Minister opposes ban on coursing and claims hares never in any danger


A JUNIOR Minister has rejected the banning of live hare coursing, saying the greyhound sector creates jobs and is “part of our way of life” in Ireland.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Shane McEntee, who is responsible for the sector, also said there is no danger to the hare and opponents should come and witness the sport for themselves.

He said the Government is “committed to supporting the whole greyhound industry” and that includes both track racing and coursing. Speaking at the final day of the National Coursing Meeting in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Mr McEntee said the greyhound sector creates employment and is a part of Irish life.

“The best greyhounds in the world are bred in Ireland, just like the best horses are bred in Ireland. We have to make sure no one comes near to taking that away from us.”

Two members of the Technical Group in the Dáil, Clare Daly and Maureen O’Sullivan, have indicated their intention to introduce a private members’ Bill before Easter, seeking the abolition of hare coursing. Mr McEntee yesterday appealed to opponents of the sport to witness it at first hand.

“Anyone who would come down and see what is happening today – the only one that’s being made a fool of is the greyhound. There’s no danger to the hare and people should come and see for themselves.”

Up to 50,000 people are estimated to have attended the three days of the national coursing meeting, in Powerstown Park racecourse in Clonmel, which is estimated to be worth about €16 million to the local economy. Chief-executive of the Irish Coursing Club, DJ Histon, pointed out that muzzling of the greyhounds taking part has been in place since 1993.

He said that, of the 565,000 hares found to exist in Ireland in a Department of the Environment survey in 2007, coursing clubs required 1 per cent.

The Clonmel event attracted large-scale protests in the years before muzzling was introduced but in recent years opposition has been more low-key.

A small crowd led by the Animal Rights Action Network held a “symbolic” protest outside Powerstown Park on Monday but there was no picket yesterday.