It’s common at this time of year to hear of sporting fixtures being cancelled or deferred due to inclement weather. Not so with the “sport” of live hare coursing. Throughout October and into this month, hare-baiting events have gone ahead in atrocious conditions. Hares have had to run in terror from pairs of frenzied dogs in muddy and rain-sodden fields, twisting, turning and dodging to avoid getting struck or mauled or otherwise injured by the larger and faster greyhounds.
They must perform for the assembled small crowds of gamblers and thrill-seekers with strong winds howling, or squally rain sweeping the baiting venues, or with storms raging. The fans are well protected and cosseted against the elements, wrapped in snug winter gear with their soup or whiskey flasks at the ready.
But not the hares: It seems that this shameful abuse of part of our country’s wildlife heritage must proceed in all weathers and regardless of the health or welfare status of the animals that provide the entertainment. For the hare there is no respite. Under severe pressure nationwide from loss of habitat due to intensive farming, this iconic species must also endure the savagery of enclosed coursing.
I realise that the country is facing a dire economic crisis and that the plight of these beautiful wild creatures is far down the political agenda. But I hope that even now, in what may be the dying weeks of the Coalition government, the Green Party may yet succeed in persuading its Fianna Fail colleagues to call time on this shameful practise.
We’ll have enough political blood sport when the election campaign kicks off. The government may well be hounded from office. Before this happens, perhaps it might find the courage or the decency to act on this issue- to end the terror of the coursing fields and let the hare sit!
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