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Issue of animal cruelty practices not ‘misdirected, despite criticism

I would totally reject Keith Hamilton’s contention (Letters, Apr 6) that concern for circus animals is “pure sentimentality” and that the focus of protest groups addressing the issue of animal cruelty is somehow “misdirected”, as in his view the loss of habit affecting wildlife ought to be a greater priority.

I accept that every nation should have in place effective conservation measures to ensure the protection of any species under threat.

I have spoken out repeatedly in the past in favour of prioritising the plight of the corncrake in Ireland and against the widespread snaring of badgers that has denuded some parts of the countryside of these nocturnal creatures.

But conservation and animal welfare are two separate issues.

If our legislators had considered badger baiting from only a conservationist point of view this appalling blood sport would still be legal, because at no time did it have any significant impact on the overall badger population.

The numbers tortured and savaged to death in the pits represented a tiny percentage of Ireland’s badger stocks.

It was banned on clearly defined animal welfare grounds, and not from any misguided feelings of sentimentality, to eliminate an act of cruelty that very few people would now condone or advocate as a legitimate sporting practice.

The objection to hare coursing and zoos is likewise based on well-founded concern for the welfare of the animals used.

There is abundant evidence that animals in circuses are ill-treated, apart altogether from the unnatural confinement and restrictions they endure, and the group I represent has numerous videos of hare coursing events showing hares being battered, mauled, and tossed about by the muzzled greyhounds.

Film footage of the “Irish Cup” event held in February is a case in point.

The scenes of mind-boggling cruelty captured leave little to the imagination. One’s reaction to such evidence is not characterised by sentimentalism, but by one’s common human decency and a genuine concern for the welfare of animals.

The ill-treatment of hares in coursing and of captive wildlife in circuses may have little relevance to the question of habitat loss affecting these species, but I would contend that any civilised society should outlaw such demonstrably cruel practices regardless of whether the victims are domesticated or wild.

John Fitzgerald

Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports

Callan

Co Kilkenny

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