Sunday 23 October 2016

Time to grant animals a Yuletide amnesty from hunting

Published 10/12/2015 | 02:30

Red Fox cub hiding behind shrubbery whilst foraging for dropped bird seed
Red Fox cub hiding behind shrubbery whilst foraging for dropped bird seed

'Tis the season to be jolly, but not for the creatures of field and forest. They must endure the merciless assault on Ireland's wildlife heritage that sadly accompanies the countdown to Christmas.

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Since the beginning of this month, hares have been forced to perform at coursing events in the most atrocious weather conditions. Fans of the blood sport laughed, cheered, or marked their cards as the gentle creatures were hounded in torrential rain, on water-logged fields or across venues swept by storm-force winds.

As if being set up as live bait for hyped-up dogs to be chased (and possibly mauled or severely injured) wasn't challenging enough for this iconic creature that is hailed by nature lovers as a living link with the Ice Age.

The wily fox is roused from his winter routine by packs of snarling hounds and their mounted human overlords. Already under pressure from a severe climatic onslaught, he has to run for his life for the edification of people who equate terrorising animals with "sport".

He is hounded until his lungs give out and exhaustion delivers him to the pack. If he manages to escape underground, the hunt terrier men retrieve him by dropping dogs down into his refuge to drag him to the surface. Fox and dog alike suffer in the resulting melee as they sink their teeth into each other.

The pheasant also is subjected to relentless attack in the run-up to Yuletide. As he rises in glory from a tree branch or traverses a rain-sodden, or snow-covered landscape, a shot rings out, turning his multi-coloured crest into a lead-riddled carcass.

Driven shoots are the worst. The gun men walk shoulder to shoulder, blasting away at birds so tame that they waddle up innocently to their killers.

Their trust dooms them and the field of one-sided battle is quickly littered with bleeding clumps of feathers, some lying still where they fall.

Instead of stepping up this all-out national assault on wildlife right now, wouldn't it be more in keeping with the alleged spirit of peace and goodwill to grant our furry and feathered friends a Yuletide amnesty - a break from the targeting of these creatures without which the countryside would be a dull and barren place for all of us?

John Fitzgerald, Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, Kilkenny

Abortion and the Constitution

Communications Minister Alex White correctly states that the right to life amendment "was introduced as a block on parliament's democratic role to legislate" but goes on to call for its abolition on the grounds that "people elect a parliament to make these decisions". (Irish Independent, December 7). It is surprising that, as a barrister, Mr White seems not to understand why we have a Constitution in the first place.

In Ireland, as in the US, Germany, and many other countries, a Constitution is put in place by the people in order to set minimum standards of rights and responsibilities which a State guarantees and which an elected parliament cannot amend or abolish. Therefore, it is designed to protect certain rights (in this case, the right to life) and the basic institutions of the State against the volatile shifting sands of politics.

Mr White seems to call this entire system into question. If he believes that the right to life should be solely a matter for the Oireachtas, then what other constitutional protections should it be allowed to regulate freely? To follow his line of logic, does he believe that the entire Constitution should be abolished, so that the Oireachtas has a completely free hand in all matters, as the House of Commons does in the UK? I believe that the Irish people would have little faith in such a system.

Barry Walsh, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Jim Stack (Irish Independent, December 8) bemoans the lack of "openness and respect" from columnists Colette Browne and Ivan Yates in the ongoing abortion debate, while singing the praises of David Quinn, of the Iona Institute.

Mr Stack also seeks to frame this highly emotive and divisive debate in terms of "unborn children" and "babies whose lives are at stake if the Eighth Amendment is repealed". I would have to seriously question where his respect for the facts in this matters lies?

The medical procedure of abortion deals with an embryo or foetus and would be entirely legal were the Eighth Amendment repealed; whilst the killing of a child or baby is known as infanticide, and is illegal. These are clearly two separate issues which pro-life campaigners like Mr Stack regularly seek to conflate. Respect is a two-way street, and needs to be earned.

May I suggest Mr Stack begins his journey of enlightenment with a trip to his library or local bookstore where volumes on ethics and morals exist, and the human reproductive process is explained in great detail.

Gary J Byrne, IFSC, Dublin 1

The solution to flooding

Wouldn't this be the time to say that it is a pity that the vision of the men who built the Ardnacrusha Power Station in the 1920s or that of Fr Horan of Knock Airport is not applied with the current problem of flooding.

We could build a very large reservoir on the midlands cut-away bogs into which the flood water could be diverted.

JJ O'Reilly, Ballinteer, Dublin 16

Compassion for patients

Kudos to Mary Kenny for illuminating the need to cultivate a more compassionate society towards patients (Irish Independent, December 7).

There is every need for the institutionalisation of compassion; for unleashing the power of humanity in each one of us, for unlocking creativity, for caring for our patients, the most destitute, the downtrodden and the weakest.

Patients should never be criminalised or stigmatised for their lifestyles. Stigmatisation makes sufferers become more secretive, hide their illnesses and ultimately hinder their own recovery.

It is our moral and ethical obligation to mitigate suffering, create a more magnanimous society and reinforce our shared commitment for human dignity.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London, UK

Cynical about politics

In 1973, my generation elected a Fine Gael-Labour coalition because we were appalled by the cronyism, the cute hoors, the men in the mohair suits, Taca, and all that was associated with Fianna Fáil.

We thought it was the beginning of a new era of politics.

Forty years later, nothing has changed.

Am I the only one who feels cynical and dispirited?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

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