Animal welfare groups criticise president for attending Ballinasloe Horse Fair

Protest calls for greater accountability of animal welfare abuses across the State

 Edie Hurrel (11) from Adare with Ziggy, an Italian greyhound during a protest for animal welfare outside  Leinster House, Dublin on Thursday.  Photo Gareth Chaney/Collins

Edie Hurrel (11) from Adare with Ziggy, an Italian greyhound during a protest for animal welfare outside Leinster House, Dublin on Thursday. Photo Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Animal welfare groups have criticised President Michael D Higgins for attending the annual Ballinasloe Horse Fair, saying he should feel “ashamed” for endorsing a gathering where they say animals are often mistreated.

Dozens of animal welfare groups gathered outside Leinster House on Thursday afternoon to mark World Animal Day by calling for greater awareness within the Dáil of animal rights in Ireland. Speakers representing groups from across the country were invited to take the microphone to highlight the causes they wished to bring to the attention of Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan said she was “appalled” by the lack of interest from Government officials around animal welfare, citing the 2015 private members bill she introduced to ban hare coursing which was defeated. “We know terrible things happen to people but people have a voice, animals don’t and we are their voice. It is time that the legislation at the very least is implemented.”

Columnist Amanda Brunker accused government-funded animal welfare groups of failing to attend the rally, saying that the protection of animals was “a business to some people”.

Torture

“For us it’s torture, it’s a life mission,” she said to cheers from the crowd. “Nobody inside [theDáil)]cares. Nobody is actually taking ownership of sorting out the problem of animal welfare in this country. Animals don’t vote but we have to look after them. We have to search out who are the animal lovers, who will make a change. And voting, people power.”

Kate O’Connor, who runs the ‘Justice for Hutch’ Facebook page, said she was “sick and appalled” by the president’s decision to open the Ballinasloe Horse Fair last week.

“President Higgins should be absolutely ashamed of himself,” she said to loud cheers from the crowd followed by shouts of “he’s another Trump”.

Anne Williamson, founder of Action for Animal Welfare Ireland, called for a designated official within the Dáil to oversee animal welfare issues. “We need some kind of policing, like a horse warden in every country. These horses should by law be micro-chipped, they should be passported, they should have the name of the owner on them.”

Ms Williamson also highlighted the need for greater accountability around the State’s growing puppy farm industry. “Ireland seems to be the puppy capital of Europe, there’s puppy unlicensed farmers all over the place and therefore you have loads of sick dogs. We’re just fed up with what’s going on around the country, all the cruelty with horses, dogs and other animals.”