Government urges TDs to reject bid to ban hare coursing
The Government has urged TDs to reject a bid by Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan to ban hare coursing.
The Dublin Central TD introduced her bill to the Dáil last night, arguing that the sport that sees muzzled greyhounds chasing hares is cruel.
Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys called for the Dáil to reject it, arguing that hare coursing is strictly regulated, and banning it would drive the sport underground.
Ms O'Sullivan told the Irish Independent she's "horrified" at the attitude of parties opposing her bill, saying TDs should have a free vote on the matter.
Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are all opposed to backing her attempt to abolish hare coursing.
"We're supposed to be doing new politics and we were told we were going to be getting more free votes and here's an opportunity on this issue and it's not (happening)," Ms O'Sullivan said.
However, at least one Independent Alliance minister, John Halligan, has said he will back Ms O'Sullivan's bill.
It's understood that both Ministers Shane Ross and Finian McGrath are considering doing the same.
Mr Halligan said: "It's not in the Programme for Government. It didn't say anything about hare coursing. That's what we signed up for."
He said the only occasions where he must back the Government in the Dáil are votes of confidence and those relating to the Budget.
Ms O'Sullivan argues that hare coursing "is cruelty because the hare doesn't know that the greyhound is muzzled and it's not going to kill it."
She added: "The hares are mauled. They're tossed in the air. Their bones are broken. We have the documents of them having to be put down after coursing meetings."
She also said: "There's an alternative, which is the rag coursing which is very successful in the United States and Australia." Ms O'Sullivan said she still hopes that those TDs opposing her bill will change their mind when it comes to the vote next Thursday.
Ms Humphreys said her department issues licences for hare coursing, vets attend meetings, and the competitions are monitored to ensure "strict" licence conditions are adhered to.
Under the rules, hares must be subjected to coursing only once a day and there must be adequate escape routes for them.
"I would remind the deputies who are calling for an outright ban of the potential dangers of such action. It could drive coursing underground and the very real danger is that would result in unregulated coursing meetings, which would represent far greater dangers for the safety of hares," she said.
She also pointed out that hare coursing is mainly a rural activity, giving the example of the National Hare Coursing meeting in Clonmel that is worth around €6m to the economy. Banning hare coursing would have "a serious economic impact" on rural towns where it takes place, she said.