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November 9 2010 3 09 /11 /November /2010 13:31

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!

John Fitzgerald



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November 3 2010 4 03 /11 /November /2010 13:12


The Irish Council Against Bloodsports has obtained a copy of the special license that permits coursing clubs to capture and terrorise gentle hares for "sport". Here is a link to this notorious document:




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November 3 2010 4 03 /11 /November /2010 13:01

November 3rd 2010


The latest evidence of the threat facing the Irish Hare should focus the mind of everyone on this island concerned about the future of this persecuted and now endangered species.


It confirms a situation that the National Parks and Wildlife Service clearly knew about and understood more than a year ago. In its submission to the Convention on Biological Diversity in May of 2009, the NPWS warned that the Irish Hare is "experiencing pressure from loss of suitable habitat and hunting and consequently its status is considered poor".


Some of the contributory factors to the hare’s plight have long been known to the Departments of Agriculture and Environment: The emergence in rural Ireland of huge monocultural tracts of silage grass and cereals, and the wholesale destruction of hedgerow, have led to the disappearance of hare colonies from areas where they once thrived.


But the impact of enclosed coursing on the Irish Hare must not be overlooked. More than 7000 hares are netted each year for coursing. It is not the level of outright killing or injuries inflicted at coursing events that poses the greatest threat to the hare in this practise: It is the sum total of the treatment meted out to the hares from the day they are captured, right through captivity, up to the day they are coursed and, if uninjured, released back into the wild.


The Irish Hare is one of a number of wild animal species that are vulnerable to a condition called Capture Myopathy. This is a stress-related condition brought on by subjecting the animal to a set of experiences that are unnatural to it.


In the hare’s case, it has to cope with being taken abruptly or violently from familiar terrain (its de facto “home” in the countryside), placed in a box or crate and driven off in a van or the boot of car, herded into a compound, dosed, cruelly ear-tagged, and “trained” to run in a straight line from pairs of greyhounds.


All of this manhandling serves to induce Capture Myopathy: the netting, the rough handling by coursing club personnel, varying humidity in the boxes they are conveyed in from one venue to another; the transportation itself; changes in diet from a high roughage natural diet to a concentrated diet with little fibre.


Add to this the injuries and further stress endured as they collide with each other or the wire in the paddocks and the obvious terror of coursing day, and you have a combination of factors and circumstances inimical to the future welfare and survival of hares used in coursing.


A hare is never the same again after being through the unnatural coursing experience. Hares affected by Capture Myopathy may die prematurely as a result of the ordeal.


The conditions attached to the license granted by the Department of the Environment permitting the capture of hares for coursing are hopelessly inadequate to protect the hares from the savagery and ill-treatment that is inherent in the blood sport.


The conditions do not, for example, prevent the re-coursing of hares at a two or three-day meeting…only re-coursing on the same day. And there is no provision for independent supervision of the netting process, where many hares become entangled in nets and suffer fatal injuries. Nor do the license conditions provide for videotaping of coursing events to ensure that ANY of the conditions are even observed.


The Departments of Agriculture and Environment need to prioritise the protection of the Irish Hare. In addition to persuading farmers to adopt measures to enhance its conservation status, would it be too much to expect that both departments might address the deliberate and completely indefensible exploitation by coursing clubs of a creature renowned in our folklore that is also a treasured part of our wildlife heritage?


 John Fitzgerald,

(Campaign for the

Abolition of Cruel Sports)

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November 3 2010 4 03 /11 /November /2010 01:31

Here's a link to a superb photograph of a hare desperately seeking to avoid death or agonising injury at a hare coursing event at Lixnaw, County Kerry....surely, the innocent hare deserves better than this?







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November 2 2010 3 02 /11 /November /2010 02:07

Have a look at this brief film compiled of video snippets of action from live hare coursing events in Ireland. Note that this cruelty occurs despite muzzling of greyhounds...



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October 31 2010 1 31 /10 /October /2010 16:59

Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports


Lower Coyne Street, Callan, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland

Phone: 00 353 56 77 25543

Email: jfitzg3@eircom.net


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,


John Fitzgerald,


Campaign for the Abolition

Of Cruel Sports



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October 31 2010 1 31 /10 /October /2010 16:28

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 jfitzg3@eircom.net




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October 31 2010 1 31 /10 /October /2010 13:45

Hare Coursing

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October 31 2010 1 31 /10 /October /2010 13:44


Further evidence of cruelty in hare coursing

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October 31 2010 1 31 /10 /October /2010 13:41

A hare in the jaws of two greyhounds at an Irish hare coursing event

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