Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question 416 - Answered on 4th December, 2007

Tony Gregory: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will request a report from her Department officials on allegations (serious breaches of the agreed code of conduct by Westmeath Foxhounds Club featured in the Irish Independent on 23rd November 2007); the action she is taking; and if she will make a statement on the matter.

Written reply. Ref No: 31992/07 Proof: 489

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: (Mary Coughlan) By way of background, I should point out that the Hunting Association of Ireland (HAI), which encompasses bodies that represent organised fox hunting in Ireland has in place rules and procedures which apply in particular to the practices of digging out, bolting and earthstopping. This initiative was taken after my Department had conveyed to the bodies its concern about such practices. The bodies concerned have also given specific written assurances that they are committed to ensuring compliance with and enforcement of these measures and to imposing sanctions on anyone found not to have complied with them.

As regards the matter referred to in the Question, I have received preliminary information about the incident and I have asked my officials to meet with the HAI to discuss the matter further.

In this regard, the Deputy will be aware that while my statutory powers currently extend only to farm animals, matters such as those involved here are governed by the Wildlife Acts and the Protection of Animals Acts. I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department is currently progressing a number of animal welfare-related commitments from the Programme for Government including consolidation of responsibility for the welfare of all animals (including non-farm animals) within my Department and the introduction of a comprehensive Animal Welfare Bill to update existing animal welfare legislation.

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