Jennifer Whitmore TD

From an animal welfare and biodiversity perspective, I am strongly opposed to hare coursing

Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has called on the Minister for Heritage not to issue any licences for the upcoming coursing season after raising concerns about the welfare of pregnant hares.

Deputy Whitmore, who is the party’s spokesperson on climate action and biodiversity, said:

“One of the conditions of the licence issued to coursing clubs for the capture of hares is that any injured or pregnant hare must be immediately released back into the wild.

“However, coursing clubs have no way of determining if hares are pregnant upon capture. As things stand, I do not believe that it is possible for coursing clubs to adhere to the licence conditions as they are written.

“The Irish Coursing Club’s own guidelines state that any hare that is obviously pregnant shall be released back into the wild and not coursed. But the relevant licence condition does not say obviously pregnant – it just says pregnant. It is highly unlikely that clubs have the ability to ascertain early pregnancy and therefore would be at risk of operating outside the terms of the licence.

“I have looked at the reports of several coursing clubs and can find no records of any captured hares being released on the basis that they are pregnant.

“From an animal welfare and biodiversity perspective, I am strongly opposed to hare coursing – an archaic and cruel activity that does not enjoy popular support. In fact, a Red C poll conducted a few years ago found that only nine per cent of Irish people agreed with it.

“In Ireland, the importance of hares is recognised in primary legislation by defining them as a protected species under the Wildlife Act 1976. Incredibly, in the same piece of legislation that is supposed to protect hares, the Minister for Heritage is permitted to issue licences for their capture for the purpose of live coursing.

“I recently introduced a Bill in the Dáil that, if passed, would remove the ability of the Minister to issue these licences. In the meantime, he must immediately suspend the granting of licences for the 2023/24 coursing season until there is a full examination of the issues I have raised regarding pregnant hares.”

July 5, 2023

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