Newsletter

Animal Voice, Autumn/Winter 2005
Full Contents - Sections 1-4 / Pages 1-44

Welcome Message

It's finally happened - hunting with dogs has been banned in England, Scotland and Wales. After 80 years of campaigning, the League Against Blood Sports, the RSPCA and other dedicated groups have won an historic victory and much needed protection for vulnerable wildlife.

It's hard to imagine their feelings - after decades of a 'David and Goliath' struggle against powerful and highly influential interests - to have finally achieved their goal. A good friend of ICABS, Mike Huskisson from the UK's Animal Cruelty Investigation Group, while expressing his joy at the result said: "Our happiness was also tinged with sadness for those who did not live to see the day. It was tragic also for the many animals killed needlessly for fun during the long years of prevarication in Parliament."

Meanwhile, our campaign continues on here, and we can't help but consider with some irony that Ireland is now the last outpost of blood sport traditions in these islands, brought here by our neighbours who themselves have now seen fit to ban them. But we are very encouraged and inspired by the success of the campaign in Britain and this will spur us on to greater endeavours, with the support of you, our loyal supporters.

Recently, despite a strong appeal to Environment Minister Dick Roche, to refuse hare netting licences for coursing and to the Ward Union carted deer hunt, the licences were granted and hares and deer will again be subjected to another season of needless terror and suffering, not forgetting the hounding and killing of foxes, which doesn't even require a licence.

We met with Minister Roche and senior officials of the National Parks & Wildlife Service earlier this year, and showed them video footage of the cruelty, which incidentally they had never seen first hand. It pointed up starkly how those who ultimately make the decisions are far removed from the cruel and ugly reality of what they licence.

Our next step will be a Private Member's Bill in Dail Eireann, and we need each and every supporter to network amongst family, friends, neighbours and co-workers to put pressure on their TDs to support such a Bill. Remember, 2007 is the next General Election and already the politicians are out canvassing in the streets and on the doorsteps. When they call on you, let them know in no uncertain terms where you stand on hunting wild animals with dogs.

As usual, we have highlighted some issues in this edition of Animal Voice, which you can take action on by writing a letter, sending an email or making a telephone call. Such efforts do work as evidenced by, for example, the Swatch Company's decision not to sponsor the Hunt Chase at the RDS Horse Show; Failte's dropping of hunt club details from their website and Abbey Travel and Slattery's Tours' decision to drop references to bullfights and bull-rings in their holiday brochures. And as we go to press, ICABS has had two positive responses in relation to the withdrawal from a chain of shops of a cruel glue trap for mice, and the dropping of a day's hunting from a fund-raising auction. So it's proven over and over, that "the pen is mightier than the sword."

Finally and most importantly, we'd like to say a big thank you to all our kind and loyal supporters who sent subscriptions and donations, wrote, sent cards or telephoned us, expressing support and encouragement. Please know that we really appreciate your contact. Without you, our campaign could not continue.

Kind Regards.
Aideen Yourell,
ICABS Campaign Director

Ward Union licensed despite NPWS advice

The Ward Union deer hunt got their licence for the 2004-05 season, despite a strong case for refusal from National Parks and Wildlife Service Regional and Deputy Regional Managers.

In documents obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, the then Environment Minister, Martin Cullen, was told that "the licence applied for can not be issued". The reason given was that the application was not relevant to the NPWS department because the deer used by the hunt could not be viewed as wildlife as defined by the Wildlife Act.

The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 defines wildlife as fauna and flora, with fauna being further defined as "all wild animals [including] an individual of a population which primarily lives independent of human husbandry". It's a definition which clearly does not cover the Ward Union's deer - animals which are bred in captivity, kept in an enclosure and transported around in a livestock trailer.

Referring to the Ward Union's deer, one NPWS official stated in a memo that: "the deer are highly dependent on human husbandry...the deer are not wild and are owned by the club...the deer are captive deer." The Wildlife Act does not include such deer, he stated.

Red deer falling to the ground next to farm gate
A deer slips and falls to the ground after being chased into a Co Meath farmyard by Ward Union hunters and hounds. (Photo: Mike Huskisson)

ICABS has continuously contended that the licensing of the Ward Union hunt under the Wildlife Act is illegal due to the fact that the deer are not wild. We maintain that, as domesticated creatures, the deer are eligible for protection under the Protection of Animals Act which states that it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal.

Responding to a Dail Question from Tony Gregory, TD at the end of January, the current Environment Minister, Dick Roche, stated that the issue was "carefully considered" by his Department. This careful consideration prompted the Minister to make the following bizarre statement:

"The conclusion was that since the term 'wild animal' was nowhere used in section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976 ['The Minister may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack'] the operation of that provision could not be considered to be affected by the issue raised. On this basis, it was determined that the Ward Union Hunt required to be licensed and a licence was granted for the 2004/2005 season."

The Minister appears to be suggesting that since section 26 of the Wildlife Act refers to "deer" (and not "wild deer"), he is free to issue a licence to hunt the animals - regardless of whether they are wild or domesticated.

ICABS believes that this response from the Department of the Environment is lame in the extreme; after all, the Wildlife Act deals exclusively with wild animals.

We again made a strong case for refusing a licence for the 2005-06 season but sadly our pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the hunt is set to continue abusing deer.

ACTION ITEM

Please write to Minister Dick Roche and ask him to stop licensing the Ward Union hunt. Tell him that the Wildlife Act deals exclusively with wild animals (hence its title) and the deer referred to in Section 26 are therefore obviously wild.

Minister Dick Roche
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government
Custom House, Dublin 1.
Tel: 01-8882403
Fax: 01-8788640
Email: dick_roche@environ.ie

ACTION ITEM

Please contact Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan. Tell her that as Minister with responsibility for animal welfare and the Protection of Animals Act, she must intervene to end carted deer hunting.

Minister Mary Coughlan
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2000
LoCall: 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.
Email: mary.coughlan@oireachtas.ie

Men gripping head of injured deer
An exhausted and injured deer at the end of a Ward Union hunt. The animal's head is bleeding and he is panting for breath. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Campaign Quotes

"Senior members of our club...believe that hares in the wild will find the necessary herbs to ensure their well being and recovery from many ailments which they may suffer...our members are at a loss to understand how it would benefit hares to retain them in a paddock which itself, at that stage, was quite likely to be an infected area." Anthony O'Neill, Wexford & District Coursing Club, complaining about vet Peter Murphy's decision to delay the return of sick hares to the wild, in a letter dated September 27th, 2004, to the National Parks & Wildlife Service. ICABS can't think of a better reason for not taking hares from the wild in the first place!

"Greyhounds sold at Limerick auctions have been found hanging from trees in Spain after their owners tortured them to death it was claimed today. The greyhounds which are sold for as low as 100 Euro to Spanish buyers in the city are allegedly used for racing and coursing by Spanish gypsies before they are tied to trees and left to slowly die inches above the ground...[Limerick Animal Welfare] are now appealing to dog owners not to sell greyhounds to Spanish agents at auctions." (Limerick Leader, March 5th, 2005)

"One regular face missing from this group was that of Anne Byrne and the reason is simple, it's badly injured! Out with the Fingals on the Tuesday before Christmas, Anne received serious facial injuries when, queuing for a ditch, her mount reared up, slipped and came down on his rider. Fortunately, it was just the horse's neck which hit Anne but she suffered two broken cheekbones, a smashed eye socket, damaged nose and teeth." (Irish Field, January 8th, 2005)

Victory! Hunting banned in Britain

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports congratulates the British Government on its courage in outlawing the hunting of wild animals with dogs. It has taken 80 years of campaigning by groups such as the League Against Cruel Sports and others and now using dogs to terrorise, maim and kill defenceless wild animals for "sport" is illegal.

We congratulate all the groups and individuals who campaigned so tirelessly to ensure that these cruel practices were consigned to the dustbin of history along with cockfighting, badger baiting and dog fighting.

We call on the Irish Government to stop turning a blind eye to these cruel activities - hare coursing, fox hunting, mink hunting and carted deer hunting - in our countryside and to implement a ban on this outdated barbarism.

We will continue to press for the replacement of blood sports with drag hunting and drag coursing. ICABS recently called for the Irish Coursing Club to implement mechanical lure coursing, but they refused, claiming that it would be "unpopular" and that greyhounds would not follow a drag. We find this response unacceptable as we have video evidence from Britain, the USA and Australia which shows greyhounds enthusiastically following a drag.

There are already a number of drag hunts in Ireland which are very successful and greatly enjoyed by participants. The route followed is pre-planned which ensures that riders are constantly on the move (unlike in foxhunting). This also eliminates instances of trespassing on to prohibited land, thus making drag hunting a lot more acceptable to farmers.

Call for ministerial inquiry into sport horse industry

ICABS has renewed its call on Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, to launch an investigation into all aspects of the sport horse industry.

We were prompted to once again contact the minister following a report in the Irish Independent which revealed the disgusting practice of tongue tying. It was explained that some riders tie the tongue of a horse to help control the animal.

The May 7th article highlighted how a member of the Irish equestrian team was fined for having the tongue of his mare tied down during a competition in France. According to FEI rules, tongue tying is not permitted during competition.

It's the latest in a series of disturbing revelations from the equine world. Late last year, listeners to the Pat Kenny radio show were disgusted to learn about inhumane methods employed by some showjumpers.

To train horses to avoid knocking the bars, their lower legs are made more sensitive. Examples given to achieve this included sticking needles in the legs, applying an irritant such as turpentine, putting ball bearings in bandages and wrapping them around the legs plus lifting the bars as the horse is jumping.

ICABS urged Minister Coughlan to investigate these allegations but our correspondence has so far been ignored.

We stressed to her that treating a horse in this way would surely be in breach of the Protection of Animals Act, for which she is responsible.

ACTION ITEM

Please urge Minister Mary Coughlan to launch an investigation into the treatment of horses in the sport horse industry and to eliminate inhumane practices.

Minister Mary Coughlan
Department of Agriculture
Agriculture House
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-6072000
Lo-call 1890-200510
Email: mary.coughlan@oireachtas.ie

Swatch Watch ends RDS Hunt Chase sponsorship

ICABS has congratulated the Swatch Watch company and its Irish representatives after they confirmed that they will not sponsor any further Hunt Chase events.

During the 2004 Dublin Horse Show at the RDS, Swatch Watch was the sponsor of the hunt chase show jumping competition which featured 16 hunts.

In a letter to ICABS from BJ FitzPatrick & Company Ltd (Swatch representative in Ireland), it was stated that: "We are pleased to confirm, in association with Swatch SA that we will not support this event or any such event in the future."

Chief Executive, John B FitzPatrick wrote: "It is correct to say that we BJ FitzPatrick & Co Ltd sponsored the Hunt Chase Show Jumping Competition at the recent Dublin Horse Show. At the same time, we would like to say that we were not supporting an actual hunting event. The Dublin Horse Show is a Show Jumping event and not a hunt. However...it could be construed that we were supporting the activities of certain hunting teams, who whilst participating in a show jumping event are also known to participate in the more unsociable elements of hunting."

In our original letter to Swatch's Headquarters in Switzerland, we outlined how the majority of people in Ireland and across the EU are opposed to hunting with dogs and want it outlawed. We explained that although no hunting takes place during the hunt chase, all of those competing are registered hunts.

ICABS will continue to urge the RDS to drop the hunt chase event from future horse shows. You can help by writing to Olivia O'Reilly, RDS Development Manager, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland. Tel: +353 (0)1 240 7203. Email: olivia.oreilly@rds.ie.

Hunt trespass raised in Dail

In a Dail question to the Environment Minister, Dan Boyle has highlighted the issue of hunt trespass and damage caused by hunters.

Referring to an unnamed hunt in Cork, the Green TD asked Minister Dick Roche "if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there have been repeated complaints regarding the activities of this hunt, including it crossing farmlands without permission, entering fields in which heifers are in calf, cutting fences and entering game sanctuaries."

Minister Roche evaded this question. Confirming that the hunt is a foxhunt, he simply stated that "a licence, under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000, is not required for the hunting of non-protected species, such as foxes."

The elusive rebel without a pause

Senator David Norris on the challenge of photographing the James Dean of the animal kingdom.

The fox is a wonderful and fascinating animal and I have always admired the skill and subtlety of his adaptation.

From childhood I enjoyed foxes. They always seemed to be the James Dean of the animal world, Rebels With or Without a Cause, full of guile and cunning and yet so beautiful with their red coats and long brush of tail, the dog-like nose that might lure you into not observing the sharp teeth.

There were also the foxes of childish stories, Brer Fox in the Briar Patch, the more ominous foxes of Beatrice Potter's tales, and even my treasured Curly Wee Annuals, where Mr Fox - svelte, smart, suave, smiling and sometimes even dressed up in a top hat, tie and tails like Jack Buchanan - was always up to no good.

Then a few years ago I went to take care of my adored elderly aunt in Ballsbridge. She had a fox in her garden. She used to peep out from a back window and call excitedly any time it appeared. She loved it. The only thing she was afraid of was that it might frighten away her hedgehog - a great one, she said, for guzzling slugs and snails.

Senator David Norris smiling
Senator David Norris: Fox fan since childhood

When asked by RTE to take part in Wild Trials, a series which challenged individuals to photograph some aspect of Irish wildlife, I had no hesitation in choosing the fox.

I was provided with a camera and expert advice from professional cameraman, Mike Brown. We traipsed through County Roscommon and sat rigid late into the evening waiting, then dragged ourselves up again the next morning, trailing ineffectively through the dew.

But the foxes of Roscommon were elusive beasts, classic lens teasers, appearing on the horizon to sniff the wind and then to lollop away disdainfully.

Even when we tried to capture the suburban fox, they stayed tantalisingly diffident. In fact I observed fox lovers at least as much as the foxes themselves.

There seems to be a little group of people scattered around the city of Dublin and its suburbs who have taken the fox to their heart and who provide sustenance, leaving out scraps and sometimes quite mouthwatering foxy meals for their regular clients.

Interestingly, these are almost invariably women but with the tacit support of their spouses. I was made very welcome in these houses but the foxes remained elusive like the pandas in the Kit Kat ad.

Once I sat for four and a half hours with a heavy camera and just got the exact shot only to push the button to find someone had put on the safety catch without telling me. The entire wait was wasted.

And we had a couple of visits from an awkward nosey neighbour who doesn't approve of foxes being encouraged! And the numbers who said to me "if you'd only told me - we have foxes in the back garden!" Of course you do, darling, half Dublin seems to.

But there is a hell of a difference between catching a glimpse of a fox out of the corner of your eye, or even feeding them every night and persuading the damn things to stand still long enough to take a decent photo.

They have the most acute senses, especially hearing and smell. They also work by indirection. So many times I was in a hide and the fox would make a pass in the distance, deliberately ignoring the food left out. Then he would cross back the other way a little closer gradually coming to a point where contact was actually made with the food.

As luck would have it a week after the film was broadcast I was going to a friend's in Monkstown and across the road ambled the most beautiful fox, brush extended, first across one section and then the other half of the dual carriageway unhurried, unfazed, wild and beautiful. Any wonder so many people lose their heart to the fox?

Vet's fox hunting views rubbished

A veterinary surgeon interviewed recently on RTE's Marian Finucane show made the absurd claim that those who oppose her pastime of hunting do not understand country life.

Her statement raises questions about the knowledge conveyed to vets in training with regard to hunting's integral cruelty. Surely the chasing and evisceration of a wild animal with a pack of dogs is contrary to the ethos of the veterinary profession.

Another reason why vets should avoid acting as apologists for hunting is that it causes serious worry and financial loss to farmers, a significant part of their clientele.

For several decades now, the media has been warning farmers about the dangers posed by hunters and their hounds.

In August 1972, "The Irish Horseman" carried an article entitled "Foxhounds in this country found to be hosts of difficult parasites". In the Veterinary Record of May 24th, 1986, a report informed readers that "a major factor in the rejection of lamb livers for human consumption is parasitic infestation from hunt hounds."

From "The Irish Farmers' Journal" of 3rd February 1996, readers learned that sarcocystosis is a brain disease of sheep associated with contamination of pastures by foxhounds. Severe problems, according to that report, were encountered in flocks investigated by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

These are just a sample of the threats which hunting groups continue to pose to the livelihoods of farmers. The seriousness of the situation is reflected in the growing number of landowners who are prohibiting hunts from accessing their property.

These farmers know all about the damage to grass and boundary fences caused by hunts; they know how the unfortunate fox deliberately runs through flocks of sheep and cows in an attempt to mask its scent and confuse the hounds.

Such livestock scatter when the pack of hounds come charging through and in a bid to escape, they risk injury and death. Pregnant animals are at an even greater risk and have been known to abort as a result of the stress.

From this, it is clear that farmers who care about their livestock, their livelihoods and the overall biosecurity of their farms have no other option but to tell hunts to stay away.

For a vet to claim that those who oppose hunts do not understand country life is a complete nonsense. Dick Power.

Shooting and golfing collide at Dromoland

Golfers out for an afternoon's enjoyment were shocked and disgusted when dead birds began falling from the sky on to the course.

The incident at Dromoland Castle Golf Club was described in the Irish Sun by a golfer from Limerick.

Marcus O'Brien stated: "We were forced to watch the horrendous slaughter of some of the most beautiful wildlife. We were captive on the tee for 20 minutes, while dead and partly dismembered birds rained down."

"Our game of golf was ruined and I have been left with terrible images," he added. "We'd just gone for quiet round."

Shooting is among the activities offered on the Dromoland Castle estate. A photo on the venue's website shows a man standing in the grass pointing a gun skywards.

With the sound of gunfire in the background, it is difficult to understand how the owners can claim that Dromoland is a "tranquil world [where] the worries of life recede".

Hares released in injured state

Two seriously injured hares were released into the wild after a coursing meeting in Milltown Malbay last October.

The Conservation Ranger who attended noted on his report that one hare had an eye injury and another had a severely injured back leg. He decided not to put down this hare, but felt that "its survival chances were minimal."

ICABS finds it very disturbing that veterinary attention was not sought for these two hares and another hare which the ranger noted on Day 1 with "a fairly severe cut above a front leg". The fate of this hare is unknown as the ranger did not see it again.

Roche renews licence despite strong appeal

Despite impassioned appeals from Ireland and all over the world, the Environment Minister, Dick Roche, has issued a hare netting licence to the Irish Coursing Club for another season.

ICABS issued a strong appeal to Minister Roche, asking him to refuse a further licence to the coursers, and to call on the ICC to implement mechanical lure coursing. In our submission, we highlighted abuses and licence breaches during the last season, revealed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Detailed in NPWS reports relating to the last coursing season were instances of hare kills and injuries; severely injured hares released into the wild; 20 hares which appeared to be suffering from malnutrition; leverets left orphaned in a coursing compound indicating that pregnant hares had been captured and coursed; hares found dead in boxes after a four and a half hour journey; suspected re-coursing of hares; discrepancies in hare numbers and obstruction of Rangers in carrying out their duties.

The Minister's response was to sanction just two clubs for obstructing the rangers, by withdrawing their licence (now under appeal) and to add on new conditions to the licence stating that pregnant hares should not be taken from the wild, a vet must be present at every meeting and that returns should be made on how many hares were captured and from where.

There are now 20 conditions attached to the hare netting licence and these are almost impossible to enforce due to lack of NPWS manpower and time constraints.

As regards the new condition that pregnant hares shall not be netted from the wild, this is going to be extremely difficult to implement for obvious reasons, not least because of the questionable knowledge and expertise of hare catchers.

And what of the nursing mothers that get caught in the nets, leaving orphaned leverets behind in the wild to die of starvation? As for giving returns of how many hares were netted and from where, again this is impossible to police as figures supplied by coursers could not be relied upon, and NPWS staff will not have the time to supervise the coursers while out on their forays.

Piling on more and more conditions that are routinely flouted by the coursers will never address the core issue - coursing is inherently cruel. The only answer is mechanical lure coursing.

Minister Roche holding sheets of paper and Courser holding dead hare by its back legs
Environment Minster, Dick Roche, has issued another licence which allows coursers to abuse hares for their blood sport.

Hares could face extinction says UCD zoology lecturer

The Irish Hare species could be "vulnerable to extinction", a senior zoology lecturer at University College Dublin has stated.

Dr Tom Hayden's comment appeared in the Irish Times (7th May 2005) in response to the question: Is the Irish Hare endangered?

He stated: "We are not entirely clear about distribution patterns, whether the national population consists of an isolated sub-population which would be more vulnerable to extinction."

Referring to the findings of a hare survey carried out on Bull Island between 1990 and 1994, he added that "isolated populations are always vulnerable".

Dr Tom Hayden is co-author with Rory Harrington of Exploring Irish Mammals. He is also a member of the Mammal Research Group and has a particular interest in the ecology, reproduction, social organisation and mating systems of mammals, the evolution and ecology of deer and the population and biochemical genetics of mammals.

Survey of hares to finally commence

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been calling for a national hare survey for more than 15 years, and now, finally, we are pleased to report that it looks set to soon begin.

The Department of the Environment has announced that the survey, the first ever all-Ireland census of hares, would be underway by Autumn 2005.

The Department's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) division sought tenders from those with the relevant expertise and the applicants were asked to consider the following objectives:

- Establish the distribution of the Irish hare in Ireland.

- Provide density estimates for the Irish hare according to land class and geographic region.

- Provide the basis for future monitoring of the conservation status of the Irish hare.

- Establish the distribution of the brown hare in Ireland.

Although around 90 NPWS employees have previous surveying experience, their existing workload will permit only half of them to partake in the hare survey. Each will be able to liaise with the successful contractor for a total of 3-4 days.

ICABS was concerned to note in the tender notice that one of the aspects of the project will be "a review of data returned to NPWS licensing section by the Irish Coursing Club (1988-2004)".

In an email to Ronan Whelan of the NPWS, we asked for any unverified data from the ICC to be discounted. We referred to our own analysis of such data, pointing out the discrepancies we found between it and information recorded by the NPWS.

Examples provided included a Westport coursing meeting where a conservation ranger recorded seven hares killed and the ICC claimed that no hares were killed. At a meeting in Killimer/Kilrush, ICC figures present a mortality figure of three while a National Parks ranger who observed the coursing documented 10 kills.

"Most coursing meetings have escaped the direct attention of NPWS and Department of Agriculture staff over the years," we stated. "Based on our findings, we suspect that coursers routinely distort figures relating to hare kills and hare releases."

Another item in the tender notice we responded to is the listing of capture-recapture as one of the suggested survey techniques. Asking the NPWS to disallow this (or any method which causes a disturbance to hares), we reminded them how hares are vulnerable to capture myopathy, a potentially fatal stress-induced condition.

A final report, based on the hare survey findings, is expected in June 2007. We will bring you more news and updates on the survey as soon as they become available to us.

Hunt holiday project approved €30,000

ICABS has urged the administrators of a LEADER programme in County Clare to stop giving grants to hunt-related projects.

The call comes following the discovery that the operators of a hunting holiday business were approved a massive grant of €30,000.

The money was for the restoration of farm buildings into "a two-bedroom apartment for all-inclusive hunting holiday packages". It was approved by Rural Resource Development, a company which administers LEADER in Clare.

Registering our disappointment to RRD, we stressed the animal cruelty involved in hunting.

Projects Officer, Gerard Kennedy, promised that our complaint would be brought to the attention of the company board at their next meeting.

ACTION ITEM

Please urge RRD to give a commitment that they will disregard any further applications for hunt-related grants.

Gerard Kennedy
Projects Officer
Rural Resource Development
Shannon Business Centre
Shannon, Co Clare.
Tel: 061-361144
Email: info@rrd.ie

Travellers group slams ICC claim as "outrageous"

A human rights organisation working on behalf of Irish travellers has reacted angrily to an Irish Coursing Club claim that travellers are involved in illegal coursing.

A spokesperson for Dublin-based Pavee Point Travellers Centre described the claim as "outrageous".

The accusation appears in a report obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act. It details a meeting between the Irish Coursing Club and officials from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The document reveals that: "The Irish Coursing Club stated that there is a significant problem countrywide with itinerants coursing illegally. NPWS advised that if any particular information was available regarding any unlawful coursing activity, it should be made available to local conservation management staff who will endeavour to pursue the matter."

Responding to the statement, Martin Collins, Assistant Director of Pavee Point, stressed that the organisation "is appalled at the practice of hare coursing, both illegal and legal."

"We find it outrageous that the ICC could make such a claim that 'there is a significant problem countrywide with itinerants coursing illegally' without any supporting evidence whatsoever," he stated.

Mr Collins was also critical of the use of the word "itinerants" in the NPWS report.

"The term 'itinerants' is extremely offensive and is a term that should not be used," he commented. "When being quoted in minutes by an organisation, especially a government body such as the National Parks & Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, quote marks should be used around the offending term."

Though condemning hare coursing, Mr Collins stated in a letter to ICABS that "travellers historically and traditionally are involved in hunting which is quite different from coursing."

"Hunting, which takes place in wide open spaces where there is at least the chance for the hare to escape, is quite different from coursing in an enclosed space such as practised by the Irish Coursing Club," he added.

In reply, ICABS asked Pavee Point to consider highlighting the current plight of the Irish Hare in a future edition of their newsletter.

"It is widely believed that hare numbers are low and that any exploitation of the species could impact fragile local populations," we pointed out. "The suspension of all forms of hare hunting would help to facilitate the recovery of this, one of Ireland's oldest species."

Parking tickets for fox hunters

Followers of the County Clare Foxhounds returned to their cars after a hunt to find they had received parking tickets.

According to a report in The Irish Field, the vehicles "were deemed to be causing an obstruction to traffic". The tickets were said to have "put a damper on an otherwise enjoyable day".

ICABS has written to the traffic division of Clare County Council to applaud them for the tickets.

"Over the years we have observed hunt members and hunt followers causing obstruction, inconvenience and danger to motorists," we stated in our letter. "Despite this, it appears that action is rarely taken by local road safety officers. It is especially heartening, therefore, to learn of the parking tickets in County Clare."

If you spot hunts obstructing or causing inconvenience or danger to motorists or pedestrians, please immediately contact the Gardai and/or your local traffic warden.

Hunting and coursing could prove "final straw" for hares

The Ulster Wildlife Trust has warned that hare hunting and coursing could finish off vulnerable hare populations.

Listing the activities as one of several threats to the species, the Trust states that they "may prove to be the final straw for some of the more isolated populations".

"The hares' problems mostly involve habitat, food and shelter loss," the statement outlines. "They need a varied diet of herbs and grasses, low levels of disturbance and adequate shelter for lying up during the day."

Low levels of disturbance are certainly not possible as long as coursing and hare hunting continue. In contrast to Northern Ireland where it remains illegal to take hares from the wild, the species is still persecuted south of the border.

Hares are taken from their natural habitat and subjected to gross interference by coursing clubs.

Protest at caging of birds at Belvedere

Belvedere birds
Flight cancelled: Just some of the birds kept captive at Belvedere House's falconry centre. A sleepy owl squints against the sunlight while a falcon and owl sit awkwardly on perches. Like many of the birds at Belvedere, a restraint is attached to their feet to prevent them from escaping. (Photos: Philip Kiernan)

ICABS turned down an invitation to attend a Birdwatch Ireland-organised event held in Mullingar.

The guided walk through the grounds of Belvedere House and Gardens was part of a nationwide Dawn Chorus Day event to promote the beauty of birdsong.

ICABS declined the invitation from Westmeath County Council's Heritage Officer in protest at the caging of birds at Belvedere.

A recently opened falconry centre at the venue sees some of nature's most magnificent birds incarcerated. We find the sight of any bird being denied flight to be very depressing.

Among the birds on show are eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. We understand that the only opportunity they get to fly is during daily demonstrations.

Disturbing photographs taken at the centre, show the birds with a short restraint attached to their feet. At feeding time, they sit on perches eating dead day-old chicks (by-products of factory farming).

When we reported the situation to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, we were told that the operators of the falconry centre had been issued with a licence to keep the birds in captivity.

"We think it is ironic that the Dawn Chorus event which celebrates the beauty of birds is being held at a venue which finds it acceptable to keep birds in captivity," ICABS stated in a letter to Birdwatch Ireland. We appealed to the bird conservation group to join us in an appeal to the management of Belvedere House to scrap the falconry centre.

To listen to a Mooney Goes Wild recording of a dawn chorus, please visit www.rte.ie/radio/dawnchorus

ACTION ITEM

Please write to Belvedere House management to express your views on the keeping of birds in captivity.

Bartle D'Arcy, General Manager
Belvedere House
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Ireland.
Tel: 044-49060. Fax: 044-49002
Email: info@belvedere-house.ie
CC: mnugent@westmeathcoco.ie

I love hare coursing:
FG Environment Spokesperson admits support for blood sport

Tom Hayes, the Fine Gael TD for Tipperary South, has admitted that he loves coursing and hare hunting. The admission came during a recent Dail debate on fur farming in Ireland.

"I attended six coursing meetings in the past few months and I did not see one hare killed," claimed the Deputy Spokesperson on the Environment with Special Responsibility for Heritage & Rural Affairs. "I love what is good in rural Ireland, whether it is coursing, hunting hares, beagling or whatever, and I believe there is a strong agenda to stop those sports."

"I represent a constituency that is proud of its heritage in the coursing and animal welfare world," he added. "I welcome the opportunity to make these brief comments because I speak on behalf of many people who love rural Ireland, the sports we stand for and, above all, who love the animals and the land of Ireland."

ICABS has written to the Fine Gael Head Office to complain about the comments made by Deputy Hayes. Pointing out that party leader, Enda Kenny, is opposed to hare coursing, we asked for clarification on the party's official policy on coursing and all blood sports.

Other Tipperary TDs on record as being in favour of hare coursing are Maire Hoctor and Noel Davern - both Fianna Fail representatives.

Tom Hayes
Coursing supporter: Fine Gael TD, Tom Hayes.

ACTION ITEM

Please write to Fine Gael Head Office and express your disgust at Tom Hayes' offensive comments about coursing. Remind the party that eight in ten Irish people want coursing banned and ask for clarification on the current party policy on blood sports.

Fine Gael Head Office
51 Upper Mount Street
Dublin 2
Tel: 01 619 8444
Fax: 01 662 5046 or 01 662 7648
Email: finegael@finegael.com

New online petition is launched

ICABS has launched a new online petition calling on the government to ban blood sports. The petition makes it easier for people in Ireland and around the world to register their opposition to fox hunting, coursing, carted deer hunting and all forms of hunting with hounds.

The petition can be accessed by visiting www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/784506550 or by clicking on the link on the Petitions page of the ICABS website.

Simply type in your name, email address and country before clicking on "Preview" and then on "Add my Signature".

Please sign the petition today and encourage as many others as possible to do so too!

A range of paper petitions are still available to download from our website. These include "Ban Blood Sports in Ireland", "Ban Bullfighting" and "Stop the badger snaring slaughter". The latest addition (with thanks to Mary Muldoon) is the Irish language petition "Cuirtear cosc le spoirt fola in Eirinn."

Don't worry if you do not have a printer. Just contact us and we can post you out copies of the petitions you require.

Completed petitions are forwarded to the relevant Government Ministers to remind them about the massive opposition to blood sports.

Thank you to everyone who has signed and collected signatures for the petitions since the last edition of Animal Voice.

Hares die during 140-mile journey
Conservation ranger contends cruelty and criminal negligence

A Conservation Ranger from the National Parks & Wildlife Service has stated that the transportation of hares from Limerick to Leitrim following a coursing meeting could constitute cruelty and criminal negligence. The four and a half hour journey left three hares dead.

In a report to his boss, the ranger outlined how he had been asked to take delivery of 14 hares which had been coursed at Doon, Co Limerick on Sunday, December 5th, 2004.

He detailed how the trailer, containing the hares in wooden boxes, had set out at 3.30pm following the coursing meeting and arrived in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, at 8pm.

At the first release, one hare was found to be dead, and at the second, there was another dead hare and a hare that appeared to be stunned and didn't move.

According to the ranger, some attempts to assist or coax the hare failed. The animal remained upright but was lying on the ground with its rear legs out behind it. The ranger believed it was injured.

In his report, he described the scene as follows: "On returning to the 'shocked' hare, it had not made any progress. Some more attempts were made to raise it to its feet, and these failed. The hare again tried and succeeded in raising its front legs to run, but failed to raise its back or hind quarters off the ground. It tried dragging itself, but lacked the strength.

"I said I believed the hare to be both physically injured in its back and dying. I questioned its possible need for water. It was brought to a nearby stream to see if it would drink. On being put down on the ground, it again made a feeble effort to move but failed, it being very weak. I said I didn't think it was going to survive long and that I wasn't going to leave it. On lifting it in my hands, it expired."

The ranger went on to say: "I contend that there is a very serious animal welfare issue in transporting 'protected' wild animals (which are recognised as being 'timid' of nature and normally spatially dispersed) over long distances of miles and time. Particularly so in having been previously coursed on the day and preceding day for entertainment.

"If there are insufficient hares in a region, this may indicate a loss of suitable habitat and/or that the hares in the area cannot sustain the level of coursing activity. This may be being masked by the netting and transporting of hares from other regions where coursing is not practised.

"I contend that there are welfare, ethical and possible legal considerations for our Department that is charged with the duty of protecting the country's wildlife heritage. I further contend that this 4 hour, 140-mile long journey for a sentient animal with a serious physical injury in a bouncing, rattling trailer constitutes cruelty and criminal negligence."

Hunting has contributed to hare's "threatened" status

The Irish Independent has placed the hare alongside the corncrake and the Marsh Fritillary Butterfly as species under severe threat in Ireland.

The 23rd May article, entitled "An unnatural disaster: our dying wildlife", makes for depressing reading as the top 10 threatened species are presented alongside 10 species which have already become extinct here.

Referring to the Irish Hare, the Independent highlights how "hunting has affected its numbers" and that it is "only found in significant numbers on Bull Island in Dublin and a Wexford reserve".

The species listed as being under threat are: Grey Partridge, Corncrake (just 200 remaining), Marsh Fritillary Butterfly, Little Tern, Red Squirrel, Purple Hairstreak Butterfly, Red Deer ("It has largely died out because of hunting and a depletion of its natural woodland and forest habitat"), Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Wild Atlantic Salmon and the Irish Hare.

Among the species now extinct in Ireland are: Corn Bunting, Bittern, Great Auk ("Ireland's only flightless bird"; extinct here and worldwide), Red-necked Phalarope, Crane, Wolf ("hunted out of existence in the 1700s"), Wild Boar, Cricket, Sea Eagle ("shot and poisoned out of existence") and Brown Bear.

Bishops don't condone priests blessing hunts

The Irish Bishops' Conference have announced that they do not condone the blessing of hunts by members of the clergy.

A letter to ICABS from Executive Secretary, Reverend Aidan O'Boyle, confirmed that the "involvement of some members of the clergy in blood sports" had been discussed in recent times by the bishops at their quarterly meetings in Maynooth.

However, while stressing that the Bishops' Conference "would not condone the practice of priests blessing foxhunts", he indicated that it was an issue to be dealt with locally.

"The Bishops' Conference is of the view that the practice of priests blessing foxhunts, and indeed the regulation of access to Church land for hunts, is a matter for the local diocese where these practices are happening," he wrote.

ICABS welcomes the bishops' condemnation of hunt blessings and hope that the individual bishops which make up the Conference will act at a local level to prevent further such blessings.

We will continue to press the Catholic authorities to unequivocally denounce blood sports and to prevent priests from partaking in these cruel activities.

A small minority of priests around Ireland continue to flout the Catechism of the Catholic Church by supporting or partaking in foxhunting and hare coursing activities. According to paragraph 2418 of the Catechism, "it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer and die needlessly."

Paragraph 2416 states the following: "Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals."

ACTION ITEM

Please contact Reverend O'Boyle to express your approval of the Irish Bishops' condemnation of hunt blessings. Ask him to convey to the bishops that the time has now come for the Church to join the call for a ban on blood sports in Ireland. Quote paragraphs 2416 and 2418 of the Catholic Catechism.

Reverend Aidan O'Boyle
Executive Secretary
Irish Bishops' Conference
Columba Centre
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Tel: +353 (0)1-505 3020
Fax: +353 (0)1-629 2360
Email: ex.sec@iecon.ie

Injured deer chased by "thugs in jeeps"

A Kildare woman was so shocked at seeing a deer being chased by "thugs in their jeeps" that she contacted the Gardai and followed this up by giving an on-air description of the incident on local CKR Radio.

ICABS made contact with the woman and she forwarded us the following account of what she witnessed: "While driving home in early February on the road from Summerhill to Kilcock, I was shocked at the sight of what I met - a beautiful, fully grown deer being chased by a convoy of thugs in their jeeps.

"The deer's back was all torn and it was terrified. The jeeps were followed by a hunt and a pack of dogs. What a sight on a main road in front of children. I try and teach my children to be kind to animals and now my grandchildren will be taught the same."

Another disturbing deerhunt-related incident was brought to our attention the following month. A caller left a message on the office answering machine, alleging that during a hunt in Kilmessan in March, a terrified deer attempted to jump a wall to evade capture, fell back off it and broke its neck.

ICABS sent both of these reports to Minister Dick Roche, who licenses deerhunting with dogs, and also to Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, who is responsible for animal welfare legislation.

Hares under threat: Westmeath Council

A leaflet published by the Westmeath County Council has labelled the Irish hare as a threatened species in Ireland.

The "Biodiversity & Development in County Westmeath" leaflet states that "species of fauna whose population is under threat include the Irish Hare and the Corncrake."

The leaflet was jointly published by the County Council, Westmeath County Heritage Forum and The Heritage Council. A copy can be downloaded from: www.heritagecouncil.ie/local/Westmeath_Householders.pdf

Mounted hunters must now have horse passports

All horses and ponies must now be accompanied by an identity passport before they can be moved. The recently introduced European Communities (Equine Stud-book and Competition) Regulations 2004 compel the owners of such animals to have the document in their possession before transporting them from their premises.

The regulations mean that every horse used by Irish hunts will have to be registered at a cost of between 35 and 50 Euro.

An article in the Irish Horse section of the Farmers Journal explained that horses without the passports will be breaking the law.

"The hunting fraternity will have to ensure that all hunters have passports as the followers could be in a very vulnerable position," the article stated. "They could find themselves, without a passport, in a public place illegally and should a serious accident occur, the insurance company could have a great excuse for not settling a claim."

If you suspect hunt participants are not in possession of an identity passport for their horses, please notify the Gardai immediately.

According to section 12 of the regulations, an officer appointed by the Minister for Agriculture "may, if accompanied by a member of the Garda Siochana in uniform, stop any vehicle which he or she reasonably suspects to contain a horse, identification document, stud-book or part of a stud-book or any article, book, document or other record associated with an identification document or a stud-book maintained by an approved body".

"Where an authorised officer finds or comes into possession of any article, book, document or other record which he or she reasonably believes to be evidence of the commission of an offence under these Regulations, he or she may seize it and detain it for use in evidence in a prosecution under these Regulations," it adds.

Those who are caught committing an offence under the regulations are liable to an on-the-spot fine of €100 or up to €3,000 if convicted.

Toyota urged to scrap another offensive ad

Toyota Ireland was urged in April to scrap a radio advertisement which described cats as disgusting.

The ad for the company's Corolla car revolved around two women discussing their likes and dislikes. One of statements made by them is: "cats are disgusting."

ICABS contacted Toyota to complain about the advert. We expressed our disgust that this unnecessary slur on cats was allowed to be included in the ad and that it was offensive to the thousands of cat owners around Ireland. Toyota, however, said they had no plans to stop using it.

Sadly, this is not the first time ICABS has had to contact Toyota about its adverts. In 1998, the company was urged to withdraw a TV ad in which a Starlet car assumed the role of a matador and confronted a bull in an arena.

ACTION ITEM

Please make a complaint to Toyota and ask them to refrain from using anti-animal themes in future advertising campaigns. Toyota Motor Centre
Customer Relations Dept
Merrion Road, Dublin 4.
Tel: 01 4190222
Email: customerservice@toyota.ie

KSPCA alerted to coursing sponsorship

An animal welfare group due to benefit from a Boylesports-sponsored fund-raiser has been told that the company is a coursing supporter.

An advert in the Irish Field newspaper in March outlined that proceeds from the "Cheltenham Preview Evening" were to go to the Kildare SPCA.

Those who purchased tickets for the event would be entered into a prize draw, the advert stated. Among the prizes on offer were "free bets from Boylesports".

In our correspondence to the KSPCA, we detailed how "Boylesports is one of the handful of remaining companies in Ireland who shamelessly sponsor hare coursing." The company also accepts bets on coursing and has publicised coursing results on its website.

This is the not the first fund-raising-related controversy connected to the KSPCA. In 1999, we highlighted how a letter sent by the group to local supporters in a bid to secure donations, stressed that the KSPCA was "not against field sports".

We understand that, at the time, steps were taken to discipline and possibly disaffiliate the branch on the grounds that it was contravening the part of the ISPCA constitution which states that member societies must adhere to official policies about the use of animals in sport and entertainment.

Garda investigation into missing hares
Who are the culprits - coursers or fence-cutting vandals?

According to a report obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, Gardai were called in to investigate criminal damage and the disappearance of a large number of hares from the coursing compound in East Donegal in November of last year, following a coursing meeting.

The report stated that the Conservation Ranger and the Licensing Section of the National Parks & Wildlife Service had received "several anonymous calls in November alleging that the hares to be used by the East Donegal club had come from a meeting in Limerick."

The Conservation Rangers had arranged with the club to monitor the release of hares after the meeting, but when they arrived at the coursing compound, they noticed that the fence had been cut and a large number of hares were missing. They gathered up the remaining 21 hares, and noted two dead hares along the fence. The club had 73 hares in its possession at the beginning of the three day event, according to the rangers.

"I am aware that NPWS have had difficulties with this club in the past," stated the ranger. The club are claiming the incident was "vandalism and criminal damage", but the ranger raised the possibility that the hares may have been ear-marked for further use at a future coursing meeting.

Two hares running along boundary fence with courser walking in background
Hares incarcerated in a coursing enclosure. Gardai are probing the disappearance of hares from a similar compound in Donegal.

Ranger rescues leverets from coursers

Sixteen leverets found in a coursing compound in Co Offaly were rescued by a National Parks and Wildlife Service conservation ranger. ICABS learned of the ranger's laudable action from documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The very young leverets were found last October while the ranger was counting hares held by the Edenderry Coursing Club.

Their presence in the enclosure indicates that pregnant hares were netted from the wild and gave birth while in captivity.

The fact that pregnant hares are among the thousands netted by coursers every year can be explained by the fact that Irish hares are known to give birth in at least 11 months of the year. With a gestation period of 52 days, any female over the age of one year may be pregnant or nursing at virtually any time of the year.

Given that the Edenderry club started with around 70 hares and ran 104 courses over their two day meeting, it is possible that some or all of the nursing mothers were used as lures at this meeting.

This incident points to another reason why the taking of hares from the wild for coursing should be banned.

Netting pregnant hares and nursing females (whose leverets will almost certainly die when left behind to fend for themselves) is cruel and inhumane. There is no doubt that both contribute to the decline in the hare population.

According to NPWS records, three hares died at the Edenderry meeting after being hit by greyhounds. As for the leverets, we understand that they were brought to a wildlife sanctuary by the ranger.

Hunters to benefit from Stena's ferry discount

Hunters affected by the British blood sports ban may be among those to benefit from a ferry company discount. Stena Line, which operates five ferry routes from the UK to Ireland, is currently offering members of the Countryside Alliance a 10 per cent discount.

Countryside Alliance campaigns for the continuance of "country sports" which, they state, are "central to our vision for a sustainable countryside". Among those on the board of Countryside Alliance Ireland is Jerry Desmond of the Irish Coursing Club.

In a letter to Stena's head office in Sweden, ICABS expressed our objection to this discount. We also asked what their policy is in relation to hare coursing, foxhunting and other cruel pursuits.

"These activities are now illegal in England, Scotland and Wales," we stated. "Stena Line's discount could act as an incentive for those involved in blood sports to travel to Ireland where they unfortunately remain legal."

We added that since the majority of Irish people are opposed to blood sports, it is very probable that a majority of the company's Irish-based customers would also object to the discount.

In a reply from the company's Dun Laoghaire office in August, Communications & PR Manager, Eamonn Hewitt stated:

"To my knowledge none of the pursuits [which CA are involved in] are illegal in Ireland...In no way do we condone cruelty to animals nor do we see our offer to Countryside Alliance as support or subsidisation of blood sports."

White ship moving from left to right
Stena Line discount could result in more UK hunters being shipped to Ireland to abuse Irish hares, foxes and deer.

ACTION ITEM

Please ask Stena to stop offering discounts which could encourage hunters to come to Ireland to kill our wildlife.

Joakim Kenndal
Stena Line, Head office
SE-405 19 Goteborg
Sweden.
Tel: +46(0)31 85 81 80
Fax: +465 (0)31 24 10 38
Email: info@stenaline.com

Eamonn Hewitt, PR Manager
Stena Line, The Ferry Terminal
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Tel: 01-2047617 Fax: 01-2047630
Email: eamonn.hewitt@stenaline.com

Thousands of UK coursers set sights on Irish hares

As if hares aren't under enough pressure from existing hunting and coursing activities, things could get even worse for the species.

With coursing stopped in Northern Ireland and banned in the rest of the UK, coursers from outside the Republic have announced their intention to travel here to terrorise Irish hares.

Last season, Northern coursers prohibited from catching hares were able to continue their coursing by simply hopping over the border to join forces with clubs in Cavan and Donegal. Now, according to a Sunday Times report, thousands of British coursing enthusiasts are looking to Irish events.

A spokesperson for the National Coursing Club in England was reported as saying that "there is a long tradition of English going to Ireland and vice versa, but with the ban there will certainly be greater interest."

"Ireland is the only other country which has a coursing tradition similar to here, particularly open coursing in Co Cork," he added.

Thank you to politicians

ICABS wishes to thank all the politicians who have helped us with the campaign over the past year.

TDs, Senators, MEPs and Councillors from all political parties are among those who have joined us in our bid to try and persuade the government to rid Ireland of blood sport cruelty.

We thank them for their valuable help and look forward to their continued support in the months ahead.

U-turn on "bad animal husbandry" response

In the last edition of Animal Voice, we reported how 40 hares died following a coursing meeting in New Ross in 2003, with a veterinary surgeon citing stress as the cause.

"Under the influence of stress, the hare's immune system is compromised," stated veterinary surgeon, Peter Murphy, in a letter to the National Parks & Wildlife Service. "Hares being normally solitary animals are significantly stressed when corralled and coursed, and this combination of circumstances has resulted in the deaths in this case."

The death of the hares led to the NPWS Regional Manager for the New Ross area, Eamonn Meskell, recommending that the Wexford & District Coursing club should be excluded from holding a meeting in December 2004.

In a memo to the National Director of the NPWS, Dr Alan Craig, he stated that "it appears that in this instance bad animal husbandry was displayed." It was subsequently decided that this club should be refused a licence by the NPWS and they were advised accordingly.

However, the club appealed the decision, and Dr Craig relented, agreeing to a scaled down event. He was, he said, "satisfied that the very uniqueness of the outcome (ie the deaths of 40 hares) meant that it could not have been predicted".

But what must have been clear to all and sundry is that hares were sick over the 2 day coursing meeting, with the Conservation Ranger who monitored the event stating that "it was obvious that the hares were not in good condition."

He recorded that eleven hares were hit by dogs on the first day of coursing with six dead the following morning. The next day it was the same, with hares "not willing" to run and four being hit by the dogs.

It seems abundantly clear to ICABS that it was observed on day 1 that the hares "were not in good condition" and yet, the meeting went ahead on day 2 with nobody crying halt.

So why didn't the NPWS prosecute the Wexford & District club for this apparent breach of a licence condition? After all, the licence granted to the coursers states unequivocally that "hares that become sick or injured while in captivity may not be coursed." This question is one which the NPWS needs to urgently answer.

ACTION ITEM

Contact Dr Craig and ask him why the Wexford & District Coursing Club were not prosecuted for apparently breaching licence condition number 9 at a coursing meeting in December 2003. Cite the evidence of the conservation ranger as outlined above.

Dr Alan Craig
Director, NPWS
7 Ely Place, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-6472342
Lo-call: 1890 20 20 21
Email: acraig@duchas.ie

Bardot backs coursing ban

ICABS is delighted to report that Brigitte Bardot has expressed her support for our campaign against coursing.

Brigitte (pictured) has signed our "Stop the Terror - Ban Hare Coursing" campaign postcard, a copy of which we have forwarded to the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and the Minister for the Environment. We have also notified every Irish TD and Senator of Brigitte's desire to see this cruel activity ended in Ireland.

In a letter received by ICABS from Paris-based Fondation Brigitte Bardot, it was stated that "Brigitte Bardot supports the banning of hare coursing and the use of an artificial lure instead".

ICABS has thanked Mrs Bardot for this positive gesture of support and we hope it will encourage many others to come forward and work with us to ban this blood sport in Ireland.

For more information about the Brigitte Bardot Foundation and its international campaigns, please visit www.fondationbrigittebardot.fr

Smiling Brigitte holding white dog
Campaign supporter, Brigitte Bardot.

Heritage Council confirms hare as declining species

The Heritage Council has become the latest to voice concern over the status of the Irish Hare population.

In a review of the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS), the council describes the hare as a species in decline.

The review points to certain styles of farming as being crucial to achieving nature conservation objectives over large areas.

Maintaining these will be the only effective, long term way to protect animals, plants and invertebrates, the statement outlines, adding that this applies "not only to a range of widespread, but declining, species, such as the cuckoo, yellowhammer or hare, but also to rarities, such as the marsh fritillary butterfly."

The Heritage Council goes on to identify several weaknesses in the REPS scheme which can adversely affect wildlife and habitats.

Among these are: REPS planners putting farmers first instead of the aims of the scheme - "their appreciation of the ecology of farmland is coloured by their own, often agricultural, training."

The scheme engendering the attitude that "more wildlife means more restrictions" instead of conveying that more wildlife means more reasons for farmers to feel proud of their contribution to conservation.

REPS planners failing to recognise certain types of important habitats or areas of natural heritage value on farms.

The administration of the REPS scheme by Department of Agriculture staff is also pinpointed as being potentially problematic.

The Heritage Council states: "Some of the most interesting elements of Ireland's heritage do not conform to a simple pattern of clearly compartmentalised blocks, making for understandable administrative difficulties. However, this should not be seen as an excuse."

To read the full text of the REPS review, please visit: www.heritagecouncil.ie/publications/rural/reps_general.html.

Hunters relocate to Ireland in bid to avoid British ban

An Ireland on Sunday article has highlighted how hunters from the UK are queuing up to move to Ireland. With a hunting ban now in place in England, Wales and Scotland, Ireland has apparently become a prime destination.

Two foxhunters who recently moved from Kent to Tipperary were quoted in the January 9th article as saying: "Some people are bound to want to move when the [UK] ban is implemented."

This was confirmed by an estate agent contacted by the newspaper who said the pair are "only the first of many British blood sports enthusiasts interested in moving to Ireland".

It's a development which is sure to infuriate landowners who are already plagued by hunts coming on to their land. Among the problems landowners here have to deal with are hounds disturbing livestock (sometimes resulting in injury and death), the spread of diseases as hunts move cross country from one farm to the next, damaged land and crops and the destruction of boundary fences and ditches.

If you are a landowner, please make your property off limits to the hunt. If you have friends or family who have land in areas where hunting takes place, please appeal to them to close their land to hunts. To download and print a "No Hunting" sign, please visit the "Farmers" section of the ICABS website. Why not distribute some of our "Troubled by the Hunt" leaflets to landowners in your area. The leaflet offers advice on how to keep hunts off land. Please get in touch with us now for copies.

Hare-friendly tips for landowners

Landowners and farmers who wish to play their part in helping local hare populations are being asked to consider the following hare-friendly tips. More details can be found on the Ulster Wildlife Trust website.

Maintain varied grass species in pasture. Reduce dominance of ryegrass species (Lolium spp). Defer cutting of grass - to reduce leveret mortality. Reduce stocking levels of livestock; notably cattle and sheep. Reduce application of Nitrogen-based fertilisers that stimulate competitive grasses. Manage hedgerows for biodiversity. Maintain habitat variety, with plenty of cover.

Please copy this list and pass it on to friends, family and neighbours who are landowners. Ask them to take positive action to help the Irish Hare.

Judge orders destruction of duck shoot shotgun

ICABS has urged Westmeath County Council to remove a gun club sign from a public pathway in the village of Ballynacargy.

The call comes following a court case which revealed how a man shot tame ducks which swam close to the Royal Canal path.

At Mullingar District Court, Judge John Neilan heard how Paul Lonican (22) of 51 Ginnell Terrace, Mullingar arrived in Ballynacargy at 6.30 on the morning of September 12th 2004.

Using a licensed shotgun, Mr Lonican shot the ducks. A person who accompanied him had lured the birds into the line of fire using bits of bread.

Quoted in the Westmeath Examiner of 2nd July 2005, defending solicitor, Fiona Hunt, said it was the duck-shooting season at the time and that her client "didn't appreciate you could not shoot tame ducks". She went on to say that he was now ashamed of his actions.

Judge Neilan commented that it was understood that one didn't shoot at tame ducks. Garda McEntaggart pointed out that there are quite a few ducks in the harbour at Ballynacargy and that children enjoy feeding them.

The judge ordered the defendant to pay €1,000 which, he said, he hoped would be used by the villagers to replace the ducks they had lost. He adjourned the case to February 16th, 2006 and ordered the destruction of Mr Lonican's gun.

In our letter to the secretary of Westmeath County Council, we asked for the gun club's "Game Sanctuary - No Shooting" sign to be replaced.

"Considering that ducks were mercilessly slaughtered at this site by a shooter, it is unfortunate that those who enjoy walking along the pathway or feeding the ducks at this location are being reminded that members of a gun club continue to blast birds out of the sky in surrounding areas. We hope the council will replace this sign with an official "Wildlife Sanctuary - No Shooting" sign.

Two ducks swimming from right to left
A pair of ducks swimming happily in the normally tranquil waters of the Royal Canal at Ballynacargy, Co Westmeath. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Drag hunting praised on Pat Kenny radio show

Drag hunting was praised as a humane and fun alternative to foxhunting during RTE Radio 1's "Today" show in March.

Host Pat Kenny read out comments from a drag hunting enthusiast who phoned in following an interview, the previous day, with the author of a foxhunting book. During that interview, it was claimed that farmers would not welcome drag hunts on to their land.

"Many farmers are happy to allow draghunts on their lands," the caller insisted. "Access is given for more reasons than the slaughter of foxes. For example, a love of horses, a sense of community and the upholding of countryside traditions without the bloodshed."

The caller added: "On Sunday last, I was on a hunt with all the thrills of the chase. Over eighty riders jumping ditches, hedges, fences in the Kildare/Offaly countryside - with the agreement and encouragement of local farmers. Two to three hours later the thrills and spills are being recounted in a local pub without a fox having been touched...I have never hunted a fox and I don't regard them as vermin."

Fox hunted for over 3 hours in Limerick

A fox was pursued for over 3 hours during a hunting festival in County Limerick, the Irish Field newspaper has reported.

The eight day festival - praised by the paper as "a marathon of hunting" - was organised by Limerick's Abbeyfeale Harriers and involved several harrier and fox hunts.

"Plenty of foxes were found," the report stated, focussing particularly on the one which had to endure several hours of hunting during a Limerick Foxhounds outing.

"With no horses, [the huntsman] was in Wellingtons and a Barbour but his hounds hunted none the worse for that. They found and hunted the same fox for three hours and 10 minutes."

We can only imagine the poor state of the fox during and following this deadly pursuit.

Of course, the Irish Field didn't detail the condition the animal was in when the hunt came to an end. Neither did the Countryside Alliance who described the outing in their Spring 2005 newsletter as "a superb day's hunting, the like of which many people never have the good fortune to experience". Foxes being pursued for prolonged periods is nothing unusual during foxhunts. For example, a separate report on the Limerick Foxhounds in a February edition of the Irish Field told of how they had a "run of two hours and 20 minutes".

ICABS has renewed its appeal to landowners in Limerick and around the country to show compassion and make their land off limits to hunts. If you have friends or relatives with land, please tell them about the suffering of hunted animals and appeal to them to make their property a haven for wildlife.

The physio fate of hunted foxes

What happens to foxes as they are chased by a pack of hounds? Research carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture provides some answers.

Their study investigated the physiological stress responses in foxes pursued for approximately 5 minutes by dogs and then killed.

Autopsies performed on the foxes revealed haemorrhage of the heart and lungs and congestion of adrenal glands and kidneys. Blood analysis showed high levels of enzymes that reflect tissue damage. Edema, discoloration, haemorrhage and inflammation were found in muscle tissue.

The study also observed that the foxes had experienced a breakdown of muscle tissue caused by the exertion of the chase. This is often followed by brain damage, paralysis and death, meaning that even foxes which evade capture are at risk.

Catching live hares is cruel says District Court Judge

The following article was published in the Anglo Celt in December 2004. It appeared under the heading "Catching live hares was an exercise in cruelty, states Judge".

Two Monaghan brothers who appeared before Judge S McBride at the local District Court charged with hunting wild animals/birds without a licence were convicted under the Wildlife Act.

Frank and Seamus McKenna, Shevlins, Glaslough, were each fined 350 Euro for committing the offence at Tiravray, Castleshane on September 22, 2002.

A summons for failing to desist from continuing the activity under the Wildlife Act 1976 was taken into account.

Mr E O'Carroll, State Solicitor, prosecuting, said that the defendants were not authorised to carry out their activity.

Mr Higgins, a Wildlife Ranger, observed a group of men netting hares. They were catching them for coursing in Dungannon.

They claimed that they were licensed to do so but didn't have the licence with them. The men refused to release the hares they had captured and they put them into the back of a van.

Mr O'Carroll said that a licence was granted to the Irish Coursing Club but Dungannon was not specified. Dungannon was not one of the stated clubs.

Mr C Jones, solicitor defending, said that he had a letter from the Irish Coursing Club stating that Dungannon was a registered club within the Irish Coursing Club. It was granted in Northern Ireland under the supervision of the Irish Coursing Club.

He said that there were 28 men catching hares that day and two of them were from Monaghan. The Coursing Club had issued a licence to the Dungannon Club to catch hares.

Judge McBride said that he would describe them as "bootleggers" as they were catching live hares which was cruelty.

Tony Gregory questions licensing of Ward Union

Does the Ward Union continue to get a licence "because it is controlled by some of the richest, most powerful and most influential developers and businessmen in this country"?

That was one of the questions recently posed by Tony Gregory, TD in Dail Eireann.

Responding, Batt O'Keeffe (Fianna Fail TD for Cork South Central and Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) said: "The Minister and the officials in the Department do not know who is involved in the Ward Union Hunt."

ICABS took the opportunity to write to Deputy O'Keeffe to tell him that "the master of this hunt is Michael Bailey who, according to newspaper reports, was found by Mr Justice Feargus Flood to have 'made a corrupt payment to Ray Burke and tried to destroy the Planning Tribunal...In an interim report, the judge recorded that Bailey had lied to the tribunal, had breached its confidentiality and had colluded with others to make false allegations in an attempt to cover up his crimes, which included bribing the Dublin County manager, George Redmond'."

We sent a copy of the letter to Minister Dick Roche who licences the Ward Union hunt. In a two-sentence reply, the Minister stated: "Thank you for the email. I have forwarded your message to MoS O'Keeffe for reply."

Minister of State O'Keeffe never did reply.

Man with bloodied hand grabbing ear and mouth of injured deer and another deer being wrestled to ground in field
Does power and money earn you the right to do this to animals in modern Ireland?

Hares at Mayo coursing were "poor runners"

Twenty hares used by coursers at a meeting in Westport, County Mayo were "poor runners and appeared to be suffering from malnutrition". That's according to the NPWS conservation ranger who monitored the two-day meeting last October.

A total of 56 courses were run on the first day even though, from our analysis of the ranger's records, it appears that there were less than 56 hares available (including the 20 sick ones).

This would suggest that licence conditions were breached by the club. The licence, issued by Minister Dick Roche, states that hares "may not be coursed more than once on the same day" and that "hares that become sick or injured while in captivity may not be coursed".

Curiously, the official NPWS form on which details about the meeting are recorded was incomplete. The tick boxes next to the question "were hares coursed more than once - yes/no" are blank for both the first and second days of coursing.

On day two, according to the ranger, hares were "graded" before coursing and only healthy hares used. However, given that there were only 42 hares remaining for 27 courses, it is quite possible that some of the sick hares from Day 1 were coursed.

Shortly after the meeting ended, according to the NPWS document, the surviving hares were released back into the wild. Were some of these creatures still suffering when released? It's not clear from the data we have.

What we do know is that there was no veterinary involvement in the running of the coursing meeting. Taking into account the ranger's assessment of the hares' health, this is very disturbing.

One can only speculate on how long these hares had been suffering and how they fared on return to the wild. But one thing is sure - their welfare was of little concern to the coursers.

ICABS has called for Westport Coursing Club to be prosecuted for what we believe are breaches of licence conditions.

Poundworld thanked for withdrawing mouse trap

ICABS has thanked the Poundworld chain of shops for withdrawing an inhumane mouse trap from sale.

The "Mouse & Insect Glue Traps" were being sold in Poundworld branches around the country but when ICABS highlighted the cruelty of the traps, the company's head office promptly assured us that they would be taken off the shelves.

A Poundworld spokesman stated: "I have instructed our managers to withdraw the Mouse and Insect Glue Traps from sale. I agree totally with your comments. The traps were bought over the phone as 'Mouse Traps' from one of our suppliers. I was not made aware that they were of the glue type."

ICABS thanks Poundworld for this positive response.

We now call on members of the public to check other discount chains and hardware shops to see if the traps are available elsewhere. If you spot glue traps for sale, please tell the manager about the animal suffering they cause and appeal for them to be withdrawn.

Illustration of mouse stuck in glue trap
Cruel trap: Cartoon image on the packaging of the glue traps.

For those not familiar with glue traps, the aim is to catch the mouse in a gluey base from which it has no escape. The unfortunate creature is not killed outright but instead slowly dies over a number of days.

Information presented on the In Defense of Animals website, explicitly outlines the animal suffering which glue traps can cause. It states:

"A 1983 test that evaluated the effectiveness of glue traps found that trapped mice struggling to free themselves would pull out their own hair, exposing bare, raw areas of skin. The mice broke or even bit off their own legs, and the glue caused their eyes to become badly irritated and scarred. After three to five hours in the glue traps, the mice defecated and urinated heavily because of their severe stress and fear, and quickly became covered with their own excrement. Animals whose faces become stuck in the glue slowly suffocate, and all trapped animals are subject to starvation and dehydration. It takes anywhere from three to five days for the mouse to finally die. This is nothing less than torture."

Veterinary surgeons who condemned the traps are quoted on the website. One states that "there is much suffering by the entrapped animals - it is not a sudden or merciful death, but one brought on by starvation and thirst." Another says: "Because all mammals have similar nervous systems, they are capable of experiencing the same type of pain and suffering. Thus, rodents suffer as much as any other mammal and are capable of being traumatized and abused."

Horse charity removes hunting from auction

A big thank you to Wicklow-based Irish Horse Welfare Trust for removing a day's hunting from a fundraising auction.

The Star newspaper revealed on 6th September that among the items up for auction by the charity was a "day's hunting with jockey Paul Carberry".

But when ICABS drew attention to the animal cruelty involved in hunting, the IHWT announced that the hunt outing would be removed from their auction.

As well as cruelty to the animals being chased, hunts are also responsible for suffering to horses. To illustrate this, we quoted a hunter as saying: "I'd need four horses to keep me going for the season, between horses getting cut and broke down and whatever, and the same with the joint master - he's after wrecking three horses this year, and the whipper-in - I suppose he has seven or eight or them wrecked."

Paul Carberry's involvement with the controversial Ward Union deerhunt has been documented in the past. In March 2003, the Irish Independent highlighted how "a collision with a stag while hunting with the Ward Union...is likely to sideline champion jockey Paul Carberry until next week" while a GG Racing report in March 2005 told of how Carberry "missed his rides after taking a heavy fall while out hunting with the Ward Union Hunt".

The work of the IHWT includes rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing horses and ponies. They also campaign against the export of Irish horses for their meat.

Hunt details deleted from Failte website
29 down, 2 to go. Blood sport mostly gone from ireland.ie

Failte Ireland has removed 29 references to hunting from its ireland.ie website. The positive move was in response to an Irish Council Against Blood Sports' appeal in April.

It's the second such response from the national tourism board. Regular Animal Voice readers will recall that further to a similar appeal back in 2003, five web pages on the equestrian section of the ireland.ie site were amended to exclude hunting. At the time, we thanked and congratulated the board for its action.

Imagine our surprise then, when we checked back in on the Failte Ireland website earlier this year to find numerous references to hunting had crept back into the content.

They appeared within entries for various venues, guesthouses, hotels and equestrian centres and among the hunts mentioned were the Tara Harriers, the Meath Foxhounds, the North Tipperary Foxhounds, and the Westmeath Hunt.

One listing for an equestrian centre highlighted the availability of hunting holidays with the local foxhunts. Another centre proudly claimed that it was located "at the heart of our great hunt country". A guesthouse entry stated that "hunting can be arranged" while a hotel listed hunting as one of the local attractions. Yet another listing on the site offered the "opportunity to hunt with the famous Galway Blazers".

Hunting was also mentioned on the general information pages for certain towns.

The Templemore entry drew attention to the fact that "The North Tipperary Foxhounds hunt the district". The information for Navan reminded readers that "The Meath Foxhounds and the Tara Harriers hunt in the area." The Craughwell page revealed the proximity of the Galway Blazers' hunt kennels. Mallow, meanwhile, was praised as being "well known as a hunting centre".

Thankfully, all of the above have been removed as well as numerous others. ICABS thanks Failte Ireland - again - for acting to ensure that their marketing material does not in any way promote blood sports.

In correspondence to Senior Marketing Officer, Rhonwen Watson, we reminded her of Failte Ireland's anti-hunt stance. This was confirmed most recently in an Irish Examiner article in January. A Failte spokesperson was quoted as saying that they have "a policy of not promoting hunting".

This campaign against Failte Ireland giving publicity to hunts was largely successful but not entirely so. Hunting continues to be included in two remaining listings.

The listing for Bansha House Equestrian Centre refers to "Hunting Holidays with the Tipperary and Scarteen Hounds" while hunting is also listed as a facility available through Newcastle Riding School in Dublin.

We will continue to press Failte to eliminate these two remaining hunt references. You can help us by responding to the action item below.

Rhonwen Watson
Failte Ireland's Senior Marketing Officer, Rhonwen Watson.

ACTION ITEM

Please write to Failte Ireland to applaud their removal of hunting from the ireland.ie site. Ask them to remove the remaining two hunt references as soon as possible.

Rhonwen Watson
Marketing Officer
Failte Ireland
Baggot Street Bridge, Dublin 2
Tel: 01-6024 380
Fax: 01-855 6821
Email: rhonwen.watson@failteireland.ie

Learn about Lagomorphs in brand new fact sheet

Hares and rabbits belong to the family called leporids and along with pikas (a small animal found in Asia) they form the order of Lagomorphs. Lagomorphs are distinctive in that they have a second set of incisors.

This and many more interesting facts about hares and rabbits can be found in an informative new fact sheet by Mike Rendle of the Irish Hare Initiative.

Available to download from the "Leaflets" section of the ICABS website, the 4-pages of facts, photos and illustrations will help ensure that you never mix up rabbits and hares again.

Hare sitting in grass
It's...a hare! (Photo: Mike Rendle)

Stop the cruelty festival funding

In our latest appeal to Failte Ireland, ICABS has called for a commitment that no further funding will be given to festivals which promote blood sports.

Despite maintaining that they do not promote these cruel activities, Failte Ireland last year gave a massive grant to Clonmel Country Festival which showcased foxhunting, hare coursing and lurcher and terrier work. And ICABS has learned that the €12,000 grant - given to Countryside Alliance, a blood sports lobby group - was made despite the reservations of Failte Ireland's Head of Regional Development.

ICABS first became aware of Failte's involvement after their logo was spotted on the back of advertising literature circulated by Countryside Alliance. We called on the tourism body to avoid using taxpayers' money to help fund this animal cruelty promotion but our pleas fell on deaf ears.

Later, under the Freedom of Information Act, we discovered that Failte's Head of Regional Development, Donal Guilfoyle, stated in an email to another Failte staffer: "I expect that we do not grant aid this event. Would you please consult with S.E. [South East] Tourism to ensure that they are not grant aiding it."

Other documents reveal that Failte, having decided after all to proceed with grant aiding the event, tried to hide their association with it. "I have told the Countryside Alliance that if they were producing any further literature that they should not publish the Failte Ireland logo," one official wrote to another.

The Countryside Alliance leaflet
The controversial festival flyer which sparked a negative public reaction.

Despite numerous complaints from members of the public, Failte continued on with their plans to grant aid the event, while attempting to cover up the fact that blood sports were going to be promoted.

In another email message, a Failte official wrote: "The organisers have produced a flyer - 20,000 copies are in circulation, which carries the [Failte Ireland] logo. Coursing and hunting are listed as festival activities - it's no surprise there is such a negative reaction from people who have seen this.

"SERTA (South Eastern Region Tourism) have since asked them to drop all reference to these activities - I think we should ask them to destroy any remaining copies from the first print run."

So, while Failte Ireland saw fit in the end to give €12,000 to the Countryside Alliance, they were extremely reluctant to be associated with the event and wanted their logo dropped from advertising literature in breach of their own rules for grant aid.

In order to comply with the grant aid criteria under the Festival and Cultural Events Initiative, it is expressly stated that Failte's logo must appear on all advertising material. Another condition for grant aid is that the event must have either been involved in overseas marketing in the past or, in the case of new events, have plans for overseas marketing.

ICABS hopes that Failte Ireland will, in the future, refuse any application for funding for festivals which promote blood sports.

Coursers mis-inform RTE about hare kills

Muzzling of greyhounds has effectively taken the kill out of coursing. So claimed Irish Coursing Club, Chief Executive, Jerry Desmond, when he appeared on a RTE News and Sport report last February.

It's a claim the coursers first started spouting in 1993 when muzzling was introduced to the blood sport. But it wasn't true then and it certainly wasn't true in February as we can now reveal.

In an RTE Sports report on the National Coursing Finals in Clonmel, it was stated that, according to the organisers, there were no kills over the three day event. However, as we suspected at the time, this turned out to be totally untrue. A National Parks and Wildlife Service report obtained by ICABS under the Freedom of Information Act, reveals a different story altogether.

Jerry Desmond during RTE News report
News to us: The Irish Coursing Club's Jerry Desmond claiming to RTE that the kill has "effectively" been taken out of coursing.

According to this report, the Conservation Ranger who supervised the meeting documented eight hares hit by greyhounds. Three of these hares were killed and one put down due to injuries.

In a further piece of mis-information on the RTE report, Tony McNamee, president of the Irish Coursing Club, stated that Conservation Rangers from the National Parks supervise hare releases after every coursing meeting around the country.

Again, not so. Rangers do not attend all coursing meetings, due to manpower and time restraints. This year, according to records supplied to ICABS, less than half of the meetings were monitored by NPWS staff. Furthermore, the rangers who do monitor meetings, aren't necessarily available to be present at subsequent hare releases. Only a proportion of hare releases, therefore, are actually witnessed by rangers.

It is this fact, aligned with documented instances of coursing clubs flouting licence conditions and presenting false information, that fuels speculation about the illegal trafficking of hares from one club to another. The evidence points to increased difficulty in catching hares for coursing activities - exacerbated, we believe, by a decline in the hare population - and it is not difficult to imagine a trade in hares when NPWS officials are absent.

ICABS has informed RTE News about the misinformation which was presented to them as fact. We have suggested that, instead of blindly accepting statements from coursers, they should always seek confirmation from an official source such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Greyhound chasing hare
Running for its life: A hare tries to stay ahead of a greyhound at the coursing finals in Clonmel.

Investigation into pig massacre demanded

ICABS has called for a Garda investigation into what has to be one of the most horrific instances of animal cruelty ever perpetrated in Ireland - the massacre, involving a stun gun, sledgehammer and attempted suffocation, of 4,300 pigs on a Waterford farm in 2002.

Shockingly, this horrendous barbarity was carried out in the presence of Department of Agriculture officials. We understand that the Department ordered the slaughter because they found a banned substance on the farm. The farmer who carried out the killing is claiming that he couldn't get the animals slaughtered in an abattoir or factory due to his farm being the subject of a Department of Agriculture restriction order.

According to reports in the Sunday Independent and Ireland on Sunday (June 19th 2005), a video was filmed of the gruesome slaughter, which was apparently overseen by officials from the Department of Agriculture. What is really astonishing is that a very senior official from the Department was quoted in Ireland on Sunday as follows: "...I saw nothing on the video to suggest that anything illegal occurred."

And in the Sunday Independent, he is quoted as saying: "The secondary role was to oversee the efficiency of the slaughtering process. Two of our veterinary inspectors did inspect the situation and found no cause for concern." Apparently, their primary concern was that the product did not find its way into the food chain.

Man in red shirt pointing stun gun at one of four pigs and standing next to dying pig
A stun gun is aimed at the head of a pig. A pig squeals and falls to the ground after being shot with the gun.

The Ireland on Sunday report outlines how the pigs, scraping desperately at the side of a concrete cell can be seen shaking violently as blood drains over their faces on to the floor, and how others were, in many cases, ineptly stunned and left to suffer a slow and horrific death, as other animals looked on and awaited their own gruesome end.

It also states that the stun guns over-heated and ceased to function properly. At this point, according to a vet's report referred to in the Ireland on Sunday article, the farmer claimed that the Department of Agriculture officials suggested that he attempt to suffocate a group of pigs en masse by sealing off the air supply to their houses and when this plan failed, that the Department officials looked on as 50 animals were slaughtered with sledgehammers.

In response to this claim, Minister for Agriculture, Mary Coughlan, issued a written answer on June 30th to several Dail questions tabled by TDs, as follows: "An official of my Department observed the herdowner use a lump-hammer to slaughter a small number (five) of the pigs and ordered the practice to cease immediately. The implement was seized and only returned to the farmer when the entire process was completed. With regard to the attempted suffocation of the pigs, records indeed show that the herdowner was legally instructed to maximise the ventilation capacity of his units in order to minimise the negative welfare impact associated with increased liveweight capacity of the units. Department veterinary staff did not report any attempt to deliberately deprive the pigs of air."

ICABS has written to Minister Coughlan, demanding a full investigation into this horrific incident. We want to know why officials from the Department of Agriculture allowed this carnage to take place when it was clearly in breach of animal welfare legislation.

We are also calling for animal welfare legislation to be removed from the remit of the Department of Agriculture and assigned to another department such as the Department of the Environment.

Foxhunting isn't an Irish tradition

A claim by Michael Martin that foxhunting is an old Irish tradition was dismissed by ICABS on TG4's "An Tuath Nua" programme in December.

Mr Martin - Fianna Fail TD for Cork South Central and current Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment - made the claim on RTE's Questions and Answers last September.

"It's not a countryside tradition in Ireland," ICABS spokesperson Mary Muldoon stated. "Foxhunting was brought to Ireland from Britain."

"The problems we see with hunting is that it is entirely cruel and barbaric and it's not right to allow it in the 21st Century," she added. "There is another kind of 'hunting' called drag hunting which involves placing an artificial scent along the ground before the hunt begins. The hunt follows it across the fields, avoiding dangerous or private grounds, and they get on great."

Mary Muldoon during TG4 programme
ICABS spokesperson, Mary Muldoon, on An Tuath Nua.

Badger snares laid in Coillte forest, Galway

ICABS has learned that badger snarers from the Department of Agriculture placed snares in a Coillte forest in Kilcournaun, County Galway last year.

The Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, confirmed the May 2004 snaring in reply to a Dail Question from Galway TD, Michael D Higgins.

She stated: "Farm Relief Service operatives under supervision of my Department and licensed by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government placed some restraints in this area as part of the Tuberculosis Eradication Scheme."

It is very disappointing that Coillte allowed the snaring of badgers at this location - particularly as they list the forest as a site of Tourism and Recreation. The presence of wildlife is integral to the forest experience for tourists and should be protected from a Department scheme which has been discredited as "slaughter masquerading as science".

Greyhound board hands over €296,000 of taxpayers' cash to hare coursers

The Irish Coursing Club is to receive more than a quarter of a million Euro from Bord na gCon (the Irish Greyhound Board), it has been announced.

The major cash injection will reach the coursers in the form of a payment for greyhound racing advertising in the ICC's "Sporting Press". We understand the exact amount will be €296,000 over an initial two year period.

The move was described as "an extraordinary about-turn" by Irish Independent greyhound columnist, John Martin.

"Bord na gCon have decided to double what they spend on advertising with the Irish Coursing Club-published Sporting Press newspaper," he wrote. "The significant increase comes following a high-powered meeting at Powerstown Park in Clonmel between the top brass of Bord na gCon and the Irish Coursing Club. What makes the move significant is that it overrides a decision made by Bord na gCon at the end of last year not to advertise at all with the weekly industry organ."

The massive payment is seen as a temporary lifeline for the Irish Coursing Club who have been crying out for a grant.

Animal Voice readers will recall from the October 2004 edition that Bord na gCon had previously approved "in principle" a quarter of a million Euro grant out of the 12 million Euro of taxpayers' money they receive annually from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.

This grant never materialised. But what we have instead is an even greater payout to the coursers by the Irish Greyhound Board. ICABS is disgusted that the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O'Donoghue, allowed this transaction to take place. The Minister is well aware of the overwhelming opposition to hare coursing in Ireland and has disregarded appeals for taxpayers' money to kept out of the hands of blood sports groups.

ACTION ITEM

Ask the Minister why Bord na gCon was permitted to make this payment to the coursers. Remind him that 80 per cent of Irish people want coursing banned.

Minister John O'Donoghue
Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism
Frederick Buildings
South Frederick St, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-631 3802
Locall: 1890-383000
Fax: 01-679 9291
Email: customerservice@dast.gov.ie

"Big Bite" discussion on cruelty of hunting

The cruelty of hunting and the problem of hunt trespass were among the issues discussed on RTE's "The Big Bite" in February.

Those speaking in favour of a hunt ban were ICABS Vice-president, Tony Gregory, TD, ICABS spokesperson, Aideen Yourell and Henry McDonald of The Observer. Defending the blood sport were Brian Munn (Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association), hunter Orla Duffy and Scarteen Hunt master, Chris Ryan.

The programme began with video footage of a stag being pursued through a private garden and across a field by a pack of dogs - a scene which caused outrage and disgust in Northern Ireland when broadcast on BBC's Newsline.

Big Bite presenter, David McWilliams, asked Brian Munn how this activity could be described as a sport. Mr Munn evaded the question, saying instead that although he doesn't go stag hunting, he didn't have any objection to it.

Referring to the Ward Union hunt, Tony Gregory described deer hunting as "absolutely cruel". "The hounds terrorise the stag right across the countryside over barbed wire, over hedges, over whatever obstacle is in front of the stag," he said. "The stag is terrorised for an entire afternoon."

Tony Gregory during Bit Bite programme
You must be joking: Tony Gregory laughs as a foxhunter describes the blood sport as humane.

Huntswoman, Orla Duffy, described foxhunting as her "sport of choice" and presented it as a social outlet she was drawn into when she moved to the countryside. "It's a community thing," she said. "There's the GAA, the local national school and there's the hunt and you get involved if you want to live there and be involved with the community."

Responding, Ireland editor of The Observer, Henry McDonald said: "I heard the word 'community' bandied about and that [hunting] is a great social cohesion and perhaps it is. But I wonder what the communities who lived in those fields and in those gardens where the hunt was charging through chasing the stag thought of that hunt. I'm sure they weren't too pleased and I think that indeed was the case."

Tony Gregory added that hunt followers could still enjoy the social aspect if the cruelty and kill were eliminated. "If people want to dress up in their red jackets and their nice caps and ride around the countryside, I have no difficulty at all with that," he said. "All I'm asking them is to take the cruelty out of it. There is just one aspect to all of this that I object to and that is subjecting an animal to being terrorised."

Claims by the hunters that foxhunting is a humane way of controlling foxes were firmly dismissed. Stating that foxes are "disembowelled, bitten to death and ripped apart", Aideen Yourell of ICABS said it was not humane and not a form of fox control.

"It's a most inhumane thing to take a pack of dogs and hound a wild animal - be it a stag, a fox or a hare - around the country for 'sport' for an afternoon. Especially when you have a humane alternative which is drag hunting."

She went on to highlight the ongoing problem of hunt trespass.

"It is a big problem. We get more calls to the office on that than any other issue. Farmers are getting very angry and very annoyed. I got a call last week about a heifer that ran into wire [after being chased by foxhounds] and was choked to death. The farmer was traumatised. I get farmers calling me in a very distressed state asking how they can keep these arrogant people off their land."

Aideen Yourell and David McWilliams in Big Bite studio
ICABS spokesperson, Aideen Yourell, explains drag hunting to Big Bite presenter, David McWilliams.

Praise for ICABS from former Bush assistant

A former speechwriter for George W Bush has praised the Irish Council Against Blood Sport for its work against animal cruelty.

Matthew Scully, who worked for the US President for five years up until August 2004, expressed his thanks "for the good work of ICABS" and said that he would "make a point of visiting your website now and then to see what the Council is up to". He emailed us with the comments after reading an Animal Voice article in which he was quoted.

The Summer 2004 article outlined how he had called for religious people to show more mercy towards animals. He was quoted as saying that "Religious people...hold a kind and merciful view of life, the faith of the broken, the hounded, the hopeless. Yet too often, they will not extend that spirit to our fellow creatures."

He also stated that "it is wrong to inflict needless cruelty on animals for profit and to use wildlife and farm animals as 'resources' no different from wood and steel."

Mr Scully held the positions of special assistant to President Bush and director of presidential speechwriting and formed part of the team which drafted the President's post-September 11th addresses. A former literary editor of National Review, Matthew Scully is also a well known author.

His book "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy" (Saint Martin's Press, ISBN: 0312261470) catalogues the seemingly endless inhumanity towards animals all over the world.

Described on Amazon.co.uk as a "book of lasting power and importance for all of us [which is] painful, infuriating, controversial, passionate and deeply intelligent", Dominion explores numerous aspects of animal abuse.

Foxhunting, shooting, whale hunting, factory farming, zoos and vivisection are just some of the topics covered.

While the accounts of animal suffering make for difficult reading at times, the style of the book ensures that it is always more inspiring and empowering than depressing.

The aim of the author is to inspire the reader to stand up and voice opposition against the systems which allow the cruelty to continue. And that makes this book an absolutely essential read.

Matthew Scully smiling
Dominion author and former presidential speechwriting director, Matthew Scully.

Campaign Quotes

"I felt that the organisers could have been quicker to intervene when dogs hit a hare and not allow them continuously hit, and therefore increase the risk of injury to the hare." (Eamonn Doran, Conservation Ranger, National Parks & Wildlife Service, in a report on a Wexford coursing meeting in October 2004, at which thirteen hares were hit and five died as a result of their injuries)

"Country sports are not the be-all and end-all of the answer to rural sustainability but they are a very important part of it...Yet, regrettably, those many ordinary rural communities who espouse country sports now face entrenched bias and increasingly active political threats - especially against hunting." (Countryside Alliance website, September 2005)

"Hounds are to be exhibited by Hunt staff in Hunt uniform. No responsibility will be accepted...for any injury or damage caused by a hound while in the showgrounds." (Foxhound show notice on the website of the Tullamore Show & AIB National Livestock Show, August 2005)

"He's a foxhunter/ His Daddy taught him well/ When his hounds scent de smell/ Excitement meks him yell/ He's a Fox Hunter/ Know him by his killer eyes/ Something dead must be his prize" (from "A Killer Lies", a poem by Benjamin Zephaniah. From Talking Turkeys, Puffin Books)

"Actor Jeremy Irons has joined the battle against the [UK] ban on hunting with dogs. The pompous twit is the joint master of the West Carbery Hunt in County Cork. 'We're not harming anyone,' he says. 'The whole situation is terribly depressing.' Will somebody tell him it's not a terribly nice feeling for the hundreds of dismembered foxes he and his mates leave scattered around Ireland each year." (Daily Mirror, December 4, 2004)

Girl's pet cat ripped apart by foxhounds

An eight-year-old girl was left in tears after she learned that her beloved pet cat, Mitzi, was ripped apart by a pack of hunt hounds.

The appalling incident took place on St Patrick's Day when hounds from the Banbridge-based Iveagh Hunt ran riot in a residential area in Lurgan, Co Down.

The vicious attack was witnessed by local children out playing. They were horrified to see the dogs coming into a back garden, descending on the cat and mauling it to death. The Belfast Telegraph reported that the youngsters "saw the dogs in a complete frenzy and heard the squeals of the cat as she was attacked".

In a report in the Lurgan Mail, an official of the hunt tried to dismiss the eye witness account of what occurred. He was quoted as saying that "it's only children who saw it", as if their word didn't matter.

The Iveagh Hunt's bad behaviour didn't stop there, according to the newspaper report. They also allegedly trespassed on to farm land. The son of a local farmer told the paper how the hunt "ploughed through the fields and pulled down fence posts".

"[They] came up here and opened all the gates and yards," he went on to say. "A cow and a calf at my father's yard just down the road escaped for about an hour. They left mud all over the roads and then just left."

Meanwhile, an Iveagh Hunt joint master and Ronan Gorman of Countryside Alliance attempted to pour oil on troubled waters.

The latter claimed that "the hounds wouldn't ordinarily chase a cat never mind attack." And he carried on in this incredible vein, stating that "When in full cry, which isn't frequently, [hounds] are obviously difficult to call back. The cat must have run across their path." Added to this was another outrageous statement from the hunt's joint master who declared that "the hounds are not vicious, they're just like any other pet."

As for their claims that foxhounds are pets and attacks like this are rare, this is certainly not the case. Foxhounds are trained to hunt as a pack and kill. There are several documented cases of hunt hounds attacking domestic pets. In 2002, for example, we reported in Animal Watch how a sheep dog was viciously attacked by hunt hounds in Galway. The dog survived, miraculously, but suffered severe injuries.

Girl holding cat basket sitting next to her mother
A Lurgan Mail photo showing a sad and dejected Zara Spence with her mother, Audrey. Zara is seen here holding the basket which her cat, Mitzi, used before being brutally killed by foxhounds.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, an apology from the Iveagh hunt was subsequently issued for the cat killing.

But, of course, it was no consolation to the distraught girl whose pet suffered the same fate as that of the wildlife which normally fall victim to packs of hounds.

Her mother, Audrey Spence, described the gruesome state of the unfortunate cat as follows: "Its legs were pulled off, head pulled off, and insides ripped out."

Responding to the incident, the Ulster SPCA's CEO, Stephen Philpott, renewed the group's call for a hunt ban.

"The need for a total ban on hunting with dogs has been brutally outlined by the obscene spectacle of a child's pet being torn to shreds in the sanctuary of an urban garden," he stated.

The demand for a hunt ban was echoed by Ms Spence. She said: "Before this, hunting would not have annoyed me but now, I can't tolerate it at all. It is an absolutely disgusting, cruel sport that should be banned immediately."

Garden invaded by staghounds

A homeowner in County Meath was furious to find a pack of hunting hounds bounding into her garden.

The dogs, from the Ward Union Hunt, ran onto the lawn, around the rear of the house and across the driveway. The homeowner was seen frantically chasing the dogs off the property and shouting at them to "Get out".

As the woman did her best to clear the dogs, a mounted Ward Union hunter called out to the pack but he remained out of the homeowner's sight by halting his horse behind a boundary hedge.

The dogs pushed their way through the barrier and back onto the road before the red-coated hunter galloped away with them behind him.

According to ICABS monitors at the scene, there was no apology from the hunter to the homeowner.

This is just the latest example of hunt hounds invading private property.

Our advice to landowners who experience this type of incident is to immediately call the Gardai. Under the Control Of Dogs Act, 1986, the owner or person in charge of a dog shall not permit the dog to be on the premises of another person without the consent of that person. The person in charge of the dogs must keep the them under "effectual control", the Act states.

Staghound beyond driveway gate
One of several Ward Union staghounds which ICABS witnessed running around the property of a County Meath homeowner. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Councillor raises complaint about noisy death row dogs

A Westmeath Councillor has called for soundproofing to be installed at a dog pound because the doomed creatures within are making too much noise.

Cllr Jim Bourke was quoted in the Westmeath Examiner of April 5th as saying that "the noise coming from the dogs is getting to staff in offices close by."

"Is there any chance soundproofing could be installed?" he asked.

ICABS considers these comments by Cllr Bourke - who previously appeared in the newspaper on horseback during a Westmeath Hunt outing - to be entirely insensitive.

The dogs making the noise are almost certainly on a countdown to being put down. Strays which end up in a pound are typically killed within five days. Dogs surrendered by their owners may be destroyed immediately.

The latest available figures from the Westmeath County Council website show that, in 2003, a total of 766 dogs were surrendered or seized and out of these, 519 were destroyed.

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Death of a young badger

She was a soft target from the start. The young sow, possibly one of last year's cubs, lay exhausted in the wire snare that now pulled tightly around her hind quarters.

She had spent many hours during the night trying to free herself. Her night's work was clear to anyone passing by. The fresh mud that covered her striped face bore testimony to her gallant efforts. The loose earth, softened after the previous day's torrential rain was scattered around the perimeter of the hole she had been excavating. It was her final bid to free herself of the snare, but it had all been in vain.

Now she had given up, too tired and too weary to go any further. Instinctively, she knew her life was over. She lay with her head resting on one of her front paws and awaited the shot that would end her young life. Her small carcass would then be bagged, tagged and casually tossed into the back of the trapper's vehicle along with the rest of the morning's carcasses and taken away for autopsy.

Dead badger with wire snare around body
The young badger killed as part of the Department of Agriculture's so-called TB Eradication Scheme. (Photo: Badger Watch)

Far from being an illegal wire snare, set by the local lowlife, this was in fact a very legal and sanitised exercise.

Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Food had secured the necessary licence from The National Parks and Wildlife Service to snare and shoot badgers.

Now she was merely one more badger to be added to the list of almost 50,000 casualties that the Department have killed over the past 15 years or so for their alleged role in the spread of TB to cattle.

Later that morning passers-by would halt and look at the spot. Among the bluebells and primroses, the sunshine picked out the small pool of blood in the clay. It told its own tale on that summer morning in May 2005. (Thanks to Bernie Barrett of Badger Watch Ireland for this article).

Visit the Badger Watch website for more information on badgers in Ireland. To sign a "Stop the badger snaring" petition, click on Petitions at www.banbloodsports.com.

BUT - a poem by Francis Kennedy

"It's called drag-hunting" she said
Excitedly.
"Like all great ideas,
It's simple," she said.

"You go to the butcher and get
A bag of cheap meat.
You pack it into a hessian sack
And tie the top
With a rope," she said.

"On the morning of the foxhunt
You saddle your quietest hunter,
Tie the rope to her saddle,
Feet in the stirrups
And off you go," she said.

"Over the fields at a canter
Leaving the sweetest scent
For the pack," she said.

"You won't even have to ride
Into John Beirne's land because
Beirne doesn't like fox-hunting,"
she said.

"Assemble your warriors at noon
And let the beagles out," she said.
"Tally-ho and the redcoats are away,
Galloping through the fields,

Following closely their excited
Tail-wagging guides," she said,
"In hot pursuit of the sweetest scent,
Left by a bag of meat," she said.

But you can't kill a bag of meat.

© Francis Kennedy 2005

Book Review

The Hare by Jill Mason.
Photography by David Mason.
Merlin Unwin Books. ISBN 1 873674 813

The jacket notes of "The Hare" by Jill Mason declare that "few researchers have had the patience and skill to untangle fact from fiction, to reveal surprising evidence about this truly wild mammal."

It is not made clear who these rare researchers may be but it is clear from reading this book that its author is not one of them.

There is a lot of interesting material about the hare in folklore and hunting, but when it comes to presenting accurate contemporary knowledge about the hare, Jill Mason has a different agenda.

Her background as a gamekeeper and her clear enthusiasm for exploiting hares as a quarry species has clearly influenced the selective nature of the material she has presented.

Whilst some of the factual material is accurate, the errors contained in this book are too numerous to list here.

Scientific opinion is misrepresented and misquoted, with snippets of received knowledge slipped in to support the pro-hunting case.

Sadly, for most readers of "The Hare", fact and fiction will remain well and truly tangled. In its defence, the colour photos are indeed "stunning" and would brighten up any coffee table. The publisher may herald this as "the first major book on the hare in thirty years", but despite its polished appearance this is no reference work. Mike Rendle.

Jailed dogfighter freed pending court appeal

A man found guilty of animal cruelty at a dog fight in County Kildare spent just one night in prison, after lodging an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal. The case has yet to be heard.

Troy Jordan (35), of Blackthorn Cottage, River Road, Allenwood South, Co Kildare, was jailed by Judge Pat McCartan at Naas circuit court on 28th July 2005. It emerged in court that Jordan had been previously convicted of cruelty to six pitbull terriers.

Four other men were also found guilty of the October 2003 offence. They are: Richard Somerville, Dunard Drive, Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin; Karl Breen, Nangor Crescent, Clondalkin, Dublin; Thomas Codd, Cloonmore Crescent, Tallaght, Dublin and David Deegan, Maplewood Park, Springfield, Tallaght.

Somerville received an 18-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €3,000 to the ISPCA. Breen received a nine-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €5,000 to the ISPCA. Codd received a nine-month suspended sentence on condition that he paid €500 to the ISPCA. Deegan received an 18-month suspended sentence which was also suspended on condition that he paid €3,000 to the ISPCA.

The five men, charged under the Cruelty to Animals Act 1911, had all pleaded not guilty to ill-treating two animals.

Reporting on the disturbing case, the Irish Independent detailed how a team of gardai and ISPCA inspectors raided a farm at Brockagh, Robertstown, Co Kildare and found two pit bull terriers in a bloody embrace in a corrugated steel pen. The dogs had lacerations to the face, ear, head, neck and forelimbs, the court was told.

Dan Boland BL for the state said that the group of men had been found by Gardai in an isolated area on a Friday morning beside the dog fight. Such was the ferocity of the fight between the dogs, he said, a ladder was needed to separate them.

ICABS congratulates the ISPCA and the Gardai for helping to secure this outcome. We appeal to anyone with any information about dog fighting activities to please contact the Gardai. You can also pass on information to ICABS (044-49848) or to the ISPCA (043-25035).

Injured dogfight dog
A photo published in The Star showing one of the bloodied victims of the Kildare dogfight.

Coursers want to breed hares in captivity

The Irish Coursing Club mooted the issue of breeding hares in captivity for coursing at a meeting last year with the National Parks & Wildlife Service.

The coursers were told by NPWS officials, however, that "any such proposal would be controversial and would require extensive research and discussion with expert authorities".

It has long been acknowledged that hares are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. The fact that the coursers now want to attempt to breed them sounds to us like a note of desperation, and is another sign of their increasing problems in sourcing wild hares.

Let us hope that the Minister and his officials in the NPWS unequivocally reject this preposterous suggestion.

Minister shoots down proposal to allow hunting in nature reserves

ICABS again heaves a sigh of relief that new attempts by the National Association of Regional Game Councils (gun clubs) to gain access to national parks and state reserves have been shot down by the Minister for the Environment.

ICABS has received confirmation from Minister Dick Roche's office as follows: "The Minister has asked me to assure you that he has no plans to change the current policy of not allowing hunting on the properties managed by the National Parks & Wildlife Service of his Department."

ICABS welcomes Minister Dick Roche's decision to stand firm against the gun clubs and keep our national parks hunter-free. We are much relieved that these sanctuaries for wildlife, of which there are precious few in this country, are kept off limits to hunters in the interests of wildlife and the public at large.

Thank you to all the ICABS supporters who contacted Minister Roche on this issue.

Abbey to oblige
Holiday company responds positively to anti-bullfight appeal

Abbey Travel has indicated that, further to a letter of appeal from ICABS, it will keep bullfighting out of its 2006 brochures.

The Dublin-based company was contacted by us in July after we noticed that the blood sport was included in its Short Breaks brochure.

In the Seville section, the local bullring is presented as a city highlight. The La Maestranza venue is described as "one of Spain's most famous" and is included on the accompanying map of Seville.

In a letter to Abbey, we stated that we were particularly dismayed at the brochure content because it conflicts with our anti-bullfighting campaign

"We have an ongoing campaign aimed at encouraging Irish holidaymakers in Spain to avoid supporting bullfighting in any way," we revealed. "We urge people to boycott the bullrings and any bullfight-related activities such as tours of bull rings or bullfighting museums."

Denying that the company is actually promoting bullfighting, Abbey Travel's Managing Director, Joe Balfe responded by saying that "it may be mentioned...in our Short Breaks brochure but in our main European Holiday brochure, we have 24 pages on Spain and there is absolutely no mention of it at all."

Commenting that bullfighting is "a part of Spanish culture whether we like it or not", Mr Balfe pointed out that the La Maestranza is one of the city highlights promoted by the Seville Tourist Board.

"Despite all that," he concluded, "I don't see any great reason for us to mention bullfighting or bullrings in our future brochures so I suppose you could say that your letter has achieved its aim."

ICABS is happy that Abbey is acting to avoid giving any publicity to this gruesome blood sport.

We have thanked the Managing Director for his positive response.

Dead bull with banderillas stuck in its back
Un-Sevillised: This savage animal abuse sadly remains common in La Maestranza and other Spanish bullrings. (Photo: WSPA/CAS)

Bullring to go from Slattery's itinerary

Slattery's Tours have promised to exclude a bullring visit from its 10-day excursion in Spain.

The tour of the bullring in Valencia was listed as part of the company's Spanish Wonder tour. It was brought to our attention by an ICABS supporter in Mayo.

When ICABS sent Slattery's some leaflets about the barbarity of bullfighting, they moved swiftly to assure us that the bullring would be eliminated from next year's itinerary.

"We will be omitting any reference to visiting a bull ring in Spain as we all know bullfighting is a horrendous act," Ann King of Slattery's stated. "Thank you for sending us this information; it has made us all more aware of these terrible blood sports."

A big thank you to Slattery's for this decisive announcement.

Marketing group directs visitors to bullfighting

A Spanish marketing organisation has been criticised for offering free bullfight tickets as part of a bid to attract Irish marketers to a conference.

The Federation of Electronic Commerce and Direct Marketing (FECEMD) made the offer in a statement published on the Irish Direct Marketing Association's website.

Those who registered to attend the Concentra conference in Madrid in April were promised "a complementary programme of activities" which included trips to a bullfight, a football match and a museum.

In a letter to FECEMD General Manager, Mar Moya-Angeler, ICABS expressed its disgust that visitors to Madrid were being directed to a bullring.

"It is shameful that your organisation is prepared to support this barbaric activity, particularly when a majority want it outlawed."

ICABS has also made contact with the Irish Direct Marketing Association to convey our hope that no Irish marketing representatives took up the bullfight offer. They didn't reply.

ACTION ITEM

Please write to FECEMD and ask them to stop supporting animal cruelty by offering free tickets to bullfights. Mar Moya-Angeler, Manager
FECEMD
Avenida Diagonal, 437 5
08036 Barcelona, Spain.
Tel: 00 34 3 240 4070
Fax: 00 34 3 240 3134
Email: mmoya-a@fecemd.org

"No Frontiers" host acts out matador kill

ICABS has lodged a complaint with RTE and Frontier Films following yet another promotion of bullfighting on their "No Frontiers" travel programme.

Broadcast in February, the programme featured a visit to a bullfighting museum in Spain where presenter Kathryn Thomas simulated the killing of a bull by thrusting a sword into a bale of straw. She went on to tell viewers that the museum was well worth a visit.

In a letter to RTE, ICABS Campaign Director, Aideen Yourell, stated: "It is very disappointing that No Frontiers chose to promote bullfighting in such a trivial fashion...it conveyed a callous indifference to the plight of countless innocent animals tortured to death in bullrings around Spain."

No Frontiers previously promoted bullfighting on their first episode back in 1999. Past presenter, Christy Kenneally, stood outside a Seville bullring and declared in upbeat fashion, "if your taste is for blood and sand, then the bullfighting takes place here every weekend."

Make Catalonia bullfight-free: plea to MPs

Anti-bullfight groups from around Europe met with members of the Catalan Parliament in April to urge them to rid the region of blood sports.

Spain's ADDA as well as the Belgian and Dutch branches of the Anti Bullfighting Committee (ABC) held discussions with all the political parties represented in the parliament.

According to Saskia Oskam of ABC the Netherlands, the end of bullfighting in Catalonia may now finally be in sight.

"We understood from the conversations with the MPs that the opposition against bullfights grows bigger and bigger in Catalonia," she said. "Most Catalans want a ban on the bullfights as soon as possible and even bullfighters say that bullfighting is declining very fast in Catalonia."

More than 450,000 people have signed a petition calling for a ban on bullfighting in Catalonia. An opinion poll carried out by Demoscopia on behalf of ADDA has found that 73.1 per cent of Catalans think the Parliament of Catalonia should outlaw bullfighting. Over 80 per cent support Barcelona City Council's decision last year to declare itself anti-bullfighting.

The parliamentarians are expected to debate the issue again later this year.

Fox is not a major pest: Farm Week

The fox is not a major pest to farmers and any claims by hunters that they control the species are untrue. That's the clear message relayed on an edition of Farm Week currently available to listen to on RTE Radio 1's website.

Speaking on the Farm Opinion portion of the programme, former RTE broadcaster, PJ Nolan, dismisses foxhunting as merely a day out and not some form of pest control.

"The notion of the fox as a major pest of the countryside is a spurious one and the idea that hunting in some way controls the population is wrong," he says on the programme which was first broadcast on March 11th last year.

Though admitting that, from childhood, he has had "a certain prejudice against foxes", Mr Nolan - now a farmer in Navan, Co Meath - expresses his disapproval of the hunters' treatment of wildlife.

"I don't particularly like the idea of a fox being torn apart by hounds if it's caught," he states. "I wouldn't be interested in hunting myself - the idea of 50 people chasing after a fox seems a little pointless to me."

However, despite this, he reveals that the Meath Hunt "has always crossed our land and will continue to do so".

Fox looking directly out of photo
A fox: Wrongly portrayed by hunters as a pest. (Photo: Peter Akokan)

But his discomfort with killing for kicks is once again emphasised. "The whole idea of killing animals is nothing new to the countryside," he says. "I have killed thousands of turkeys and chickens and put down sick cattle but I wouldn't hunt or shoot anything for the fun of it."

Very interestingly, Mr Nolan also reveals on the programme that the Meath Hunt own a 6-acre area of fox coverts in the county. It's described as a wildlife haven.

One wonders if this could be part of an effort to encourage foxes to breed locally, thereby ensuring a steady supply of quarry during hunt outings. It's a technique which other hunts have been known to use and one which further annihilates any claim that hunting has anything to do with fox control.

Hares suffer "severe hits" in County Roscommon

A Ranger who monitored the coursing meeting at Roscommon race-course last December was sceptical about the survival of some of the hares she saw hit by dogs.

"I find it difficult to believe that no hares were injured or killed, judging by some of the severe hits, we observed," the National Parks and Wildlife Service official stated in her report.

Over the two day meet, 12 hares were hit, yet the club claimed that no hares were injured or killed.

The rangers present also encountered obstruction from the coursing club when they tried to count the hares on day two, following discrepancies noted regarding the number of hares in captivity.

The club stated they had 69 hares, yet the rangers counted 73 hares which ran the course. In her report, one of the rangers stated that she had "serious concerns with regard to the actual number of hares" the club had in their possession.

When NPWS turned up at the venue to count the hares as arranged, the club secretary told them that he would prefer if the hares weren't counted.

In her report, the ranger recommended as follows: "I consider that we (NPWS) did not receive adequate co-operation from the coursing club officials of the Roscommon United Coursing Club and Galway and Oranmore Coursing Club. There are also the anomalies with regard to actual numbers of hares and injured hares. Therefore, I would recommend that NPWS consider not granting either club a licence to hold a coursing meeting next year."

Animals and the Churches
The Roman Catholic Church

The following is an extract from Animals and the Churches - the first comprehensive guide to the resolutions and statements by churches world-wide on animal protection.

Although various Catholic theologians and bishops have spoken positively about animals, including Cardinals Manning, Newman and, most notably, Cardinal Heenan in 1970, it is the Catholic Catechism which provides the "official" church view on animal welfare.

Although it recognises that we have a duty of "kindness" to animals (which is a welcome advance on some previous viewpoints), the Catechism endorses almost all the current uses of animals in farming, research and domestication (with the possible, un-named, use of animals for entertainment).

Even though it accepts that animals should not "suffer or die needlessly", it fails to consider whether any of the traditional uses of animals pass a proper test of moral "necessity".

Particularly disappointing is its failure to endorse the long-standing Christian opposition to cruelty as something wrong in itself, and its prejudice against giving money to animal charities.

Finally, the notion that animals should not usurp the love that humans owe only to other humans signifies a spiritually impoverished vision of our relations with other creatures. Can Christian love exclude animals? - one might respond.

For my critique, see "Why Church Teaching Perpetuates Cruelty" in Andrew Linzey, Animal Gospel: Christian Faith as If Animals Mattered (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1998, and Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2000), pp 64-72 and 56-63.

Enquiries to national Catholic hierarchies have not indicated any development of view from that of the curia, except that Roman Catholic bishops joined with Anglican bishops to defend fur trapping in 1986, and that the Catholic Education Commission of the Catholic hierarchy in Australia has laid down some welfare regulations (largely as required by law) for the use of animals in Catholic schools and institutes of higher education.

The National Conference of US Catholic Bishops has produced a statement on Environmental Justice, but it does not mention animal welfare. © Copyright Andrew Linzey.

Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, PhD, DD, is an Anglican priest and theologian. He is one of the world's leading authorities on Christianity and animals and holds the world's first academic post in Ethics, Theology and Animal Welfare at Oxford University. He has written or edited 20 books, including "Animal Rights: A Historical Anthology" (Columbia University Press, ISBN: 0231134215) which was published earlier this year.

Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey
Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey: a leading authority on Christianity and animals.

Farmers will not tolerate trespassing foxhunters

Foxhunters have been derided as abusive, arrogant, bad-mannered, gutter-mouthed trespassers by an anti-hunt farming group.

Writing in the farming section of the Irish Independent (23rd August 2005), Philip Lynch, Chairman of Farmers against Foxhunting and Trespass, stated that 90 per cent of farmers don't want foxhunters coming onto their land.

Referring to mounted hunters tearing up crops, leaving gaps in ditches and terrorising livestock with their "horses, hounds and hooters", Mr Lynch said that the farmer has "everything to lose by allowing his property to be used as a freebie".

"Everywhere one goes, there are charges for car parking or to use another person's property in any way," he stated. "But no one is paying the farmer for the recreational use of his land. People need to realise that his land is out of bounds to trespassers and vandals."

But foxhunters often enter land without permission, the former IFA chairman complained. "Generally, they never ask permission. If a farmer asks them to leave, or tries to prevent them from encroaching on his land, he gets bad-mannered abuse, even from so-called ladies with gutter mouths. If the farmer sends a bill to the hunters, they generally do not pay because there are solicitors and members of the judiciary riding with them. They are a law unto themselves."

"Irish farmers will no longer tolerate what happened in the past," Mr Lynch added. "It would greatly help the landowner in the present climate if the government would now, like England, Scotland and Wales, ban foxhunting."

Hunters granted tax exemption

ICABS has learned that several hunting and shooting groups are currently enjoying exemption from tax.

This sickening revelation appears on the Irish Revenue's website in a list of 1,492 sporting bodies granted tax exemption under Section 235 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.

As of August 2005, this list contains seven hunts and three gun clubs. The hunts are: Carbery Hunt, County Limerick Hunt Club, Fingal Harrier Hunt, Laois Hunt Club Limited, Shillelagh And District Hunt Club Limited, The Island Hunt Limited and United Hunt Club. The gun clubs are: Clare Gun Club, Skibbereen & District Gun Club and St Hugh's Gun Club.

In an email to ICABS, a Revenue spokesperson confirmed that all were exempt from tax. They qualified for the exemption, he said, because they are "established for and exist for the sole purpose of promoting an athletic or amateur game or sport and their entire income is applied solely for that purpose".

According to related Revenue documents, games and sports bodies may be eligible for exemption from Income Tax, Corporation Tax and Dividend Withholding Tax. Relief from Capital Gains is also available on gains made by sports bodies.

No definition is given in the Taxes Consolidation Act to clarify what constitutes games or sports. However, in a letter to the Irish Revenue, ICABS pointed to the Finance Act, 1932 which appears to define them as being "ordinarily played or contested out-of-doors by two or more persons or by two or more groups of persons and [which] do not involve the use or participation of horses, dogs, or other animals or the use of mechanically propelled vehicles".

ICABS is disgusted that among those enjoying tax exemption are groups involved in terrorising and killing Irish wildlife. We have urged the Revenue Commissioners to stop giving consideration to such applications.

ACTION ITEM

Please join us in appealing to the Revenue Commissioners to disregard future applications from any group involved in killing animals for sport.

Revenue Commissioners
Games & Sports Exemption Section, Government Offices,
Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
Tel: 067-44181
Fax: 067-32916
Email: sportexemp@revenue.ie

Rail hunter reported to Iarnrod Eireann

A foxhunter who reportedly jumped over a level crossing barrier as a train approached has been reported to Iarnrod Eireann.

The hunter from the Galway Blazers Hunt was described in the Irish Field as being "amongst the best horseman to follow hounds".

The December 2002 article, which only recently came into our possession, boasted how nothing got in his way when he was following hounds.

It outlined how "one day at Craughwell...he jumped the double gates at the railway level crossing to keep with them and beat the oncoming train to it."

Such recklessness appears to be a clear breach of Iarnrod Eireann's Safety and Security guidelines which state that people "must always stop...when crossing gates are down". It also states that those who trespass onto railway lines could face a fine and/or six months in prison.

This is the just the latest account of the Galway Blazers on railway tracks and is the third time ICABS has contacted Iarnrod Eireann.

In February 2000, for example, we photographed mounted members of the hunt trotting along the tracks. Iarnrod Eireann's response to our submission was merely to issue a warning to the hunt.

This despite a previous statement from the company that "trespass remains a major concern...and it is the company's policy to prosecute trespassers."

ICABS has again called on the rail company to take action to keep hunters off the lines. Trespassing incidents pose danger not only to those trespassing but also to train drivers and passengers.

Ambulance and bus halted by hunters

In the past, Animal Voice has highlighted how members of the Ward Union deerhunt and their followers act as if they own the public roads in Meath and North County Dublin.

We've caught them causing huge tailbacks when they come on to busy major thoroughfares, creating road blocks while posing for photographs, jumping through hedges onto country lanes, chasing deer onto and along roads and causing general inconvenience and potential danger to motorists.

We can now add another incident to the list. While monitoring the Ward Union last season, we witnessed a Bus Eireann school bus being forced to make an unscheduled stop when it met the hunt.

The bus slowed down and had to come to a complete standstill because the road ahead was impassable. The reason? Poorly parked cars owned by hunt followers.

The narrow country lane was littered with abandoned cars as their owners hung around to catch a glimpse of the deer the hunt was chasing that day.

Some returned to move their vehicles as a hunt member acted as traffic warden. He motioned to the bus driver that in order to avoid scraping along the side of a car, she would have to move in closer to the ditch. It was a delicate operation but finally the bus edged its way past and continued on its journey.

What makes this interference with the freeflow of traffic even more appalling is that it happened at a time of the day when the bus was more than likely on an active school run - en route, perhaps, to collecting waiting children.

But even worse was to come at this scene of traffic chaos. When the bus squeezed through, it emerged that directly behind was an ambulance vehicle.

The "Patient Care Transport Service" ambulance had also been halted on its journey by the hunters. We dread to think what affect the delay had on the care of patients.

ICABS has written to Bus Eireann and the Health Service Executive and urged them to lodge a complaint to the Gardai.

The halted bus and ambulance
A Bus Eireann school bus driver carefully navigates around vehicles abandoned by hunt followers. Some cars are eventually moved, allowing the delayed bus to slowly edge its way past. An ambulance was also caught up in the hunt obstruction. (Photos: Aideen Yourell/Philip Kiernan)

Gardai pose with Ward Union Deerhunt riders

ICABS was dismayed to see two Gardai happily posing alongside representatives of the Ward Union Hunt in a photo published in The Irish Field.

The photo in the June 11th edition showed four of the hunt's riders after they had won an inter-hunt chase event. Flanking the team were the two uniformed Gardai on horseback.

Given that the Ward Union continues to be the subject of complaints to the Gardai, ICABS feels it is highly inappropriate for members of the force to be aligning themselves with the hunt.

We have brought this to the attention of the Garda Commissioner.

Hunters continue to hound landowners

Hunters have been branded arrogant, bad-mannered trespassers and now ICABS presents the evidence to prove it!

Throughout the fox and deer hunting seasons, our office receives countless calls and emails from landowners plagued by hunts. These unfortunate individuals have to contend with hunts trespassing onto their land and causing damage to boundary ditches and fences. This in addition to invasions by marauding hounds which pose a severe threat to any present livestock.

Even worse are the attempts to intimidate farmers who chose to make their land off-limits to the hunt. In our series of sample images, we show how hunts are making life a misery not just for our wildlife but for farmers up and down the country.

ICABS urges the ever growing number of anti-hunt landowners to immediately contact the Gardai if there are any incidents involving hunters or hounds. Telephone the local Gardai but also put the complaint in writing and forward a copy to the Garda Commissioner at Garda HQ, Phoenix Park, Dublin 8.

More information for farmers/landowners can be found in the Farmers section of our website. Included is a "Troubled by the Hunt" leaflet which details the recommended action to take to make land off limits to hunters and how to keep it that way. Also available is a selection of "no hunting signs" to print.

Please contact us for copies to give to landowner friends and neighbours.

Horseback hunter moving towards farmer. Two horseback hunters in muddy field
A farmer in Kilkenny narrowly escapes being trampled on as he tries to prevent mounted foxhunters from entering a private lane (left). Foxhunters happily trot through the mud of a saturated, winter field. Dozens more followed. (right).

Hounds moving through field. Hunter raising two fingers through window of jeep.
Beagles on the scent of a hare - inside a wildlife sanctuary (left). The landowner told ICABS that when he challenged the hunters during the January hunt, they "laughed and made fun of the situation". A hunter makes an obscene gesture to an anti-hunt farmer in County Kilkenny (right).

Stop your coursing or we'll crush your car
Successful police campaign to tackle blood sport criminals

Police in England have dealt a crushing blow to the country's remaining hare coursers.

Since the introduction of the UK-wide ban on the blood sport earlier this year, chasing hares with hounds is now strictly illegal. And to emphasise their zero-tolerance policy, a police force in Cambridgeshire is leading the way in the campaign to net coursing criminals. They have warned that anyone caught terrorising hares risks having their vehicle impounded - and destroyed!

Officers from the force recently had the opportunity to demonstrate their determination to "do everything within our power to make life very difficult" for the coursers.

A car impounded by the courts as part of "Operation Dornier" was brought to a scrap yard and crushed beyond recognition.

Photos supplied to ICABS by Cambridgeshire Constabulary show the coursers' car before and after the crushing machine went to work on it.

The arresting series of images aims to convey to coursers that when they're caught, they can expect to walk away from court with a hefty penalty.

Car waiting to be crushed. Chunk of crushed car.
Before and after.

"We want to make it clear to the people involved in illegal hare coursing that the activity will not be tolerated in Cambridgeshire," Inspector Richard Lowings stated. "Police are continually gathering intelligence against these people, by liaising with the local community and surrounding police forces to build cases against the illegal coursers."

Though the Dornier team comprises a dedicated ground force as well as a helicopter with on-board video surveillance equipment, they rely on the vigilance of local landowners and members of the public to initially expose the coursers.

"We continue to encourage members of the rural community to report all incidents of illegal hare coursing to provide us with information and intelligence to assist us in our aim of disrupting an activity that has a serious impact on rural communities," Inspector Lowings commented.

"We encourage the use of the 999 emergency number when members of the rural communities feel frightened or terrorised by hare coursers who are currently on their land or property."

Since its launch in September 2004, the anti-coursing operation has led to at least 191 people being reported for summons. In addition to the car crushing, other penalties issued included forfeiture orders on cars and dogs, driving bans (for both driver and passengers) and fines of up to £650.

ICABS has congratulated the Cambridgeshire Police on the success of their pro-hare campaign. We have forwarded details to Garda HQ in Dublin and suggested that they consider replicating the operation in rural Ireland in the future.

Crushing machine at work
Long arm of the law: a courserís vehicle about to be crushed.

Hunting fund pays out €4m to date in compensation

A compensation fund formed by the National Association of Regional Game Councils has paid out nearly €4 million, ICABS has learned.

According to details supplied on the shooting organisation's website, the fund was formed in 1984 and has handled over 975 claims to date.

The claims relate to a range of incidents - from what NARGC call "minor occurrences like dogs colliding with motorcars or killing sheep" (ICABS doubts that the motorists or farmers would view them as minor) to "more serious incidents like accidental bodily injury and even fatalities".

The fund has amassed assets approaching €5.5 million, we are told, and the ceiling of indemnity it provides for each claim is €7 million. Although initially viewed with "some general scepticism", the fund is said to have now "gained wide acclaim" and is accepted as a valid provider of liability protection by, for example, the government, the Department of Defence, Coillte, ESB, IFA, the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association and Bord na Mona.

In a description of the fund, a disturbing insight is given into the type of incidents shooters can cause while out with their guns.

The NARGC website states: "The scope of protection in simplistic terms protects members for third party and/or member-to-member liability arising in the course of their shooting activities while using a shotgun or rifle and pursuing any game or pest species or while involved in clay target shooting.

"In addition, members are protected if their dog causes injury or damage to persons or property, e.g. bites someone or, while on a public road without a lead (unlawful in itself), collides with a motor vehicle or perhaps knocks someone off a bicycle.

"In addition, members are protected for liability arising from poison laying activities (vermin control) or the use of a lamp at night (fox shooting)."

In an online Accident Report Form, subscribers to the fund are requested to submit details of the incident, including: how long they have been shooting, the name and age of gun involved, the distance from target and in the case of a dog attack incident, the breed, age and sex of the dog involved.

Is it any wonder that so many Irish landowners are now telling hunters of all kinds to stay off their property?

Greyhounds in pounds

A consultant to a dog pound has highlighted how greyhounds are among the most common dogs dumped.

Vet Syd Nagle told the Irish Independent in May: "I see far too many greyhounds surrendered. If they're injured or not performing well on the racetrack many owners don't want them, and they are often handed into the pound in groups of up to five dogs at the same time."

Campaign quotes

"When a hunt blocks a road, it is all to [sic] easy to annoy passing motorists, who may be under pressure of work. Other hunts take note; don't antagonise the motorists. They aren't having the fun that we are." (Brian Munn, spokesman for the Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association. The comment appears on the IMFHA website a few paragraphs below a photo of a County Cork hunt blocking a road with horses and hounds)

"It can be near midday when trappers have completed the check of all snares. Thus, badgers are held captive for many hours of daylight in a state of high risk from both animals and humans. Are we any wiser for the killing? Yes, we now know for certain that slaughtering badgers on a massive scale, which has been operating in this country for more than 20 years has made little enough impact on the cattle TB levels." Bernie Barrett in Badger Watch Ireland's An Broc newsletter, Spring 2005)

"I have no doubt there will be more people from Britain seeking to course here. However it will be a matter of finding room for them as there is already a huge demand for places at present meets." (Jerry Desmond, chief executive of the Irish Coursing Club, Sunday Times, February 2005)

"There are no such things as hunting rights, only the goodwill of the farmers. If a club is split, farmers will say to sort things out and come back when things are settled, and when that happens the landowners might have become so used to not having the hunt around that they won't give permission. There might be no hunting." (Former Limerick County Hunt chairman, Tim O'Brien. The Limerick Leader of April 30th, 2005 detailed how Mr O'Brien was sacked as chairman at an acrimonious hunt EGM which saw officers being removed and several members walking out)

In-flight entertainment

Winner of an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2002, Jacques Perrin's Winged Migration remains one of the most stunning records ever of nature in action.

Lovingly captured by a team of 14 cinematographers based on all seven continents, this is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in wildlife.

Now available on DVD, Winged Migration will bring you on a spectacular species-by-species journey as the film's subjects embark on their migratory journey through 40 countries.

Thanks to a dedicated team of 17 pilots (in planes, gliders, helicopters and hot air balloons!) you will ascend skyward to experience a breathtaking flight above, behind and alongside the varied cast of characters.

Largely commentary-free and with minimal use of informational subtitles, the uninterrupted feeling of being there, free among the flocks, is encouraged. Join them as they circle the poles, shelter from a downpour in the Amazon, take their first dizzying dives from a cliff and touch down for a rest on a warship. As spectacular are the scenes where the skylines of New York and Paris form the backdrops. As they swan into the city, it's hard not to feel envious at their boundless freedom.

Goose with Statue of Liberty in background and a bird flying over water
A goose flies into New York harbour in a serene scene from Winged Migration. Birdís eye view: Following a feathered friend on a flight through a river valley.

But soaring majestically above the wingless is only part of the story. The life of a migrating bird has its downsides and these are touched upon throughout.

As well as the gruelling journey they instinctively make twice yearly (this ranges from hundreds to tens of thousands of miles), they have to contend with pollution, modern farming techniques, the trade in exotic pets and, of course, shooting.

One scene poignantly presents the awful impact shooters have on the birds. One moment, a flock are happily flying along and the next, some are seen spiralling towards the ground with the sound of gunfire accompanying their deathly descent. It's a powerful moment where viewers are left with no doubt about the enormity of this transgression against nature. The birds have flown an exhausting journey only to be stopped by bullets fired by hunters lurking in the bushes.

Shooting is an activity producer and co-director Jacques Perrin clearly disapproves of. He has the greatest of respect for the birds and you can tell that he struggles to understand this abhorrent hobby of killing for fun.

Commenting on the scene where the hunters shoot from the shadows, he points out that these particular birds had flown for 5,000 kilometres before being blasted from the sky. "Some people are waiting [with their guns] and they stop this moment. They stop the movement of life. It's difficult to accept that. It's very difficult."

Says co-director Jacques Cluzaud: "Hunters have acquired stronger means [with] a series of cartridges. Some areas are final walls for these birds. Blocking their progression. For a migratory bird to remain free, it needs two places for summer and winter. And the trip in between must be possible and hopefully doesn't end with lead in their bodies."

If Winged Migration isn't already part of your DVD collection we highly recommend flying out now to get a copy. Once you watch it, you'll never see birds in the same light again.

Young Fine Gael defend hunting

ICABS has expressed its deep disappointment to the president of Young Fine Gael after learning that the organisation is defending blood sports.

At their national conference last November, a motion was passed stating that "Young Fine Gael is committed to the preservation of the rights of foxhunters and other such rural blood sports."

In a letter to YFG President, Patrick O'Driscoll, ICABS condemned the policy, saying that it was particularly disappointing now that foxhunting and other cruel blood sports have been banned in neighbouring jurisdictions.

The pro-blood sports motion was presented to conference delegates by the organisation's Social Affairs Committee.

YFG Vice-president, Elizabeth Munnelly, confirmed to ICABS that the motion was passed and remains as an official policy.

She maintained that "much debate and discussion" had taken place on the motion and that "it was stressed that regulations in this regard must be strictly implemented and enforced."

ICABS is currently preparing a submission to Young Fine Gael in an effort to persuade them to reverse this incredible policy. Our presentation will show how animal cruelty is integral to foxhunting and that regulations will do nothing to eliminate the suffering. Only a complete ban will achieve this.

Hunt terrier biting into head of fox
A terrier bites into a fox. Young Fine Gael are defending the rights of hunters to carry out this appalling animal cruelty.

ACTION ITEM

Express your disappointment to YFG about their pro-hunt policy. Suggest that they condemn those who terrorise wildlife instead of seeking to defend their "rights". Ask for this policy to be urgently scrapped.

Pa O'Driscoll, YFG President
c/o Fine Gael HQ
51 Upper Mount St, Dublin 2
Email: paodriscoll@gmail.com
Tel: 086-8113109

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Credits

Animal Voice is published by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, PO Box 88, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, Ireland. Tel: 044-49848. Fax: 044-49848. Email: info[AT]banbloodsports.com. Website: www.banbloodsports.com. Editorial Team: Aideen Yourell and Philip Kiernan. Layout and Design: Philip Kiernan. Contributors: Peter Akokan, Bernie Barrett, Mike Huskisson, Francis Kennedy, Philip Kiernan, Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, Senator David Norris, Dick Power, Mike Rendle, Aideen Yourell. Please pass Animal Voice on to a friend when you are finished with it. Thank you.


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