Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Question E-1859/03 (European Commission) - Answered on 23 July 2003

Proinsias De Rossa (PSE) to the Commission (3 June 2003):

Subject: Hare coursing in Ireland

A recent study indicated that the hare (Lepus capensis (europaeus)) population in Northern Ireland had declined enough to qualify the hare as a ‘species in crisis’ and to suggest the need for the implementation of a Species Action Plan to protect hares. What are the most recent, independent estimates of the number of hares on the island of Ireland in the Commission’s possession and will it consider adding hares to the list of animals protected under the Habitats Directive - Directive 92/43/EEC (OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.)?

In reply to Written Question P-0165/02 (OJ C 172 E, 18.7.2002, p. 161), the Commission stated that the catching of hares using nets as reported by the Honourable Member would ‘be contrary to the provisions’ of the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats which commits signatory states to taking appropriate and necessary regulatory measures to protect the species and regulating the transport of captured animals. Is the Commission of the view that the practice of capturing, transporting and coursing live hares as carried out in Ireland is compatible with this Convention and with the Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty which commits the EU to taking due account of the welfare requirements of animals in the context of EU policies?

Is the Commission of the opinion that the transportation of hares to coursing events in Ireland is compatible with Council Directive 91/628/EEC (OJ L 340, 11.12.1991, p. 17), as amended by Directive 95/29/EC (OJ L 148, 30.6.1995, p. 52), on the protection of animals during transport?

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission (23 July 2003)

Of the two species of hares that occur in Ireland, the Brown Hare (Lepus europeaus) is restricted in its area of distribution to Northern Ireland, where it is considered to have been introduced. This species, occurs throughout Europe and is not identified as a species of Community interest under Council Directive 92/43/ EEC of 21 May 1992, on the conservation of natural habitat and of wild fauna and flora. Therefore, there is no legal basis under the Directive for regulating the capture and transport of this species. Management and conservation of this species is the competence of the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland.

The Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus) has a widespread distribution throughout Ireland. This species is listed in Annex V of Council Directive 92/43/EEC which provides for Member States, if they deem it necessary in light of surveillance, to take measures to ensure that taking in the wild of specimens of the species as well as its exploitation, is compatible with it being maintained at a favourable conservation status. The Commission is not aware of any recent changes in the status of this species in Ireland.

There are at present no plans to amend the Annexes of the Directive in relation to these species of hares.

Lepus timidus and Lepus europeaus are listed in Appendix III of the Berne Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats which requires contracting parties, inter alia, to prohibit the indiscriminate means of capture and killing and use of means capable of causing local disappearance of, or serious disturbance to populations of these species. In so far as the practices complained of are not consistent with these obligations and cannot be justified as an exception in accordance with Article 9 of the Convention then this is not fully respected. C 58 E/104 EN 6.3.2004 Official Journal of the European Union

In relation to the Protocol on animal welfare in the Amsterdam Treaty there is no suggestion by the Honourable Member that Union policies are a factor influencing the practice complained of and therefore the Protocol would not appear to be relevant in this case.

The Commission is not aware of the exact conditions under which wild hares are transported to coursing events in Ireland.

Council Directive 91/628/EEC of 18 November 1991 on the protection of animals during transport (amending Directives 90/425/EEC and 91/496/EEC), as amended by Council Directive 95/29/EC of 29 June 1995, does not apply to transport of animals on journeys of less than 50 kms, transport which is not of a commercial nature or to transport of any individual animal accompanied by a person who has responsibility for it during transport. With these exceptions, transport of wild hares would be covered by the relevant provisions of the Directive relating to ‘other mammals and birds’.

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