o co-operate with National Parks and Wildlife Service staff .
A Monitoring Committee on Coursing was established during the 1993/94 coursing season and comprises of officials from my Department and representatives from both the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the ICC to monitor developments in coursing and in that regard the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interests of both hares and greyhounds alike.
A review of the outcome for the most recent season indicates that the procedures and processes in place in terms of animal welfare are appropriate given that 99.4% of hares were released back to the wild at the conclusion of coursing.
I am informed by the ICC that drag/lure coursing is not a feasible alternative to coursing because coursing greyhounds will not chase a drag/ lure indefinitely and that after chasing a drag/lure once or twice the coursing greyhound will lose interest and disengage from the chase.
It is my belief that the systems in place to oversee coursing are effective, proportionate and working well and accordingly, I have no plans to ban hare coursing.
ICABS response to Minister Coveney's Dail reply
Irish Times, Nov 24, 2014
Sir, – This week Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, in answer to a Dáil question from Maureen O’Sullivan TD, dismissed the introduction of mechanical lure coursing as a humane alternative to using timid wild hares as bait for the chasing greyhounds. The hare coursers have told him that it doesn’t work because the greyhounds, they claim, lose interest after following the lure “once or twice”.
On the say-so of the hare coursers, Mr Coveney will not countenance this humane alternative to hare coursing, which does in fact work, and says he has no plans to ban live hare coursing.
The coursers’ claim that greyhounds will not consistently follow a mechanical lure is totally absurd, as presently greyhounds pursue a mechanical lure, time after time, on the greyhound tracks. And in Australia, where live hare coursing has been banned for decades, mechanical lure coursing is now successfully used. And there have been drag coursing events held here in Ireland, one of which was in Listry, Co Killarney, in March 2013, where we filmed greyhounds enthusiastically following the drag. We sent this footage to the Minister, clear and unequivocal evidence that drag works successfully, but our evidence it seems fell not only on deaf ears, but closed eyes. So there is absolutely no excuse for the barbarity that is live hare coursing in this day and age. The Australians and others accepted the ban and moved on to mechanical lure coursing, and the sky didn’t fall in.
The ban on smoking in public places wasn’t countenanced at first and there was much resistance but today nobody yearns for smoke-filled pubs.
Replacing live hare coursing with a mechanical lure would find favour with the vast majority who respect and cherish our Irish hare and who would be more than happy to see the end of a despicable blood sport that brings shame on our country. – Yours, etc,
Irish Council Against Blood Sports,
PO Box 88, Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Videos: Ireland's cruel hare coursing
Videos: Drag coursing, the humane alternative to hare coursing
Express your support for a ban on coursing. Sign and share petitions
Urge Minister Heather Humphreys to show compassion for the persecuted Irish Hare and revoke the coursing licence she issued.
Email "Stop the cruelty. Revoke the hare coursing licence" to Heather.Humphreys@oireachtas.ie
Tel: (01) 631 3802 or (01) 631 3800
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(If you have time, please compose your own personal letter. Otherwise, feel free to send the short sample letter below. Be assertive, but polite, in all correspondence. Thank you.)
I am one of the majority who want hare coursing outlawed. I am writing to urge you to revoke the licence you issued to the Irish Coursing Club.
In coursing, hares suffer at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity and during the coursing meetings where they run for their lives in front of greyhounds. Among the injuries recorded are broken legs, damaged toes and dislocated hips. Every season, hare injuries and deaths are documented.
I ask you to please act on the wishes of the majority, show compassion and permanently revoke the licence.
Contact all your local TDs now. Demand that they urgently push for a ban on hare coursing and all bloodsports. Tell them you are one of the majority who want coursing banned. Remind them that coursing is already illegal in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Urge them to respect the wishes of the majority of the electorate and back a ban.
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