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Stag hunting dies by thousand cuts

Minister John Gormley has delivered a deadly and decisive blow to carted stag hunting.

Apart from compelling hunters to avoid chasing stags in future, allowing them instead merely to create a scent for the dogs to follow, the minister's new licensing arrangement has imposed many other restrictions that will make stag hunting with hounds in Ireland a thing of the past.

Animal protection groups have lobbied for decades against this bloodsport.

There were few sights more memorable or distressing than that of a once proud stag on the point of exhaustion; bleeding, its tongue steaming; its battered frame encircled by howling dogs and jeering spectators.

Stags that refused to budge when dropped from the crates were goaded and beaten with sticks, as residents of a Meath village testified in a submission to the Department of the Environment.

Now, thanks to the Green Party's participation in government, the stags have won an historic reprieve.

This represents an important political and ecological milestone. In addition to safeguarding our deer population from cruelty, it has boosted the morale of animal protection campaigners nationwide.

How ironic that stag hunting, given its cruel and bloody nature, is now condemned to death by a thousand cuts.

A fitting end, I say.

JOHN FITZGERALD

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