'Livelihoods under threat from coursing ban'

Councillors warn over threats to the greyhound industry

Stephen Fernane

Up to 100 families in Kerry will have their livelihoods 'wiped out' because of threats to the greyhound and Coursing industry.

That's according to Cllr Charlie Farrelly who, along with Cllr Mike Kennelly, raised concerns at Monday's full council meeting.

The topic was raised after both councillors attended a recent public meeting in Ballymacelligott organised by Coursing personnel in Kerry expressing concerns over the ongoing ban on hare netting and tagging by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan.

The Minister issued the bad news in August in an effort to control the spread of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD), which is fatal to rabbits and hares, but is of no risk to humans. 

The first case was confirmed in July in County Wicklow and County Clare, but two more cases were confirmed earlier this month in Co Leitrim and again in Co Clare. Co Cork is the latest county to have a confirmed case and concerns are growing in Kerry.

September is traditionally the start of the Coursing season in Kerry and concerns have been raised over the ongoing ban. 

"It's unacceptable. Two carcasses were found that the Irish Coursing Club have asked to be examined but were refused," claimed Cllr Farrelly. 

"Over 100 families in Kerry will have their livelihoods wiped out because the breeding of greyhounds will stop while hares will become extinct," he added.

Cllr Kennelly said the meeting in Ballymacelligott was one of the 'biggest public meetings' he ever attended.

"This ban is seriously affecting the people who love their greyhounds," Cllr Kennelly said.

 "I don't believe this virus is contagious and the greyhound industry has come in for some bad press of late, but 99.9 per cent of owners threat their dogs with respect. We're talking about livelihoods here. It's estimated that Coursing and greyhound racing is worth over €50 million to the economy. I'm asking the Minister to lift this ban. Are KCC out there catching rabbits and hares to see if this virus is spreading?" he added.

RHD causes death within a few days of infection among sick animals with symptoms like swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth.

In China in 1984 the disease wiped out thousands of rabbits. In August the Department suspended licences issued to Coursing clubs for the capture of hares.