DESPITE the fact that Environment Minister John Gormley issued a stark warning last May that the conservation status of the Irish hare is "poor", he went ahead and issued a licence for the netting of up to 7,500 hares from the wild for use as live lures before greyhounds at coursing meetings up and down the country, from October to mid-February. And, as an added bonus, he granted an extension of their cruelty season into March.
Meanwhile up North, recognising that the hare population is under threat, Sammy Wilson, Minister for the Environment, renewed the hare hunting suspension in place since 2003.
So across the border, our hares get the protection they desperately need, while down south it's a free-for-all for coursers, beaglers and other assorted hare hunters, plus the disaffected Northern hare hunters and coursers who travel south.
Mr Gormley recently stated that his role in hare coursing is conservation and that he has no responsibility for what happens at coursing meetings. So it would seem that he doesn't have to concern himself about hares that are struck, mauled, injured and killed by greyhounds, or die of stress-related diseases, as revealed by National Parks Rangers' monitoring reports.
Last season, for example, 26 hares were hit and 14 mauled at Tubbercury, while at Wexford & District 16 were hit and eight injured. At Dundalk seven hares were killed, while five died at Gorey, and that's just a small sample of the cruelty catalogue of 34 coursing meetings.
The coursing gangs will be out with their nets up and down the country for the next six months. The fact that they have a licence from the Environment Minister doesn't give them the right to enter privately owned lands. So we appeal to farmers and landowners, who are the real custodians of Ireland's wildlife and who, in the main, value the presence of wildlife on their lands, to keep the hare snatchers out.
IRISH COUNCIL AGAINST BLOODSPORTS, MULLINGAR, CO WESTMEATH