Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports
Lower Coyne Street, Callan, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
Phone: 00 353 56 77 25543
Action needed at EU level to halt horrific cruelty to animals in Irish Hare Coursing
October 26th 2010
We are contacting you in relation to an extremely cruel so-called “sport” that is permitted in Ireland against the wishes of the majority of our people and in spite of the overwhelming evidence of deliberate ill-treatment of animals in the practice. We refer to the practice of enclosed live hare coursing. We appeal to you to raise this issue in the European Parliament with a view to having legislation enacted at EU level to abolish this and similar cruel practices. We include links to photographic and film evidence to support our plea to you.
Enclosed live hare coursing involves setting two highly trained greyhounds in pursuit of a live hare within the confines of a wire-enclosed field or park. Between the end of September and the middle of February each year, thousands of hares are subjected to stress, injury and death in this so-called “sport” in Ireland. Though the dogs used are muzzled, they inflict injury by striking or mauling the hares, as proven by video and photographic evidence.
There are more than seventy enclosed hare coursing clubs in Ireland which are affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), the governing body for this appalling “sport”. Most coursing events last for two days with a maximum of 72 courses per day. Approximately 7000 hares are coursed each season.
Though the hare is theoretically protected under Ireland’s Wildlife Act (1976), hare coursing is exempted. Under the Act, it is illegal to trap or sell hares other than for the specific purpose of coursing them.
How the hare suffers in enclosed coursing
About a month before each coursing event, the members of a coursing club scour the Irish countryside in search of hares for their baiting spectacles. Nets are used to capture the hares. Gangs of coursing supporters fan out across fields, shouting and yelling to frighten hares into the carefully laid nets. Captured hares are then placed in small boxes for transport to the coursing venue. This netting and handling process is itself a cruel practice: Hares, being timid and brittle-boned creatures, often die or suffer fatal injury while being netted.
Having captured the hares, a coursing club sets about “training” them, the idea being to get the hares to run in a straight line from one end of a field to the other. This is a preparation for coursing, in which the hare must run from the two greyhounds and the first of the two to “turn” the hare (i.e., divert it from its straight run to an escape hatch) is declared the winner.
During these weeks of “training” and captivity, the hares are kept herded together in a wired compound. This unnatural captivity adds considerably to their stress, since hares are solitary creatures that lack the herd mentality. They keep to themselves in the wild, and not living together in groups as the coursing clubs force them to do. In captivity, they are vulnerable to disease and any disease that afflicts them can spread all the more quickly and easily due to their confinement in an enclosure.
On coursing day, the captured hares are transported to the baiting venue; a field approximately 400 yards long. Each course or race consists of a hare being released from one end of the field and given a 100 yards start before the greyhounds are unleashed in pursuit of the animal. To avoid death or injury the hare must reach and run through the "escape” hatch at the far end of the field. But the dogs generally catch up with the hare about 50 yards from the escape. Though hares are agile creatures that can swerve and dodge competently, the greyhounds are larger and faster animals and have an overwhelming advantage over them. The hare is literally running for its life. The dogs can kill or fatally injure the hare by mauling it into the ground or tossing its delicate body into the air. This frequently occurs, as videos and photographs clear show.
Hares not visibly injured are released back into the wild after each coursing event. An unknown number of these will have been severely stressed by the ordeal of captivity and baiting, and may fall victim to a stress-related condition that affects some wild animals, known as Capture Myopathy. Hares handled by humans transported over long distances for non-coursing purposes have died from this condition, as in the case of hares that were imported to the wildlife sanctuary of Bull Island in County Dublin.
Samples of injuries from last year’s hare coursing season in Ireland (from reports filed by State-appointed wildlife rangers who observed a number of coursing events)
· A hare "squealing in distress" after being caught by a muzzled dog
· A hare suffering with "a badly broken hind leg"
· A hare "carrying a hind leg"
· A hare with "a damaged hind toe"
· A coursed hare with a "badly broken hind leg [which] seemed to be in great distress"
· A hare in agony in a coursing enclosure with its leg "almost completely broken off".
· A hare destroyed by a vet after it was found suffering with a dislocated hip
· A hare that died "from knocks sustained during coursing"
· A hare released back into the wild with a "damaged leg" that "could be broken"
· A hare found dead in a coursing compound after succumbing to pneumonia.
· A vet treated three hares for "minor abrasions" and "witnessed three other hares that appeared to die after coursing without any outward signs of injury. One of these was sent to the local regional veterinary laboratory. Post-mortem findings included internal adhesions, suggestive of an old condition."
· Seven hares badly hit by greyhounds, with three dying as a result of the injuries.
· An injured hare with "marks on its back and bare areas".
· Two hares found dead in a coursing club paddock. An autopsy showed that one died from well established pneumonia while the other died from so-called "natural causes". Another died "during transportation from Loughrea to Westport."
· 13 hares hit by dogs and 1 put down because of injuries and 3 died from injuries. Veterinary opinion was that they died "from knocks sustained during coursing the previous day."
Appeal for action from European Parliament
The majority of Irish people are opposed to hare coursing, according to Independent marketing surveys carried out over the years. The MRBI (Marketing Research Bureau of Ireland) survey conducted in 1993 showed that approximately 75% of the population is opposed to the practice and favours its abolition. We understand that Spain and Portugal are the only other EU countries that permit a form of enclosed hare coursing.
Despite majority support for a ban, a powerful political lobby has succeeded in blocking every attempt by opponents of the practice in Ireland’s parliament, the Dail, to have the hare protected from this barbarism. We are therefore now turning to the European Parliament.
We do so in the hope that you may be willing to consider calling on the Irish government to ban enclosed hare coursing.
We can, if necessary, supply you with considerable evidence to support our case against this activity. We would appreciate very much if you could have a look at the following two items. The first is a brief film of enclosed hare coursing in Ireland. The second is a selection of photographs of the “sport”.
1. A brief film of live hare coursing as practiced today in Ireland with muzzled greyhounds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D58qbzC-GI4
2. Photographic evidence of cruelty in hare coursing. All pictures taken at muzzled hare coursing events in Ireland: http://www.flickr.com/photos/icabs/sets/72157624180875760/
Thanking you for your kind attention and looking forward to hearing from you,
Campaign for the Abolition
Of Cruel Sports
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