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Setting record straight on hares

As chief executive officer of the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), I write in response to John Fitzgerald (Letters, September 14) to set the record straight.

Here in Ireland, one pair of muzzled greyhounds at a time is slipped to pursue a hare given a 100-yard advantage. The hares are harvested ahead of time and kept in "hare parks", often several acres large, where they are well cared for, inoculated, dosed and, yes, trained to familiarise themselves with the facility.

The object of the sport is to test the skill of two dogs against each other as they endeavour to turn their quarry, the hare.

Each coursing meeting operates under veterinary supervision and the appropriate care and attention is administered to all hare stock by appropriately trained and qualified personnel.

Coursing only takes place from late September to the end of February and is not permitted during the breeding season. There are a range of other regulations in place, as well, which reinforce the sustainability of the species.

The arguments forwarded by Mr Fitzgerald and like-minded people focus on the depletion of the hare population. However, Quercus, an independent research group in Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, reports that the current hare population in the Republic of Ireland stands at over 565,000, of which less than 1pc is harvested by coursing clubs.

The most recent report on the status of EU protected habitats and species in Ireland details that the future of the hare is good.

The National Parks and Wildlife Rangers supervise coursing meetings and supervise the release of hares to the wild on conclusion of the event.

Between those facts and the reality that we rely on a healthy hare population for our sport, it is difficult to imagine how we would want to be responsible for decimating the hare population we so rely on.

Mr Fitzgerald and others paint a picture of coursing which is emotive, at times juvenile and insulting, and most of all, misleading.

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They also fail to consider the consequences of an unregulated form of the sport, and this is no more obvious than in Northern Ireland where, through lack of coursing, illegal hunting is rampant, and the hare population is suffering as preserves are unmanaged.

The ICC recently held a seminar on hare husbandry matters, detailing best practice on hare management. To understand coursing, you must take account of the positive environmental, social and economic benefits associated with the sport.

D J Histon
Irish Coursing Club

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