Threat to hare is horror story that shames us
Published 06/03/2014 | 02:30
While welcoming the major conservation initiative to save the curlew and restore habitats essential to its survival, we should not lose sight of other species that are endangered or threatened.
It would be sad indeed if the haunting cry of the curlew, a feature of rural life from time immemorial and celebrated in Irish literature, song and folklore, were to become a mere memory kept alive only in books and ballads.
It has been quietly slipping away, with about 80pc of the curlew population lost to us since the 1970s.
But this evocative bird is not alone. Though not threatened to the same degree as the curlew, the Irish hare is listed by conservationists as vulnerable to extinction. Like the curlew, the hare is a precious and evocative part of our wildlife heritage. It is a living link to the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago, one of nature's great survivors.
Unfortunately, increasing urbanisation and the effects of modern agriculture, especially the vast monocultural grass and cereal tracts in the countryside and the mass cutting of hedges, have eroded its habitat, leading to what to the hare might as well be a desert. Compounding this is the grotesque practice of hare coursing.
Contrived chasing and disturbance of hares induces a form of stress that can kill them. Dr Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, has stated: "When a mammal like a hare is chased by a predator like a dog it will show physiological changes associated with extreme fear."
Such extreme responses, he adds, can result in reduced life expectancy and risk of cardiovascular breakdown. The number of hares killed outright or injured in coursing annually is only a tiny part of the horror story.
It is the long-term impact on the animals captured and subjected to this traumatic and unnatural ordeal that represents the greater coursing-related threat to the hare.
This unique mammal, which under legislation may be netted and used as bait by coursing clubs, should be designated a completely protected species.
The hare belongs to all of us. It is not the preserve of a heartless minority that sees it as a mere plaything for their "sport".
JOHN FITZGERALD, CAMPAIGN FOR THE ABOLITION OF CRUEL SPORTS, CO KILKENNY
GILMORE AND RUSSIA
So Russia has moved troops into Crimea. Eamon Gilmore has bemoaned the fact that international law is being broken. A few salient facts may be in order for Mr Gilmore at this juncture.
Firstly, during their Ard Fheis at the weekend his partners in government decided, despite what it says in the Constitution, to discuss the illegal notion of joining Nato.
Secondly, Russia has stated that it is protecting Russians in Crimea. How is Mr Putin any different to George Bush ploughing into Iraq, where the number of American citizens was far below 60pc.
We know that America has been working behind the scenes to instal a pro-American government during the Kiev protests.
I could go on about how America has been the most aggressive military force since World War II but instead I will ask – if the peacemakers are blessed, then what are warmongers?
DERMOT RYAN ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
TOAST TO DAVY FITZ
Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald is to be applauded for his efforts in instilling the Clare panel with self-confidence and self-esteem (Irish Independent, March 5). Toastmasters International runs a very successful youth leadership programme in secondary schools throughout Ireland. The ability to believe in and assert themselves is the greatest gift we can give the next generation.
CHRISTINA HESSION, NAAS, CO KILDARE
MEDICAL CARD SPIN
Many GPs are unhappy with reporting on fees payable to their practices under the medical card scheme. In particular, we find simple statements, frequently initiated by the HSE spin doctors and uncritically repeated by journalists, are unhelpful.
Recently, it was reported that "top-earning GPs gross over €300,000 annually". Balanced reportage would include that most GPs are not "top earning" and that capitation fees are properly subjected to income tax.
The rough rule of thumb is one-third for Revenue, one-third for expenses, one third for the GP. Further, while James Reilly is quoted as saying that "research reveals that 1,000 medical card patients are worth €250,000 to a GP", he is more aware than most that the average list size is rather less than this, and there are few of us now who feel capable of safely caring for a medical card list of anywhere near 1,000 patients.
For your paper and the minister to imply the average GP pockets anything like €300,000 really is foolish. By all means consider spin doctors, but don't ignore the experience of real doctors.
DR BRENDAN O'SHEA, PRO KILDARE FACULTY IRISH COLLEGE OF GENERAL PRACTITIONERS
MYSTERY OF LIFE
Life is a mystery. The paramount question is – why? Why is there not nothing? Human beings cannot help trying to find the answer to this great enigma of existence. The fact that there is something demands a cause; that is the way the human mind works. We do not know the answer, but we keep on trying; the best I can manage is to call the cause 'God'.
Whether you accept or reject this reasoning is entirely up to you. The Christian position is, God exists, and He is Love, who offers all humans love, to enable us to love Him, and oneself and one another. Each person is free to accept or reject God's offer. That is the best we can manage, to make sense of the great mystery.
Some atheists say they just do not have faith. None of us have faith to start with, as something innate to us. But we all have a conscience and a choice. Faith is a free gift, to be accepted or rejected by free will.
SEAN MCELGUNN, ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
FAREWELL, CU CHULAINN
Calls home to mammy are a part of ex-pat DNA; the news in full. "Ack that Brian and Amy would sicken your..." was my last update. Millions across waters will watch at all hours to see himself playing at home for the last time. I wonder if shouts of Cu Chulainn around the Aviva and broadcast across the globe would give us all the opportunity to say slan go foill Cu Chulainn. The calls home flying in. "Could you hear them there in Auckland/Chicago/NY/Sydney/etc? Wasn't it only magic".
CONOR GERAGHTY, EDINBURGH
LOTS OF PAIN, ZERO GAIN
In a recent government survey it has been established that the Live Register has fallen by 60,000. What they fail to tell us is that 60,000 of our young people have emigrated during that period. I would say that the net gain is zero.
EAMONN GALLAGHER, DUNDALK
GAY MARRIAGE DEBATE
Crediting Philip O'Neill's mother with compassion (Letters, March 4), wouldn't her "Mhuise, what harm are they doing?" be applied equally to three people, of whatever gender (or, indeed mixture thereof), who "experience sincere love for one another"? Surely there is "no good reason for denying them the right to the public ritual expression of that love"? In short, would it not be the "gratuitous assertion" of "a flimsy moral edifice" to deny them marriage equality on no other basis than that there were more than two of them?
FRANK FARRELL, STILLORGAN, CO DUBLIN