Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question No. 54

To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if wild hares will cease to be taken from the wild for the purpose of live hare coursing in view of the concern expressed by the Northern Ireland Office regarding the low numbers of wild hares and the bringing of wild hares across the Border for the purpose of live hare coursing. (Trevor Sargent)

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 26th November, 2003

Ref No: 25613/03


Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen):

The regulation of live hare coursing, including conditions governing the use of hares for that activity, is carried out under the Greyhound Industry Acts, which are the responsibility of the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism. The controls exercisable by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000 relate more generally to the protection and conservation of wildlife species, including hares, and licences embody conditions designed to support these objectives. There is no demonstrated species conservation requirement at present which would justify ceasing the issue of hare netting licences.

Under section 34 of the Wildlife Act 1976 my Department is responsible for the issue of an annual licence to the Irish Coursing Club, ICC, and its affiliated clubs to capture live hares. Only clubs which are named by the ICC in their licence application request are lawfully permitted to catch hares. No clubs in Northern Ireland are included in the current licence.

Concern has been expressed to me by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Ms Angela Smith, MP, regarding the possible capture of hares here for the purposes of coursing in Northern Ireland. In response, I have undertaken to consider whether it would be feasible to include conditions prohibiting the removal of hares from the State in future annual licences. In addition, I have informed my Northern Ireland colleague that prosecutions are currently being taken by my Department for alleged unlawful capture of hares in the Border area.

A steering group comprising members of staff from my Department and the environment and heritage service of the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has been set up to draft an all-Ireland species action plan for the Irish hare. Work on drafting this plan commenced in June 2003 and is expected to be finalised by March 2004. A survey to estimate hare numbers in Ireland is expected to be one of the strategies proposed in the action plan. Once the plan has been finalised implementation of identified strategies will commence.

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