Thursday 8 December 2016

Time stands still as minority enjoy savage season

Fiona O'Connell

Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30

'The Irish Greyhound Board will reportedly receive over €14m of taxpayers' money this year - an increase of over e1m on the previous year.' Stock photo: Getty
'The Irish Greyhound Board will reportedly receive over €14m of taxpayers' money this year - an increase of over e1m on the previous year.' Stock photo: Getty

Much has changed since I moved to the country; from floods to financial droughts. But time seems to stand still when it comes to certain aspects of rural life, as I'm reminded on this last Sunday in September.

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I'm referring not to the cycle of seasons, but tradition.

For while we have happily rid ourselves of many century-old customs, the defining aspect of the remaining ones is that they are blood sports that hurt vulnerable animals for the profit and pleasure of a minority, who nevertheless demand that they are preserved and paid for by the rest of us.

And they are: The Irish Greyhound Board will reportedly receive over €14m of taxpayers' money this year - an increase of over e1m on the previous year.

Despite a recent statement from The Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, which represents those involved in greyhound racing and hare coursing, which suggested the industry has rising debts and plummeting attendance and sponsorship.

Yet all over Ireland right now, hares are being held in cages so that these wild creatures can be turned into the hare coursing equivalent of circus animals, as they are 'trained' to run around wire-enclosed fields with giant dogs in savage pursuit. For yet another nearly six-month long coursing season will be under way before next week's Sunday Independent is in your hands.

As always, some hares will be maimed or killed. Others will will die from trauma and injuries after their release.

Which was probably what happened to the hare that I found at the side of a country road last year, the only one that I have seen in all my years here.

The beautiful creature was not yet decomposed, though a few ugly flies were hovering.

Spain and Portugal are the only other countries in the world where hare coursing is still legal.

The parallels are interesting. Just as the rights of a minority to have its idea of fun matter more than the protection due the endangered Irish hare, so too do Spain's animal welfare laws allow animals to be mistreated for the benefit of blood fiestas.

And though the latest polls suggest that over 70pc of Spanish citizens oppose bullfighting - with thousands taking to the streets of Madrid earlier this month to demand an end to this centuries-old tradition - those in power support this blood sport of a small but influential group.

As reflected by the Portuguese president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, who overturned Portugal's 76-year-old ban on 'death bullfighting' when he was the country's prime minister.

While back home, our Government - along with all the major political parties - denied us the democratic right last summer to decide whether to ban hare coursing.

Perhaps proving that power is itself a perverse pleasure - which sadly is with us for all time.

Sunday Independent

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