Questions have been raised about the monitoring of hare coursing after a Department of Agriculture veterinary surgeon and a National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger were reported to have given completely different opinions of how four hares died at a coursing meeting in Co Kilkenny.
Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, a campaigner against blood sports, raised issues about the reporting transparency of coursing events as she highlighted an incident at a meeting at Seven Houses in Co Kilkenny in January.
The Dublin Central TD said coursers “reported that four hares were confirmed by the vet as dying of natural causes but the ranger from the National Parks and Wildlife Service said four hares died of injuries received after being hit by greyhounds.
“The vet reported that six hares were examined for injuries, that none was confirmed injured, none was euthanised, none died from injuries and there was no post mortem.”
When she raised the issue in the Dáil she questioned the role and membership of the coursing monitoring committee which reviews developments in coursing and meets annually.
“There are serious questions for the monitoring committee,” she said. “Video footage from the coursing event showed coursing officials running across the field pulling a hare from dogs before carrying off the doomed hare to whatever was going to happen to it.”
Compliance with the law
Ms O’Sullivan said there should at the very least be “transparency at meetings and truthfulness about what exactly is happening”.
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said the function of the department was to provide veterinary supervision and "I would not like to cast aspersions on any official".
But he said he was surprised Ms O’Sullivan “alluded to a hare being released because greyhounds at coursing events race with muzzles and there should not be such a situation”.
Mr Creed said the department “insists on compliance with the law in the appropriate running of these events. People have different views but I strongly believe that a regulated coursing industry is better than one that is driven underground and is unregulated.”
Ms O’Sullivan had asked if the Minister was satisfied with the membership of monitoring committee and said no independent animal welfare body was represented on the committee.
Mr Creed said he had no plans to change the membership of the committee which comprises veterinary and administrative officials from the department, the Irish Coursing Club and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
He insisted that “the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is well run in a controlled and responsible manner in the interests of hares and greyhounds”.
Wildlife rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and veterinary inspectors from my Department attend coursing meetings throughout the coursing season and report on their findings. These reports are reviewed by the monitoring committee, which also arranges to have any complaints or reported incidents investigated.”