Wednesday 26 April 2017

Celebrating skill, not savagery, this centenary

Speaking of which, city slickers often go to the country to enjoy its wildlife, but sometimes you have to go to the city in order to look after it. Photo: Brian Lynch
Speaking of which, city slickers often go to the country to enjoy its wildlife, but sometimes you have to go to the city in order to look after it. Photo: Brian Lynch

Fiona O'Connell

Making the last 16 of Euro 2016 seems a fitting accomplishment for this centenary of the birth of our republic. There is no divide between city and country in celebrations.

Speaking of which, city slickers often go to the country to enjoy its wildlife, but sometimes you have to go to the city in order to look after it. That was the case last week when I protested on that patch of path meant for the hoi polloi outside Dail Eireann.

Maureen O'Sullivan won the first chance in more than 20 years, thanks to the lottery system, to ban hare coursing, thereby finally bringing our Republic into line with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On that note, "to go to the country" also means to have an election - something desperately needed when it comes to animal welfare issues, given that 80pc of us, according to the last independent survey, want to see hare coursing banned.

Doing so would surely be a timely tribute this centenary year, especially when one considers a letter written in 1967 by Padraig and Willie Pearse's sister, Senator Margaret Pearse, in which she states: "I am certain that were they alive today, they would both be foremost in condemning coursing for the sadistic spectacle that it is."

It's not only hares that are harmed, she wrote, adding that "the practice of bloodsports tends to make the participants indifferent to human suffering".

Yet all our major political parties intend to vote against the ban next Thursday.

Sinn Fein's support for a bloodsport inherited from the UK is particularly incredible. But then, hare coursing in this country is rife with contradiction, such as the fact that our unique and endangered little hare is supposed to be protected under the Wildlife Act.

Laughably, our Minister for Arts and Heritage continues to issue licences allowing a mean-spirited minority to snatch thousands of hares from their habitat to hold them captive for weeks before they are 'trained' to run for their lives in wire-enclosed fields.

Where's the skill in that? Any surprise there are no parades bursting with pride at being Irish?

Those who have their wicked way with our wildlife know full well the power of the big lie, hence their claim that far from harming hares they are actually "helping" them.

While muzzled greyhounds can't bite - not a fact the terrified hare is aware of - they can certainly bash and batter, often to the point where the hares "require assistance".

This ironic little euphemism refers to hares being struck and mauled, sometimes resulting in them needing to be put down. Reports show that even those hares that are released back into the wild often die later from trauma or injuries.

It's time we muzzled this misery, because the coursing clique don't own the Irish hare. Nor do they own this country. Isn't it time we honoured the fathers of its foundation by putting an end to the persecution of its wildlife?

Sunday Independent

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