Increased resources to stamp out “intolerable” illegal hunting have been called for by Co Tipperary Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill. He said it is a serious problem in Co Tipperary.
“Even aside from the number of hares that are being killed, people feel very vulnerable with these gangs roaming the countryside.
During a recent Oireachtas Agriculture Committee debate, Deputy Cahill said, “Garda resources are an issue, and there are even problems in that the gardaí cannot seize the dogs. They have to have a dog warden with them to seize the dogs if they catch them, so it needs to be co-ordinated.”
DJ Histon from the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) told the Committee illegal hunting is ongoing throughout the country.
The perpetrators typically travel in gangs with unmuzzled dogs. They enter lands uninsured, without landowner permission, with the intent of killing the hare or multiple hares, at any time of the year.
"They use this opportunity to conduct criminal acts such as theft, trespass and assault.
“The Garda, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and interested parties such as the IFA and the ICC are working diligently on this issue. Coursing clubs provide support with intelligence and monitoring of hare habitat. There have been a number of convictions recently by the authorities.”
He said illegal hunting is very difficult to police because it can happen any time of the day or night anywhere in the country.
In Northern Ireland, the PSNI mounted Operation Lepus to tackle illegal hunting.
Mr Histon said the dogs of those engaged in illegal hunting do not wear muzzles and, typically, they are not greyhounds.
“They enter the lands without permission, they do have any insurance, and they could allow anywhere between two and five dogs to go after one animal, or they may very well let two hounds off the leash and then, after a period, release two further dogs to pursue the same hare. The end result is the death of the hare.”
Deputy Cahill said, “We see pictures of ten and 12 hares being held up after being killed on a single day with these lurchers hunting across the countryside.”