Thursday 18 October 2018

Guesthouses in Ireland come under fire for offering 'hunting package holidays'

Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Guesthouses and travel agencies in Ireland have come under fire for offering 'hunting holidays'.

Other countries' tight regulations mean Ireland is marked as a "free-for-all", according to animal rights groups.

While fox hunting is legal here, The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting wild animals with dogs in the UK.

Most package holidays for hunters visiting Ireland include accommodation, pre-hunt training, hunting equipment and the hunt itself.

Aideen Yourell, Campaign Director of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, said she is disappointed Ireland "permits these barbarities".

Ms Yourell told Independent.ie: "It's not surprising that hunters come here, we've no laws or regulations or anything to protect animals, we permit these barbarities.

Fox hunter gathers his hounds. Photo: Reuters
Fox hunter gathers his hounds. Photo: Reuters

"We're basically a free-for-all when you think about it, fox hunting and hare coursing are both allowed here.

"People can come over here and indulge themselves, whereas it would be banned in the countries where they're from."

One hunting package on offer is at Flowerhill House in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, where a four-night trip from the Thursday afternoon until the Monday morning costs €710 per person.

According to agent Zara's Planet, the price includes accommodation, a ride out with hounds and a hunt with two different groups.

Oliver Walsh, owner of Flowerhill House, said that they are enjoying a busy hunting season, which lasts in Ireland from October until early March.

He said: "We have been running the hunting packages for over 20 years and we have a lot of guests from countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the US and the UK.

"They don't have the same amount of freedom as we do, so they like to come here for the challenge and the adrenaline of it all.

"We offer a lot more than just the hunt, there's also the pre-hunt training."

Mr Walsh said that despite the controversy surrounding fox hunting, he doesn't feel that it should be banned in Ireland.

"We hunt foxes because they're vermin," he said.

"It all depends on the rules and regulations, if everyone follows the rules then we're fine, but there are always a few bad eggs who spoil it for everyone.

"I've been hunting all of my life and I think it's humane, for the most part the fox is shot before the dogs can even get to it," he said.

Meanwhile, another package designed for hunting enthusiasts is at the four star Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare, Co Limerick.

With two night packages starting from around €380 per person, guests are offered the "opportunity to hunt with local packs", ncluding the Scarteen Hounds and Stonehall Harriers.

The Dunraven Arms Hotel team say on their website: "Fox-hunting is a particular speciality of the proprietors Louis & Hugh Murphy, they will personally book all hunts and horses.

"We offer early breakfast on request, valet service for hunting attire, storage of riding equipment and transport."

The Slieve Aughty Centre in Loughrea, Co Galway is also advertising packages for hunters.

They offer different Drag Hunt (where the hounds chase an animal scent instead of a fox), pre-hunt and hunting trips.

Prices start at €500 per adults for a three night stay, including hunts (visitor's cap not included), accommodation and meals.

The Slieve Aughty Centre's website says: "For the rider who has always dreamed of riding to the hounds, this holiday offers several options depending on the riders desires and level of experience.

"Full board accommodation provided at The Three Towers Eco House and Organic Kitchen."

Meanwhile, Ms Yourell added that it is important to look beyond the money made.

She said: "I'm sure a lot of people think it's great, they probably see it as a boost to tourism and don't think about the cruelty to the animals, they are cruel and barbaric sports."

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