‘Can coursing be good for hares?’

 

Sir, – I normally enjoy reading Michael Viney’s articles about our wonderful flora and fauna, but not his one on hare coursing (“Can coursing be good for hares? The strange answer is yes”, Another Life, Weekend Review, January 12th). He concedes that there are animal welfare issues with the “sport” but believes it may not be detrimental to hares as a species, from a conservationist point of view.

The supposed logic behind the often-repeated claim that coursing is good for hares stems from the idea that there are bound to be more hares in the vicinity of where coursing takes place. With coursing clubs ensuring a plentiful supply of the animals for their fixtures, the apologists argue, the hare populations can only benefit and thrive.

In former times, advocates for cock-fighting and badger-baiting could equally have argued that roosters and badgers were always more plentiful around the locations where these “sports” were organised.

But setting up hares as live bait for greyhounds is far from good for them. They get mauled by the dogs, struck at high speed, tossed into the air, and even hares that escape physically unscathed may die afterwards in the wild from stress-related ailments.

With hares under threat from urbanisation, modern farming methods that deprive them of habitat, and widespread poaching, the last thing they need is the kind of disruption caused by the netting gangs that snatch them for coursing – and the trauma induced by bouts of unnatural captivity and the high levels of stress that result from contrived chases in man-made wired enclosures.

Hare coursing is not about conservation. It is about humans watching these animals running for their lives from pairs of hyped-up dogs. All in all, the life of a coursing hare is far from being a happy one! – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZGERALD,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.