Tuesday 21 October 2014

Ban this obscenity so hare today is not gone tomorrow


Published 05/08/2012 | 05:00

SOMETIMES on these rainy summer evenings, my boyfriend and I like to snuggle up on our well-worn couches in 'River Run' to watch a movie classic. What could be more enjoyable than homemade popcorn, our contented pooch, and a couple of hours in the company of a magnificent old pro like Michael Caine?

This actor is also famous for proffering remarkable nuggets of information, rounding them off with the catchphrase "not a lot of people know that". I wonder what he'd make of the rumour that enclosed hare coursing was introduced into Ireland by the Black and Tans.

Then again, he might find it even more bizarre that as a nation we condone this 'rural tradition'. Alone with two other countries, Ireland upholds the rights of a vicious few to get their kicks from terrorising vulnerable animals.

There's always a reason for persecuting our fellow earthlings just for the fun of it. Though fox-hunters often cite 'pest control' as a justification. These brave community workers block up foxes' dens, before riding roughshod over farms and fields with their packs of hounds to rid our land of its last natural predator, conveniently downgraded to the category of 'vermin'.

Personally, I'd rather see them roll up the sleeves of their fine red jackets and tackle illegal dumping. There's no shortage of that in rural parts, and it's a genuine problem. It isn't so easy for rural traditionalists to defend hare-coursing. Because laughable as it may seem, the Irish hare is a protected species.

The Irish Wildlife Trust isn't alone in its plea to the Government to follow in the footsteps of Northern Ireland, England and Wales to ban hare-coursing. Respected public servants like the late TD Tony Gregory, former President Mary Robinson, as well as the current resident of Aras An Uachtarain, Michael D Higgins, rallied to this cause. The now Minister for Justice Alan Shatter once attempted to initiate a ban.

But the sad surrealism goes on. A loophole in The Animal Welfare Bill allows the protection of animals to be overridden by 'cultural traditions'.

This means coursing and open-season shooting remain legal. So the Irish hare continues to be persecuted because the so-called 'sport' of a powerful minority matters more.

Maybe it's time for a reality-check. Because let's be honest: these protectors of the precious past often have the most ultra-modern lifestyles. I've yet to meet one who gets around by pony and trap, or who lives in an ancestral hovel. Many benefit from the new-fangled mercy offered by divorce.

The Irish hare is an endemic sub-species, found nowhere else in the world. It's been around longer than these 'a la carte' rural traditionalists. But instead of allowing these shy and solitary boyos to box each other's lights out over a hot bit of female hare, we brutally abuse them.

Someone should call Michael Caine.

Sunday Independent

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