Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question 409 - Answered on 24th May, 2005

Joe Higgins: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the recent report from the Irish hare initiative which states that at some coursing events actual hare deaths may be as high as 48% of the hares caught for coursing.

Question 410 - Answered on 24th May, 2005

Joe Higgins: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will refuse further licences for hare coursing in line with the precautionary principle advocated in the recent report from the Irish hare initiative.

For WRITTEN answer. Ref Nos: 17019/05 and 17020/05

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Roche): I propose to take Questions Nos. 409 and 410 together.

My Department is aware of the report referred to in the Question.

Staff of the National Parks and Wildlife Service attend and monitor over 50% of the coursing meetings held annually by clubs affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club. Our records show that on average less than 3% of hares captured under licence for these coursing meetings die while in captivity.

Exceptionally, at the Wexford and District coursing meeting held on 26 and 27 December 2003, an unprecedented number of hares died. Of the 83 hares captured, 40 died prior to release while the remaining 43 were released back into the wild. This exceptional case was extensively investigated, and responded to, by my Department and does not reflect the normal outcome of the capture of hares for coursing.

The regulation of live hare coursing, including conditions governing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out principally under the Greyhound Industry Acts which are the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism. The licensing controls exercisable by my Department under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 are designed to permit the regulated taking of wildlife including hares at sustainable levels.

While views have been expressed that hare numbers have declined, there is no clear or definitive evidence in this regard. In the context of the draft species action plan for the Irish hare, which was recently made available for public consultation, my Department has invited tenders for a national survey of hares. It is envisaged that the survey will commence in autumn 2005 with the final report expected in the summer of 2007. This report should provide a firmer scientific basis for future monitoring of the hare population.

The principal factor determining hare population levels is believed to be the availability of suitable habitat; the impact of hare coursing on the conservation of hare populations would not be considered significant compared to the habitat factor. In these circumstances, I am not of the view that considerations of species conservation would justify a refusal to grant any further licence applications for the taking of hares for coursing under section 26 of the Wildlife Act 1976.

More Information

The Impact of Enclosed Hare Coursing on Irish hares
A report by the Irish Hare Initiative (28 April 2005)

Species Action Plan
The draft version of the Species Action Plan for the Irish Hare.

National Survey of Hares
Tender Specification and additional details

Stress and Capture Myopathy in Hares
A report by the Irish Hare Initiative (28 January 2005)

Parliamentary Questions

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