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Ban this cruel stag hunting

This month, the Department of the Environment will decide whether to yet again grant a licence to the country's only carted stag hunt.

The "sport" involves the pursuit with hounds of a farmed or domesticated stag that is released from a horse cart for the chase. Mounted hunters and sightseers follow the horses and hounds in land rovers. The hunt chases the animal across country for an hour or two until it collapses from exhaustion.

In the course of being chased, the stag is severely injured, getting tangled up in barbed wire, thorn bushes and brambles along the way. Some hunted stags have dropped dead from heart attacks. Others have drowned in rivers into which they were hounded. Others again have been beaten half to death with sticks for failing to run.

The deer used are bred in captivity and therefore cannot be classified as wild creatures. The Protection of Animals Acts 1911 and 1965 prohibit the hunting or baiting of domestic animals or farm livestock, and there is a widespread belief in legal, environmental, and animal welfare circles that carted stag hunting is in breach of this legislation.

The only other comparable hunt on this island, in County Down, was banned for using farmed or domesticated deer contrary to Northern Ireland's animal protection law, which is very similar to the Republic's.

A few months ago, RTE's Liveline radio show was inundated with calls about a stag hunt that rampaged through a schoolyard, scattering terrified children in all directions. Pupils who saw the helpless stag; bloodied and with its tongue hanging out, were traumatised by the spectacle.

We hope the Department of the Environment will heed the explicit, well-documented and compelling evidence against carted stag hunting. There is simply no need or justification for the practice. Cruelty aside, it has no conservation or pest control value whatsoever.

So let's protect our majestic stags and safeguard a precious part of our wildlife heritage.

JOHN FITZGERALD, LOWER COYNE STREET, CALLAN, CO KILKENNY

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