Hare coursing and the new politics

 

Sir, – In 1976, when the Oireachtas debated the Wildlife Bill, Michael D Higgins, Mary Robinson and Dr Noel Browne were among the politicians who pressed the government to accept amendments that would outlaw hare coursing. Their proposed amendments were rejected, and the Bill became law with special exemptions that allowed hare coursing to continue.

Now, 40 years later, a different set of politicians has debated and voted on a Bill to ban hare coursing. Like the efforts of the aforementioned giants of Irish politics, the supporters of this Bill have been rebuffed, and their attempt to protect the iconic Irish hare voted down.

In 1976, the pro-hare coursing side in the Dáil and Seanad claimed that hares enjoyed being coursed, were well fed and looked after by the coursers. This time around both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are claiming that hare coursing is impeccably regulated and that the muzzling of greyhounds has eased the plight of the hare. Unfortunately, the reports of the rangers of the National Parks & Wildlife Service who attend a small percentage of coursing events each year indicate otherwise. They refer to maulings and other injuries at virtually all the fixtures monitored. The regulations governing coursing do not allow for the fact that a greyhound is about 20 times the size of a hare. The coursing rules and licence conditions that the two parties extol were the result of a typical Irish solution to an Irish problem. The wily politicians, who, like the hare, survive by evasion, introduced meaningless cosmetic measures that only appeared to resolve the issue. Because, let’s face it, no amount of regulating can protect a hare weighing approximately six pounds from a greyhound weighing 60 to 80 pounds and travelling at 43 miles per hour, even when the greyhound is wearing a muzzle.

By denying a free vote on Maureen O’ Sullivan’s Bill, the two largest parties have muzzled their own TDs. They have given the thumbs down to our gentle Irish hare and hounded the “new politics” off the stage, replacing it with the image of a whip being cracked and a small animal running for its life on a coursing field. – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZGERALD,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.