Protecting the Irish hare

 

Sir, – While welcoming Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan’s consideration of a ban on the hunting of Kerry red deer and the curlew, I would urge him to go a step further, because this is the same Minister who a few months ago issued a licence permitting the capture of hares in our countryside for live coursing events.

The Irish hare, like the Kerry red deer, is a precious part of our wildlife heritage. It is, in fact, our longest-established mammal, a sub-species unique to Ireland that has been around since the last Ice Age. This iconic creature has disappeared from many districts and has taken a major hit from loss of habitat resulting from modern agriculture and urbanisation. Ireland’s official Red Data Book on flora and fauna lists the Irish hare as a threatened species.

Obviously, the people who got their kicks from targeting and killing curlews and Kerry red deer had little or no political clout, and nobody to effectively argue their case in the corridors of power, as the coursing clubs have done over the years.

There is no excuse for the continued legally of hare coursing, a practice in which these gentle creatures are snatched from their habitats, and then terrorised for the twisted pleasure of humans. Many endure savage mauling or broken bones that cannot heal when the dogs catch up with them. Others may die post-coursing of capture myopathy, a stress-related condition affecting a number of wild species. What have they ever done to deserve this?

Instead of pandering to the coursing lobby, the politicians might for once do what is right as distinct from what is politically expedient and extend complete protection to the hare. That may be a vain hope, given the nature of politics, but I believe the safeguarding of its place in our heritage and ecosystem should take precedence over the “needs” of those who confuse organised cruelty to animals with sport. – Yours, etc,

JOHN FITZGERALD,

Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.