As an opponent of live hare coursing, I am encouraged by the fact that the licence permitting the annual widespread netting of hares in our countryside has not yet been granted to the hare baiting clubs.
In past years, the licence was issued by the Environment Minister in August, the reason being that coursing clubs needed about a month to both capture enough hares for the first baiting fixtures of the season in late September and to "train" the hares, as they call it, for these events.
I hope this delay in granting the netting licence reflects a change of heart on the part of the Department of the Environment and a timely recognition by the minister, John Gormley, that Ireland's hare population is under grave threat
At a time when the Irish hare's conservation status is officially deemed "poor" by the State's Wildlife Service, it is surely inconceivable that the minister would even contemplate allowing gangs of animal cruelty fans to scour the countryside in search of hares as live bait for coursing.
With the species under severe pressure from loss of habitat, resulting from urbanisation and aggressive agricultural methods, it can certainly do without the additional threat posed by the net men and coursing clubs.
Hare coursing is shameful. Every animal welfare association in the world opposes it, as does, according to every opinion poll, the vast majority of the Irish people. Now is the time for Mr Gormley to pull the plug on this pathetic excuse for a sport.
Such a move would be welcomed by the Green movement worldwide, and represent an act of mercy towards one of the gentlest creatures on earth.
Callan, Co Kilkenny