Drag Hunting - Q&A
Questions and answers about drag hunting - the humane alternative to hunting with hounds.
Drag hunting videos
With public opinion continuing to mount against cruelty to animals, there is a strong case for the replacement of hunting with hounds with a humane alternative. Since a certain amount of those who ride with hunts do so primarily for the equestrian aspect, the most obvious successor to hunting with hounds is drag hunting. Drag hunting is very similar to hunting with hounds except, of course, that in drag hunting no animal is cruelly abused or killed.
So how does drag hunting work?
It's quite simple. Instead of chasing a terrified animal, hounds and mounted riders follow an artificial scent which has been specially laid along a pre-planned route. The scent can be laid in a number of ways - a rag can be soaked with the scent (aniseed or animal urine are common scents to use) and then a mounted rider with a fifteen minute head start drags the rag after him as he gallops along the course. Alternatively it can be trailed by a human running the route which the hounds are to follow.
Are there any drag hunts in operation in Ireland?
Yes. There are drag hunts operating succesfully in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Would the introduction of drag hunting mean that hundreds of hounds would have to be destroyed?
Absolutely not. It is no more difficult to train a hound to follow the scent of the drag than it is to train it to follow the scent of a fox, hare or deer. In the UK, drag hunts have been known to borrow hounds from foxhunts, thus demonstrating that hounds currently hunting foxes could easily be retrained to hunt the drag.
Would a changeover to drag hunting result in job losses in the countryside?
No. This claim by hunters is merely part of their vacuous scare tactics. Not only need there not be a negative impact on jobs in the countryside, it is possible that even more jobs would be created from a transition to drag hunting.
Certainly, the sadistic, hardcore element of hunts (usually found at the head of the mounted pack in close proximity to the kill) would depart, disillusioned and disinterested if there were no animals being terrorised or cruelly killed. However, there would be greater public participation from those who want to partake in equestrian activities but not cruelty. At the very least, the influx of new members as cruelty to wildlife is eliminated would balance out the departure of these sadists. The element of wildlife abuse is undoubtedly stopping many people from riding with hunts in their present form.
What are the other benefits of draghunting?
There will be an end to hounds trespassing onto roads and railway lines during which they pose a threat to public safety.
No longer will farmers be plagued by arrogant hunters invading their property and damaging meadows, crops and gardens as well as worrying and killing livestock and domestic pets.
The difficulty level of a drag hunt and duration can be set to accommodate the level of skill of those taking part. Therefore a shorter course with simpler jumps can be arranged for less experienced riders and a more challenging one for those with greater riding skills.
Those taking part in drag hunting are guaranteed a good day's sport. In foxhunting and carted deer hunting, there are often lengthy delays while the fox or deer is being located to chase. For those who get pleasure from riding cross country, this is boring, frustrating and not at all enjoyable. Such periods of inactivity would not occur in drag hunting because the day's activities are pre-planned and everyone can be sure that there will be lots of equestrian sport to enjoy.
Drag hunting provides the thrill of the chase but reduces the risk to horses and riders associated with jumping blindly over hedges and other obstacles, behind which may be concealed dangerous ditches or farm implements. And to the benefit of the riders, trails can be designed so that the drag hunt circles around to end close to where it started. This would eliminate the danger associated with riders travelling miles along dark country lanes to return to their parked horseboxes (an inconvenience to riders and motorists alike).
If dogs realise there is no animal waiting to be caught at the end of the hunt, will they still be eager to run the course?
Yes, they will be very eager. As mentioned above, training dogs to hunt a drag is no more difficult than training them to hunt foxes, hares or deer. Dogs used in drag hunts are rewarded at the end of the course with meat and biscuits and they are more than happy with this treat.
Is it possible to replace all forms of hunting with hounds - foxhunting, carted deer hunting, beagling, harrying, etc - with drag hunting?
Yes, quite easily.
Is it likely that hunts will change over to drag hunting?
Realistically, the only way this will happen is if the laws are changed to make hunting animals with hounds illegal. Since hunters have convinced themselves that their flawed arguments justify animal cruelty, they will, of course, resist such changes.
What can I do to help?
Now that you understand what draghunting is all about and how much sense it would make to replace hunted animals with a drag, please help the Irish Council Against Blood Sports to change the laws to protect animals from the cruelty of hunting with hounds.
Write letters to all your local politicians - they have the power to introduce and support legislation which will help Irish animals. Tell them about the inhumane abuse which is inflicted on hunted creatures and explain why drag hunting would be better not just for the animals but for riders, farmers and the long-term well-being of the rural economy.
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