Winter season licenses for hare hunting granted despite opposition – The Irish Times
Licenses allowing coursing clubs to capture live hares for the winter season have been granted by the Department of Heritage despite renewed calls from animal welfare campaigners for the sport to be banned.
On July 18, the department granted the license to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) on behalf of its more than 80 affiliated clubs to catch and mark hares for the forthcoming 2022-2023 coursing season, under the same conditions as the previous years.
The license, posted on the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) website, is valid from Aug. 12 through Feb. 28, 2023. Course clubs must tag each hare, and a statement detailing each hare must be made to the state. four days before a meeting takes place.
In a statement following the licensing, Ban Blood Sports, an organization seeking to end hare racing, said it was “shameful” that the practice would be allowed to continue next year.
“All hares suffer from fear and stress, and every hunting season hare injuries and deaths occur. Documented injuries include broken backs, spinal injuries, broken legs, damaged toes and dislocated hips,” the band said.
The group had asked Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien to deny the license because of the “suffering, stress, injury and death caused to hares in racing competitions”.
Independent TD Joan Collins, Social Democrat TDs Cian O’ Callaghan and Jennifer Whitmore, and People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Mick Barry also urged the minister to refuse the licence.
The campaign group said the risk of spreading RHD2 – rabbit haemorrhagic disease, which is deadly to rabbits and hares but poses no risk to humans – occurs more easily when hares are kept in confined areas.
The disease causes death within days of infection, with sick animals developing swollen eyelids, partial paralysis, and bleeding from the eyes and mouth.
Speaking in the Dáil recently, Mr O’Brien said there were only two RHD2 positive cases recorded in 2021, and one case has been detected this year so far.
A spokesman for the ministry said that although it issues licenses under wildlife laws, control of the hunting of live hares is the responsibility of the agriculture minister.
“This department has no role in relation to courses in general or in relation to course meetings,” the spokesperson said.
DJ Histon, chief executive of the Irish Coursing Club, said the call for the sport to be banned was “short-sighted and ignores the conservation effort being carried out by coursing clubs on a 12-month basis”.
“Clubs prevent and report illegal hunting on a 12-month basis, which is a significant challenge for authorities to root out due to the perpetrators’ modus operandi,” he said, adding that during the last hunting season, 99.51% of hares captured were released in the countryside.
The Irish hare is protected by the Irish Wildlife Acts and may only be captured, tagged or killed under licence. The hare is also listed in the European Habitats Directive (Annex V), which obliges member states to manage the hare in a sustainable way.