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AFTER its abandonment of the infamous tent at the Galway Races, Fianna Fáil may soon find the courage, and the human decency, to drop its support for the practice of live hare coursing.
It has an official policy of backing a so-called sport in which the gentlest and most inoffensive creature in the Irish countryside is baited and abused for fun.
The party’s coalition partners, the Greens and PDs, have frequently voiced opposition to coursing. The Greens are committed to banning it But Fianna Fáil remains committed to the baiting game. The party’s cosy relationship with coursing clubs may also be contributing to the hare’s newly confirmed status as an endangered species in Ireland.
Apart from the cruelty factor, a report just published by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) on its website, concerning EU protected habitats and species in Ireland, states that the hare is under threat as a result of urbanisation, loss of refuge provided by daytime shelter such as hedgerows and rushy areas, the change from grassland to silage growing, and the various forms of hunting, as well as trapping, poisoning and poaching.
The report also mentions coursing. Citing the fact that around 7,000 hares are netted for the practice nationwide each year, and that an estimated 90% of these are released back into the wild after being coursed, the report opines that “further research is needed to establish the reproductive viability of these hares post-coursing and the impact on local population demographics of hare removal and return”.
Animal welfare and wildlife protection groups have been warning for decades that hare coursing can only have a negative impact on our hare population.
Hares are fragile and timid creatures and are never the same again after being handled by humans. Any wildlife expert will confirm that.
It is surely reasonable then to be concerned about the effect on individual hares and the overall species in Ireland of these coursing club “net men” snatching them from their natural habitats, their removal to compounds where they are subjected to unnatural confinement and their subsequent use as live lures on the coursing fields.
I hope the NPWS will move quickly to ascertain the true impact of coursing on an animal that graces our natural environment.
It’s time for Fianna Fáil to call off the dogs — and let the hare sit.
Lower Coyne St
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