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Hunters kill the Christmas spirit

Sir -- This Christmas at least one of the majestic creatures that comprise our magnificent wildlife heritage will not have to endure the worst excesses of man's perennial inhumanity.

The noble stag can no longer be hounded to exhaustion, trauma, and injury by mounted gurriers dressed up as knockabout circus clowns. A small blessing, but a profoundly welcome one.

Thanks to our humane and enlightened Minister for the Environment, John Gormley.

Unfortunately, other creatures of field and forest will not fare so well. The fox will, as in previous years, be pursued with unrelenting fury by the redcoats with their hounds, whips, and hunting horns.

And little hares, the gentlest and most inoffensive occupants of the countryside, will again be used as pawns in a gruesome and utterly stupid game of chance in which blood-crazed dogs will be egged on to chase and terrorise them.

And let's not leave out those delightful gentlemen of leisure, the "tourist shooters". Every winter, they litter the fields and boreens of rural Ireland with shattered and broken carcasses -- for sport and recreation.

They have quelled many a singing voice that would put the best of the You're a Star contestants to shame.

They blast away at everything that moves, including larks, thrushes, blackbirds ... and yes, the lovely robin.

The bird whose iconic red breast was a consequence, according to legend, of blood dripping from the crucified Christ, is deemed a legitimate target by these gun-toting heroes.

I know there are more serious issues to engage our attention, like climate change, the state of our health service, traffic accidents and the crime situation. Your readers, I know, will think of many, many more.

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But I still feel a twinge of horror at the notion that these guys are willing to kill the very symbol of Christmas.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny

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