Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question 27 - Answered on 19th June, 2014

Maureen O'Sullivan, TD (Dublin Central, Independent)

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he is committed to engaging in the outstanding issues he referred to at the Animal Health and Welfare Conference which took place on 16 May 2014 in Dublin Castle; if he is committed to re-engaging on the outstanding issues of hare coursing, digging out of foxes, badger culling, fur farming and the use of animals in circuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney

Hare coursing is a matter for my colleague the Minster for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht who has responsibility under national and EU wildlife law to ensure the conservation of the populations of certain species, including the hare. However, my Department is represented on a Monitoring Committee on Coursing, which was established in 1993/94, to monitor developments in coursing. This committee, which also includes representatives from both the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), keeps the situation under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interest of animal welfare both for hares and greyhounds alike. Since 1993, Irish Coursing Clubs have made it compulsory for greyhounds to be muzzled while they chase the hare thus making injury to hares a very rare occurrence. Veterinary Inspectors from my Department attend and monitor coursing events.

In relation to digging out, under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013, lawful hunting of an animal may take place unless the animal is released in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition. The Hunting Association of Ireland and The Irish Working Terrier Federation have set out rules and procedures for the use of hunt terriers. It is intended that these rules and procedures will be examined in the context of Section 25 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 with a view to adapting them as modern Codes of Practice under the Act.

Badgers are protected by national legislation and are listed within the Berne Convention. My Department monitors the animal welfare aspects of badger culling on a continuous basis and is satisfied that culling has contributed to a significant reduction in the incidence of TB in cattle and that the arrangements and procedures involved in culling result in minimal injury to badgers.

A Code of Practice for fur farmers has been drafted under the new Animal Health and Welfare Act and includes a series of practical measures to assist fur farmers adapt the highest standards of animal husbandry and provide practical assistance for breeding and rearing of animals. This code is currently available on my Departments website.

With regard to the use of animals in circuses, my Department is working with circus representatives on the preparation of a code of practice. This code when enacted will be complemented by unannounced inspections by my officials.

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