Reading Amy Lewis’s informative and well researched article (Ireland’s battle to save our wildlife: Irish
Examiner, September 3) one can only admire the dedication of the gardaí and our National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers who hold the line against those who target protected or vulnerable species or use inhumane killing methods.
But there’s a big elephant in the room whenever we discuss the battle to stamp out wildlife crime in Ireland: The legality of hare coursing and fox hunting.
These activities, with their equally voiceless victims, represent a blot on the countryside.
The hare that is snatched from its habitat, quite legally, and held in unnatural captivity for several weeks before being forced to run from pairs of greyhounds, is no less a victim of man’s perennial inhumanity than a shot or poisoned peregrine falcon, a glue-trapped goldfinch, a deer poached by lamplight, or a badger cruelly baited in a trench.
The Irish hare has been in decline for the past 50 years, mainly due to urbanisation and loss of habitat, but also thanks to relentless hunting and coursing.
Coursing clubs in recent years have been finding it increasingly difficult to catch enough hares for their fixtures. They try to get around the shortage by netting them on off-shore islands and other out-of-the way places, and re-coursing them.
The fox is not an endangered animal in conservationist terms, but is clearly as susceptible to pain and trauma as any other mammal.
Yet the cream of Irish society is free to hound this wild dog until its lungs give out and exhaustion delivers it to the pack.
And there are no guards or rangers to stop them digging out a fox that seeks refuge underground, or tossing it to the baying hounds for dismemberment.
So, while decent wildlife rangers and overstretched gardaí battle to save deer, common buzzards, red kites, and white tailed eagles from human predators, the fox and the hare must run for their lives.
This shameful anomaly undermines all efforts to protect and conserve our wonderful wildlife heritage. I suggest we widen our circle of compassion to include these persecuted species.