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October 22 2016 7 22 /10 /October /2016 13:51

Letter in Irish Examiner Oct 22nd.


Citizens’ assembly should protect hare

I note that the citizens’ assembly is to consider, and make recommendations on, a number of other issues, besides the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, including climate change and the needs of an aging population.

As a long-time campaigner against blood sports, I would like to see the extremely cruel practice of live hare-coursing included for consideration.

I expect this proposal to be scorned on two counts. Firstly, that animal cruelty and wildlife protection aren’t important enough topics to be taking up the time of the assembly, with so many urgent issues pertaining to the wellbeing of our human population pressing for attention. And, secondly, it might be argued that the Oireachtas has already voted on hare-coursing and rejected calls for a ban.

I would argue, however, that, apart from the well-documented cruelty of hare-coursing, the practise is a calculated abuse of our treasured wildlife heritage. The hare belongs to all of us, and should not be the preserve of a small minority that sees fit to use it as live bait for dogs.

As for the argument that hare-coursing has already been dealt with adequately by our national parliament, I would point out that on the two occasions (June 1993 and June 2016) when an anti-hare-coursing bill came before the Dail, the main political parties refused to allow TDs to vote in accordance with their consciences on what was clearly an ethical issue.

In 1993, the result was 104 to 16 against a ban, thanks to the whips, and this year the bill was defeated by 114 to 20.

Given that every professional opinion poll since 1978, on attitudes to hare-coursing in Ireland, has shown a clear majority favouring abolition, the results of these Dáil votes cannot fairly be held to reflect the wishes of the Irish people.

Hare-coursing might not be the biggest blot on our country’s reputation, but it is a blot nonetheless, and an ugly one. In the absence of free Dáil votes on issues of conscience, I would dearly like to see the citizens’ assembly deliberating on whether the time has come to protect the gentle Irish hare from this barbarism.

John Fitzgerald

(Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports)

Lower Coyne St


Co Kilkenny


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