Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question 613 - Answered on 18th February, 2014

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

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact that an organisation (details supplied) recently forcibly ejected two animal welfare campaigners from the National Coursing Meeting preventing them filming, even though the organisation officials publicly said everyone was welcome at coursing meetings; if he has ever attended or seen film footage of a coursing meeting; and if so under what circumstances he considers coursing a sport.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney (Cork South-Central, Fine Gael)

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, which is the statutory body with responsibility for the improvement and development of the greyhound industry, greyhound racing and coursing.

The National Coursing meeting was organised by the ICC. My Department had no role in the organisation of this event accordingly the Deputy should address her concerns regarding admission to the event to the ICC who are the appropriate authority to deal with the matter.

The ICC has confirmed that it has systems in place to underpin the welfare of animals participating in coursing events. These include mandatory inspections of hares and coursing venues in advance of the commencement of an event. Greyhounds involved in coursing are subject to the provisions of the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 and the Code of Practice for the care and welfare of greyhounds, published by Bord na gCon. The ICC has assured my Department that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards are adhered to during coursing.

The ICC ensures that a veterinary surgeon and a control steward are present at all coursing meetings. In addition to this, veterinary staff from my Department and rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (part of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) carry out random monitoring inspections during the coursing season to verify compliance with the licences and the rules governing animal welfare.

As a further control, a Monitoring Committee on Coursing was established during the 1993/94 coursing season and is comprised 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 hares and greyhounds alike.

A very high proportion (98.09%) of the hares captured for hare coursing were returned to the wild at the end of the 2012/2013 season.

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