Laws to ban stag hunting spark protest

MORE than 200 rural campaigners yesterday voiced their anger over new laws to ban stag hunting, and to defend what they call “traditional rural sports like hunting, coursing, shooting and angling”.

As Taoiseach Brian Cowen visited Roscrea to open a new leisure centre in the town, he was faced down by members of RISE, Rural Ireland Says Enough, the IFA and the Irish Coursing Club.

RISE, formed in January and claiming to represent 300,000 people around the country, maintains Green party policy is causing huge upheaval in rural Ireland.

Last month, the cabinet approved the bill to ban stag hunting, enshrined in the Wildlife Amendment Bill 2010, which will make hunting deer with a pack of hounds an offence “as much on the grounds of public safety as it is on the grounds of animal welfare”.

The Ward Union stag hunt is the only licensed stag hunt in Ireland which uses hounds to hunt stags and bring it to bay. Following the ban it will no longer be able to get a license to hunt.

According to the RISE, Fianna Fáil are being sleepwalked into legislative attacks on hunting and other traditional rural sports by a tiny, unrepresentative Green Party.

According to the group, formed by Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation Ireland and the Hunting Association of Ireland, there are three imminent threats to rural sports:

* The Dog Breeding Establishments Bill 2009, proposed by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, and currently being debated in the Seanad.

* The same minister’s Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, which includes a ban on stag hunting, scheduled to be published between now and Easter.

* The Animal Health and Welfare Bill, being drafted by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

A spokesperson for the group said Minster for the Environment John Gormley has an “anti-countryside stance”.

RISE also maintains that packs of hounds maintained by hunt clubs for hunting should be exempt from the terms of the Dog Breeding Bill, as previously promised by Mr Gormley.

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