June 30th, 2016
Dáil Éireann is to vote today on a Private Members’ Bill to ban hare coursing following debates on the issue last week.
The Bill, which was drawn from the house’s lottery system, was introduced by Maureen O’ Sullivan, T.D., and would see a ban on the practice of netting and capturing hares for muzzled greyhounds to chase.
Ireland is one of only three European countries where hare coursing is legal, and the last time that the subject of banning it was brought to the Dáil in a Bill was in 1993 by Tony Gregory, and apart from the introduction of muzzles it failed to pass.
Many high-profile Irish celebrities have backed the move to ban this practice, which still sees both hares and greyhounds injured despite the introduction of muzzles. Gabriel Byrne, Pauline McLynn and Linda Martin are amongst those who have lent their support to the campaign.
Linda Martin commented: “This is not a sport. A sport is where you put two teams or two people against each other and they would be of equal weight or equal talent, but this is putting the might and fight of a greyhound against the slightness of a little hare. That’s not sport. That’s just cruelty.”
Hare coursing is enabled by a hare netting licence from Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., who refused to back the bill along with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. She made reference to the cultural importance of the practice to some rural communities. Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, T.D., highlighted that a high percentage of netted hares are returned safely to the wild following coursing. “At the end of the 2014-15 season, 99.3% of hares captured were released in a healthy condition back after coursing.”
Deputy O’ Sullivan made it clear, however, that she was not attacking rural life with the Bill.