The campaign kicked off in 1966, though live hare coursing had been practised in Ireland since the British army at the Curragh, County KIldare, introduced it to our country in 1813. It was always a horribly cruel "sport", involving as it does setting pairs of trained and often "blooded" greyhounds in pursuit of hares in wire-enclosed parks or fields.
In 1966, the Irish Council Against Bloodsports was founded with the aim of securing a ban on hare coursing and other bloodsports in Ireland. It lobbied politicians and picketed coursing events and in 1976 presented a petition against hare coursing containing 100,000 signatures, at the time the largest petition in the history of the State.
The petition was ignored by the government of the day. The same government enacted into law that year a Wildlife Act that, instead of offering additional protection to the Irish Hare, strengthened the legality of hare coursing.
In 1984, a cross-party parliamentary committee debated a motion from one of its members calling a ban on hare coursing. Though the committee receiced more than 4,500 letters from the public of which only THREE supported hare coursing, the motion was defeated by nine votes to six. (the breakdown was: All six Fianna Fail members voted against, Fine Gael split three-three, and the three Labour members voted for the motion.
In 1993, Independent member of parliament Tony Gregory tabled a Private members Bill aimed at banning hare coursing. Despite commanding the support of the vast majority of the Irish people, the Bill was defeated by 104 votes to 16.
Though defeated, the Bill generated intense public and political debate and the government responded to the concern about the cruelty of hare coursing by enacted new rules requiring that greyhounds be muzzled at hare coursing events.
Muzzling, unfortunately, has not eliminated cruelty from hare coursing, as the pictures on this blog demonstrate. The dogs continue to maul, strike, or otherwise injure the terrified hares and literally toss the frail creatures into the air like rag dolls.
Hares released back into the wild after coursing often die within hours or days of a condition called stress myopathy. The ordeal has simply been too much for them.
The campaign to protect the Irish Hare from this chamber of horrors that is park coursing continues. All the animal protection/welfare/rights groups want it banned.
The Irish Coursing Club, the umbrella body for the country's coursing clubs, is facing an uncertain future. A property developer two years ago sued it for alleged breach of contract over a land deal. The ICC lost the case and on January 18th 2011 the Commercial Court in Dublin will decide on the extent of the damages to be award against it.
We in the anti-hare coursing lobby are unsure as to how this upcoming situation will impact on our campaign to end hare coursing. Time will tell. We just wish to see this gentle creature protected from one of the most evil bloodsports ever devised by man.
John Fitzgerald firstname.lastname@example.org
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