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Only we can speak up for our defenceless, maltreated animals

As the election draws near, let’s not forget those who have no political voice and no vote. Gandhi said: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

By this standard Ireland has a lot of catching up to do in easing the plight of non-humans.

The long awaited Animal Health and Welfare Act, instead of ending the horrors of hare coursing and fox hunting, specifically exempted them from abolition.

Far from protecting the gentle hare and the wily fox, it protects the interests of those whose idea of fun and sport is using hares as live bait and hounding foxes to exhaustion and agonising death.

It failed even to halt the sickening practice of digging out foxes and fox cubs that seek refuge underground during a hunt.

And rampaging hunt hounds routinely kill domestic pets, sometimes with children present to witness the carnage.

Factory farming continues, with livestock confined to tiny slats or cramped conditions for the duration of their miserable lives.

Live animal experiments are increasing in Ireland, when the trend should be in decline, given the wider availability of alternatives to vivisection. Figures released by the Government’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) reveal it authorised 226,684 animal experiments in 2014.

A disturbing 90,072 of these were classified as causing ‘severe’ pain and distress to animals.

Badger baiting, though illegal, remains a blot on the rural landscape, partly because the Wildlife Service lacks the resources to tackle this practice due to cutbacks.

The shy nocturnal creature is placed in a pit and two dogs dropped in to fight it to the death, a protracted process due to its tough skin and powerful jaws.

Anyone concerned about these issues should ask their election candidates where they stand on animal welfare.

Granted, such concerns as the economy, housing, crime, and the daily struggle to make ends meet are the pre-eminent ones for all of us.

But the animals deserve a break, too.

They share this island with us and they can’t speak up for themselves. Only we can do that for them.

John Fitzgerald,

PRO, Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports

Callan, Co Kilkenny

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