Campaigning for animal protection, in Ireland as elsewhere, can be heartbreaking and frustrating especially when one considers the enormity of the challenge: Extremely cruel practices have been around for a long time and their very endurance and longevity is often posited as a reason for allowing them to continue.
But there’s much to be grateful for, on behalf of our innocent “dumb” friends in the animal kingdom: Our government banned the use of wild animals in circuses two years ago, days before a private members bill to achieve the same result was due to be debated.
The government acted similarly when an opposition party proposed a ban on fur farming: That nightmarish unnatural activity will now be phased out in Ireland.
Then, following the screening of the RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme on the greyhound industry, protests at greyhound racing tracks that used to attract a few dozen people now draw hundreds — even to small tracks, and in recent days the protesters have come close to outnumbering the racing fans at some venues.
So, fingers crossed that further progress may be forthcoming in the bid to make life more bearable for the furred and feathered creatures that share this island with us, including the many abandoned horses that die on the roadsides, and the persecuted hares of Ireland that continue to run from dogs set upon them by so-called sportspeople.
An anti-hare-coursing bill was shot down by the Dáil in 2016.
But the times, as the song says, are a-changing, and hopefully, it won’t be too long before this jewel in the crown of our wildlife heritage receives protection from man’s perennial inhumanity.
In the words of another song, let’s try a little kindness. Animal cruelty, in whatever guise, demeans all of us.
- John Fitzgerald