Amazing how people who condone cruelty to animals, or cannot empathise with their suffering, so often tend to have a heartless attitude to their fellow human beings.
I’ve been involved for more than thirty years in a campaign against cruel blood sports in Ireland. I also do some freelance journalism and have written books on aspects of Irish heritage and history.
When researching my recently published ebook “Escape from Grievous Faults”, a novel inspired by Ireland’s grim institutional era when children were confined in “Hibernian Gulags” and single mothers enslaved in purpose built punishment centres, I was intrigued to discover a hare coursing link.
I‘d looked upon the research as a break from the anti blood sports campaign so it was a revelation to me that the cruel activity I was trying to get banned here in Ireland was a big favourite of the Men in Black who ran some of the most feared industrial schools, and also attracted leading members of the Irish clergy despite the example of Saint Francis of Assisi who abhorred animal cruelty.
A former resident of Glin Industrial School in County Limerick told me that it was a punishable offence at the school to play soccer. You’d be flogged till you bled for this “infraction”. Soccer was deemed “Un-Irish” and inimical to Gaelic culture.
But the religious order that ran the school not only encouraged support for hare coursing: Every year they frogmarched the children to the local hare coursing event where they had to watch defenceless animals being ripped asunder and listen to their child-like screams as they died
Some of the children, this man recalled, sobbed as the scenes of cruelty unfolded before them. Later in the day they would be beaten back at the school for this “unmanly” response to the “sport”.
Another way the Men in Black showed their support for hare coursing was by “lending” boys from the schools to a coursing club to help in the preparation of the coursing field. Once the grass was cut and ready to be utilised by farmers, the boys were used as a “human rake” to gather all the grass.
This saved the coursing club the cost of raking the grass. The boys were forced to go on their hands and knees and moved slowly from one end of the field to the other, picking up the grass in their hands and often getting cut or stung along the way. Brothers beat or prodded them with coin-reinforced leather straps as they “raked” and any boy slowing down or caught complaining was flogged mercilessly.
The novel I was researching wasn’t about hare coursing. It tells the story of boy who is sent to a typical industrial school and his daring plan to escape. But I did incorporate the hare coursing/animal cruelty connection in the novel over several chapters.
It strikes me as interesting, to put it mildly, that some of the people who devastated so many young lives in that dark phase of Irish history were also fond of watching animals suffer!
Extracts from the novel can be read freely at this link:
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