ANIMALS are part of our lives, from pets to the less fortunate that become dinner. Both jockeys and big bets ride on the backs of horses, while some steal furry creatures' coats.
The Minister for Agriculture is responsible for their welfare, as well as for the rest of a sector that's particularly important in this country. Perhaps that's not fair on him. But it's increasingly obvious that it's not fair on the animals.
Take blood sports, which most people here abhor. Yet Simon Coveney believes it isn't "appropriate" to outlaw them. But even he recognised that certain practices were beyond the pale when he referred to the "undue cruelty" of digging out and terrier work. Last May he deemed them "unacceptable".
But now he's had a change of heart. He thinks "the codes of conduct being implemented on a voluntary basis are fairly good". Apparently "the question is whether we want to ensure that they will be legally enforceable".
It looks like the minister is pandering, yet again, to a powerful lobby. And trying to fob off the rest of us with empty words. For no "code of conduct'' changes the fact that allowing the digging out of an animal that's trying to save its life by going to ground during a hunt, and using terriers to flush it out, is brutally cruel. Even pro-blood sports politicians like Eamon O Cuiv condemn it.
Indeed, Fianna Fail vice-president Senator Mary White reacted strongly when the Irish Council Against Blood Sports presented her with photos showing the savage reality of these activities.
"I find the images provided disturbing and detest the vulgar activities. . . which go on out of public view in the secluded countryside," she stated. "Every politician and lover of animals has a responsibility to raise awareness."
The committee which voted down proposed amendments to the Bill that sought to remove exemptions for hare coursing and fox hunting includes Fine Gael TD Patrick Deering. He lobbied for his former Director of Elections, Phil Meaney, to be appointed to the position of chairman of the Irish Greyhound Board. Meaney is a member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Coursing Club. Coveney has admitted to having been politically lobbied on his behalf, though he insisted this was not a factor in Meaney's appointment.
Perhaps we need a minister solely for animal welfare. We could afford it, if we culled a few 'committees'. Ironically, they remind me of the ones in George Orwell's Animal Farm. Because it's time to replace the 'Napoleon' and 'Snowball' power pigs with an honest 'Boxer', who will work like a horse on behalf of all the 'Four Legs' of Ireland.