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Social Democrats TD introduces Bill to ban hare coursing in Ireland

“A protected species should be just that – protected.”

Hare-coursing inflicts terror and stress on little creatures for sport

Distressed animal

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore.

Níall Feiritear

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore will introduce a Bill today which, if supported, could result in an effective ban on hare coursing in Ireland.

Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and other dogs, which chase the hare by sight, as opposed to by scent. It is a cruel activity that results in the death of small animals.

13 hares died during the hare coursing season this year according to figures provided to the National Parks and Wildlife Service by regulator the Irish Coursing Club.

“Bizarrely, in the same piece of legislation that is supposed to protect hares, the Minister for Heritage is permitted to issue licences for their capture for the purpose of live coursing. This makes no sense whatsoever. A protected species should be just that – protected,” Ms Whitmore said.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the Social Democrat’s spokesperson on climate and biodiversity, referenced the significance of protecting small jackrabbits and hares.

Distressed animal

“Given the scale of the biodiversity crisis we are facing – and the unprecedented loss of animal species and plants – the role of any Government should be to protect the native wildlife that we have. “Hares are very important from both an environmental and cultural perspective in Ireland. Significantly, their importance is recognised in primary legislation by defining them as a protected species under the Wildlife Act 1976. “We are currently marking Biodiversity Week, so this is an appropriate time for me to introduce this piece of legislation. The purpose of my Bill is to remove the ability of the Minister to issue licences for the capture of hares for live coursing. “If supported in the Dáil, it would effectively end this archaic and inherently cruel practice, which has no place in the modern Ireland of 2023,” Ms Whitmore said.

It is hard to imagine blood sports such as coursing not to be viewed as anything other than medieval over the coming years, as society advances.

Deputy Jennifer Whitmore.

“It is shocking to think that 6,000 hares are captured from the wild each year under Government licence and can be held in captivity for up to eight weeks. Coursing pits animal against animal and causes great distress – and sometimes injury or death – to the hares involved. “I am calling on TDs from all parties and none to support my Bill today. Bringing an end to hare coursing would be a huge step forward for both animal welfare and biodiversity in Ireland,” the Social Democrats TD said.

Fine Gael Cllr Eileen Lynch, who has been involved in greyhound coursing and racing since a young age, led objections to the banning of hare coursing during a debate in Cork County Council earlier this year.

“For me and many others this is part of our heritage, our culture and our traditions. Coursing is a part of rural Ireland.

“I accept not everyone is supportive of it and of course they're entitled to their opinion but for my two colleagues here to seek that a sport that has been in existence for hundreds of years would be banned with the strike of a pen with no knowledge of it, it’s incredible,” she said.

Hare coursing is banned in Northern Ireland although teams from NI compete in the Republic. It has been outlawed in the UK, Australia and there are only three countries left in Europe where it is allowed, with Ireland still being one.

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