Controversy over stag hunt ban

 

Madam, – Your excellent front-page photograph (December 30th) captures what some will see as a grand old Irish tradition, the beginning of a carted stag hunt. Supporters of this blood sport make much of its traditional status – the fact that the Ward Union Stag Hunt is over 150 years old – as if this cultural mantle confers respectability on the practice.

Yet dog-fighting, cock-fighting and bear baiting could lay equal claim to being time-honoured traditions, with far longer histories behind them.

Your picture speaks volumes about the true nature of this activity: the stag photographed leaping from the cart is being released from captivity for the sole purpose of then being chased, not because it is a pest that needs to be controlled, nor because someone wants to kill it for meat. But simply to give a thrill to the riders and hunt followers who regard the hounding of this animal across country as a form of entertainment.

Your picture will hopefully transpire to have been one of the last ever taken of a carted stag hunt in Ireland.

Supporters of the practice have threatened to block Dublin city centre in protest at its impending demise. Do they honestly expect that a Government that stood firm against a series of well-organised nationwide strikes and rallies is about to capitulate to a bunch of costumed ladies and gentlemen strutting about the capital on horseback? The planned abolition of stag hunting was embedded in the revised Programme for Government and has been approved by both the Fianna Fáil and Green parliamentary parties. Unlike many other Government proposals and policies, this one enjoys widespread public approval, as evidenced by opinion polls and the reaction to recent radio debates on the blood sports issue.

I suspect that the much trumpeted pro-hunt demo could prove, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to be a case of the exasperated in full pursuit of the unattainable. – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZGERALD,

Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Madam, –   While I am fully in agreement with most of Kevin O’Connor’s excellent column (“Stag hunt ban is Green ignorance gone rabid”, Opinion, December 18th), I must correct him on one small point.

Referring to the ban on hunting foxes with hounds across the water, he states, “England has found a compromise in drag-hunting, where no animal is killed and horse, rider and hounds have a day out.”   I have hunted in England since the infamous ban came into existence there in February of 2005 and I can assure your readers that foxes are still being culled there in the traditional manner, law or no law. Drag hunting is simply a subterfuge the hunting community have been forced into as a result of this wretched and badly-drafted piece of legislation which was motivated purely by class hatred and found its way onto the statute books when Tony Blair needed to pay off his backbenches for their support in invading Iraq.

Out of the hundred or so cases taken by the Crown Prosecution Service against people accused of hunting with hounds, scarcely half a dozen have resulted in convictions. Indeed, earlier this year a high court ruling weakened the ban still further, to the extent that a number of English constabularies have announced they will no longer monitor hunts as they have much better things to do with their resources.

Opponents of hunting would do well to consider another unintended consequence of the hunting ban in England; a huge increase in the numbers of foxes being shot, gassed, poisoned or snared by farmers and landowners who have been denied their usual methods of fox control. The animal rights fanatics who campaigned for a ban were warned by country folk that hunting eliminated only old and sick foxes, but they would not listen and now many more healthy foxes are dying.

They would not listen because they sentimentalise animals as furry versions of humanity rather than what they actually are: animals.

In one respect the ban was good for hunting in England, as it rejuvenated the sport by firing the interest of the previously uninvolved. It was also responsible for 47 Labour MPs in marginal constituencies losing their seats in the 2005 general election.

This last lesson is one our own legislators should study carefully. I attended a meeting in Trim recently that was attended by 2,000 people for whom field sports are a way of life. The proposed ban on the Ward Union Hunt will be resisted. The message that hunting is an intrinsic part of our heritage to be valued rather than ransomed off in some squalid political deal was emphasised to huge acclaim. The hateful libel that hunting folk are bloodthirsty deviants was refuted as speaker after speaker explained what hunting meant to them.

2010 will perhaps be the most important year in our history since 1923 and the foundation of the State. The challenges we face are enormous and will require all our focus and determination. The last thing this country needs now is a divisive assault on the sport enjoyed by so many thousands of ordinary people. – Yours, etc,

PHILIP DONNELLY,

Roseberry,

Newbridge, Co Kildare.