Wildlife at Christmas


Sir, - For the fourth Christmas running, I call upon those engaged in the hunting, coursing, and gunning down of innocent wildlife to suspend hostilities over the festive season. Is it such an unfair proposition - that the season of peace and goodwill should be exactly that - if only on a once-off basis?

At the very least, the "sports-people" who kill for the craic could lay aside their weapons, hang up their hunting horns and confine hounds to kennels for a three-day period over Christmas, extending, perhaps, from midnight on December 23rd to the witching hour of St Stephen's Day.

Even at the height of the troubles, the paramilitaries felt shamed by their respective communities into calling a ceasefire, but the creatures of field and forest enjoy no respite from cruelty. Instead of winding down at this time of year, the hunts make a point of stepping up their activities.

As I write, hares are being netted all over Ireland for coursing. Though scarce in many areas, these timid and harmless creatures will be forced to run from pairs of dogs that have been blooded on live cats and rabbits. Hare coursing is a sick and depraved activity which should have been banned years ago. It is still with us - thanks to a small but committed group of Dail deputies who have a personal and political interest in supporting it. These happen to be the same politicians who go riding with the country's only stag hunt, and who make a strong case for retaining the inherited British pastime of foxhunting.

With such powerful friends in high (or low?) places, the killers of our wildlife heritage have little incentive to give their victims a break. I must therefore appeal to their better natures, in the belief that no human being is entirely without compassion or sensitivity.

We humans can be vicious, cruel and vindictive, but we can rise above our savage instincts and atavistic blood lust. I believe that a future Christmas, which I won't live to see, will be free of such stains on civilisation as hare coursing and fox hunting. - Yours, etc.,

John Fitzgerald, Campaigning for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, Lower Coyne Street, Co Kilkenny.