* The goring of several men in the annual Pamplona bull run has drawn attention again to this barbaric festival that poses a threat to humans and animals alike.
You risk being injured or even killed when you take your chances in the event, and the bulls are routinely killed afterwards, some in bullfights where they are stabbed repeatedly before being put out of their misery by a swaggering caped man wielding a sword. Both practices are stains on civilisation.
So, too, are other forms of recreational animal cruelty. Ireland's answer to the bull run and bullfighting is hare coursing. We have more than 70 coursing fixtures every year.
There are differences, though. Unlike the bull, the Irish hare is a meek, gentle creature that is easily frightened. In Irish coursing, unlike in Pamplona, it is the animals that do all the running and the fans take no risk whatsoever.
Having captured the hares and confined them in wired compounds for weeks, they are forced to serve as live bait. On coursing day, the fans and club officials wrap themselves in snug winter garb while the hares perform in torrential rain, snow or hailstorms, or on water-logged fields.
They stand, or sit, in safety and comfort as the hares are mauled, pinned to the ground, or tossed about like rag dolls.
The fans imbibe whiskey or brandy from flasks as a mammal that survived the Ice Age is forced to run in terror from hyped-up greyhounds.
It is interesting that in Spain people feel a need to dress up animal cruelty as a challenge – a test of manliness and courage. They think of the event, perversely and misguidedly, as a showdown between man and bull. Here, hare coursers don't even pretend that the animal they target for their gratification could ever stand up to them.
Bullfighting and bull-running may be among the bloodiest cruelties ever devised. But hare coursing could surely rank as the world's most cowardly bloodsport.
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports
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