Animal Watch

Animal Watch, Summer 1998
Full Contents - Pages 1-12

One down, one to go
Days numbered for Ward Union as Down Staghounds forced to quit hounding deer

Carted stag hunters in Northern Ireland have been stopped dead in their tracks thanks to pressure from the animal welfare lobby. The County Down Staghounds have been told by authorities that their cruel "sport" is unlawful and must be ended.

This tremendous development was confirmed by the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture who announced that "having taken professional and legal advice, we have concluded that hunting the carted deer is arguably an act of cruelty under the Welfare of Animals Act, 1972 and we have advised the hunt that we may have to take action to prevent future breaches of the Act, or to ask the D.P.P. to prosecute those responsible".

Carted stag hunting involves the hunting down of a captive bred deer which is transported (carted) to the start of the hunt in a trailer before being released before the hounds. The fate of this form of hunting rested on one crucial question - are the deer used in carted stag hunting wild or tame? If they were tame, the hunt would be in violation of the law. Government vets called in to investigate the matter confirmed what was obvious to many - deer used by the hunting club are indeed tame.

A Department of Agriculture spokesperson said: "It is arguable that the deer being used in this activity are being tamed by their semi-intensive rearing system. That being the case, we have concluded that they may indeed be regarded as domestic animals."

The announcement was widely welcomed across Northern Ireland where opposition to the blood sport has been growing since 1996 when a UTV journalist filmed a terrified stag being terrorised by hunters. For the more than 70,000 individuals who signed a petition calling for an end to stag hunting it was a remarkable victory for people power.

The demise of the 117-year-old Co Down Staghounds means that there is now just one carted stag hunting club in the world - Meath-based Ward Union. ICABS has intensified efforts to try and persuade the Irish Department of Agriculture to take similar steps into investigating the status of deer used by that hunt.

However, government departments aren't entirely enthusiastic about meeting our request. Both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are dragging their heals on this issue and so far appear reluctant to take action.

ICABS vice-president Tony Gregory called on the Department of Agriculture to inspect the Ward Union deerpark and establish the status of its resident deer but Minister Joe Walsh declined, maintaining that it is not his department's responsibility but that of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

hunt and hounds Scenes like this may soon be a thing of the past.

On the assumption that the Ward Union's deer are domesticated, the Minister was asked what action he would take to halt carted stag hunting in accordance with the Protection of Animals Act, an act dealing with domestic creatures and which Minister Walsh has responsibility for. His reply to this was similarly dismissive. "It would be a matter for the Garda Síochána to investigate and prosecute persons for any alleged offences under the Act," he said.

If the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture were as reluctant to involve themselves in investigating what was clearly a breach of the law, the break-through there would probably never have come about.

ICABS is resolute in its aims to have the world's last remaining stag hunt banned for good and will continue to pressurise the government into taking action. Please help us in this goal by writing to Minister Joe Walsh, Department of Agriculture, Kildare House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mespil Road, Dublin 4, telling them that you want the majestic Irish stag protected from the cruelty of carted stag hunting.

UK anti-hunt campaign will continue despite Foster Bill failure

British Labour MP, Michael Foster, has vowed to continue the fight against hunting with hounds despite the failure of his anti-hunt bill to progress in the House of Commons. Pointing to the huge level of support amongst MPs for the bill, Mr Foster predicted that cruel and barbaric blood sports would be banned within four years. "I remain confident that a ban will be in place by the next election," he commented, adding, "It is inconceivable that hunting will survive this Parliament."

Despite a massive two thirds majority of MPs supporting the bill, it eventually had to be withdrawn after "cynical delaying tactics" were used by Tory opponents to ensure that parliament ran out of time.

However, Home Secretary Jack Straw outlined that he is now looking at ways of giving MPs another chance to ban the blood sport. "I'll be talking to Mike Foster and his colleagues to see if there's a way through this," he said. "I understand their frustration but there's every opportunity for a new Private Members Bill."

Michael Foster MP Michael Foster: "Hunting will be banned within four years."

Outdated parliamentary systems were being blamed for the failure of a bill which had such overwhelming support amongst MPs and general public alike. Several politicians have subsequently been prompted to call for a reform of Parliament. Denouncing the deplorable blocking tactics, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew Stunnell remarked: "This is an outrageous abuse of Parliament's old-fashioned systems by a handful of maverick MPs."

An editorial in one tabloid paper echoed this, condemning the House of Commons' "crazy old rules". "It takes only one bloody-minded MP to stop something - even if the other 658 want it to pass. That is not democracy or common sense. It belongs to some long-ago time when Parliament was seen as a kind of game. If an overwhelming number of MPs want a law passed, it should be. The rules must be changed but that will come too late to save the suffering of countless more foxes."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals expressed disappointment at the withdrawal of the Foster Bill but promised their campaign would continue and that they would be pressing the government to introduce new legislation to ban hunting.

Why are we waiting?

It is now almost 12 months since ICABS delivered the gruesome video of foxhunting to the Minister for Agriculture in response to his support for foxhunting at the RDS Horse Show last year.

In that time, the foxhunters and the Minister's civil servants have been engaged in talks about a code of conduct for foxhunting following concerns expressed by the Minister in the Irish Horse Review about unacceptable practices such as digging out of foxes and earthstopping.

The talks are still in progress in what must the longest gestation period ever for a Code of Conduct, and ICABS is watching this space to see what kind of fudge emerges from this cosmetic exercise.

Sad death of anti-blood sports actor

The death occurred in February 1998 of actor and Irish Council Against Blood Sports founder member, John Cowley. Mr Cowley starred as Tom Riordan in the popular 70s soap The Riordans and was a long time anti-blood sports campaigner.

Writing in the 1988 edition of Animal Watch, he remarked that he had loved animals since he could walk. "Being born on a small farm," he recalled at the time, "I always had a pet animal of some kind, either a cow, a goat or a pig - even a fox. My mother loved cats, and I suppose I inherited that trait from her.

Mr Cowley's first protest against animal cruelty was when, as a young boy, he and his friends were offered two shillings each by coursing men to beat hares into a field to be rounded up into nets for coursing. Though two shillings was a good deal of money to a youngster in those days, John adamantly refused to take part. "Something prevented me from taking the money," he said of the encounter, "I wanted to protect the hares, not beat them. Of course, the other boys jeered me but that's a small price to pay, I suppose."

When just ten years old, the horrors of foxhunting also became clear to him. He was understandably shocked and upset upon seeing the dogs being lowered into a fox earth and coming out covered in blood. The sight of the fox being dragged out and clubbed to death left an even greater impression on him. In later life he went to great lengths to keep fox hunters off his farm, posting numerous no hunting notices on his trees. The hunters repeatedly removed these signs and on seeing that John would replace the signs time and time again, they resorted to cutting the trees down - an act of nastiness which led to John's decision to move elsewhere.

John Cowley RIP ICABS founding member, John Cowley, who sadly passed away in February 1998.

One of John's most significant contributions to the campaign was when, in 1967, he attended a hare coursing meet with the aim of exposing the animal cruelty. The coursing organisers became suspicious and prevented him and the accompanying photographer from going in to where the dead hares were kept. But in the end, they did manage to take photos of the actual kills. These images proved instrumental in highlighting the barbarity of coursing when, shortly afterwards, John was invited onto the Late Late Show to display the pictures to the nation and illustrate the cruel nature of blood sports. This had a huge impact and was the beginnings of the campaign to have coursing banned.

More recently, John joined the Westmeath Supporters Group of ICABS in Kells for a protest against the Meath Hunt on St Stephen's Day some years ago.

In a moving tribute at his funeral, Tom Hickey (who played Benjy in the Riordans), described John Cowley as "an actor, an anti-blood sports activist and the man who talked to cats".

Mr Cowley once said that it was for his anti-blood sports stance that he wanted to be principally remembered: "When I see a hare running at the back of the house, I say thank God I love animals. Because if they become extinct, no money will bring them back and future generations will blame us." Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dhílis.

Editorial Comment
Foxhunt suspensions part of hypocritical PR exercise

Further to the story and pictures we carried in the last issue of Animal Watch regarding the disgusting fox hunting video ICABS exposed last year, we can now report that the Irish Masters of Fox Hounds Association have been busy failing to convince the public that the heart wrenching footage of a fox being mercilessly dug out of the ground and thrown to the hounds is not typical of their sordid "sport"

The images which formed part of a centenary hunt video commissioned by Cork's South Union Hunt disgusted and shocked RTÉ viewers when broadcast on the main news programmes.

In a pathetic effort to allay public concern, the IMFHA proceeded with what was obviously a public relations exercise and suspended a number of members for their part in the controversial dig-out. The scenes showing the cruel abuse and terrorisation of a fox were filmed over ten years ago and the fact that the suspension of those responsible didn't come about until our exposé as well as considerable public pressure, reflects the true view of the IMFHA towards the so-called terriermen who remain integral to this blood sport.

These mere suspensions, reportedly ranging from one year to several, are viewed by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports as nothing more than a hypocritical face-saving exercise on the part of the IMFHA. They cannot condone the appalling cruelty involved so they have to be seen to be taking some action. But we would suggest that if all hunters guilty of this kind of fox abuse were suspended, there would be a dramatic fall in members. The kind of cruelty filmed is par for the course. Needless to mention, there would have been no suspensions and no problem if the video had not got into the public domain.

Doubtless, due to the video being shown nationally, the Department of Agriculture has called on the hunt organisation to draw up a code of conduct. This, of course, would be cosmetic in nature. After all, how can a code of conduct apply to an activity that involves the hunting down, terrorising and tearing asunder of an animal?

The Minister for Agriculture, having acknowledged the unacceptable practices associated with foxhunting should put legislation in place outlawing such activities. As we approach the new millennium, steps must be taken by our legislators to banish foxhunting, hare coursing and all blood sport which continue to shame our nation. As a preliminary, a ban on all fox dig-outs should immediately be put in place.

Finally, the question must be asked: If the IMFHA does not name those suspended, how will people know if the suspensions have been implemented?

Setting the record straight

ICABS wishes to set the record straight in relation to allegations made by the Association of Hunt Saboteurs (AOHS) regarding our handling of the South Union Hunt video. In the September 1997 edition of the group's newsletter, it was suggested that ICABS was tardy and negligent in its efforts to gain publicity for the gruesome video of a fox being dug out of an earth and thrown to a pack of hounds (pictures from which were published in the last issue of Animal Watch). It was erroneously stated that it was the Association of Hunt Saboteurs who succeeded in initially bringing the video to the attention of the media.

In response to these entirely inaccurate comments, we wish firstly to point out that ICABS is not in competition or engaged in petty rivalry for publicity with any other group or organisation.

Exposing the activities of foxhunters, hare coursers and stag hunters is a major priority with us, so it is ridiculous and illogical in the extreme to suggest that we would not act promptly to expose a video of cruelty to a fox which came into our possession.

We received the video towards the end of February 1997, and in early March we held a press conference in Dublin. We issued a press release on the fox hunting video to the media, including RTÉ. It was our hope that RTÉ would carry segments from the video on the 6.01 news, as they had done the previous month for video footage we shot of hares being mauled in coursing. RTÉ failed to attend on this occasion, however, despite numerous pleas and requests. We sent a copy of the video to the newsroom, and Deputy Tony Gregory who attended the press conference joined us in making several phone calls to journalists in the RTÉ newsroom.

The following day, March 6th, the video story was carried in a prominent article in the Irish Independent, followed by an article in the Cork Examiner which showed stills supplied to the paper by ICABS. We were also contacted by a number of radio stations. Therefore it is wrong to suggest that it was another group who succeeded over ICABS in exposing the video or that ICABS' handling of the video was improper.

ICABS finally succeeded in having the video aired on RTÉ 6.01 and 9.00 news on August 14th when we presented a copy of the video along with a submission pack to the Taoiseach, the Minister for Agriculture and the Tánaiste in response to remarks made by the Minister for Agriculture at the RDS Horse Show that he supported fox hunting but found dig-outs unacceptable.

The AOHS further claimed that ICABS interfered with efforts by them to get additional publicity for the video in a Sunday Tribune article. Quite the opposite is the case, in fact. We sent in a supporting statement condemning the content of the video and calling on the Minister for Agriculture to introduce legislation banning such cruel practices. The idea that we would try to stop the coverage of any article which would expose the activities of foxhunters is totally illogical.

Cork Support Group News

Cork Support Group was very busy in 1997/98, promoting the work and aims of the Council at local and national level. In September, a members’ meeting was held to view and discuss the infamous South Union Hunt video. A large turnout were shocked at the content of the video which shows foxhunting in its brutal state.

In November, Cork supporters staged a picket outside Irish & European auctioneers based in Cork City as part of our anti-foxhunting campaign. ICABS understands that British foxhunters are being courted by Irish auctioneers to purchase property in Ireland to use as a base for foxhunting.

Carigaline demo A large turn-out at this demonstration in December sent a clear message to foxhunters in Carigaline. (Photo: Don Kennedy)

A very successful street stand was held in December which gave us the opportunity to show the South Union video to a large audience. Many people were shocked to see such brutality. Indeed, it was probably the first time the hunting horn rang loud and clear on Cork City’s main shopping street. This street stand also helped to promote our demonstration at the South Union St. Stephen’s day meet. This annual event is a thorn in the side of the South Union hunt and receives good media coverage.

Our next demonstration was in February at the Coursing Finals in Clonmel where a large number of Cork supporters were present on the day.

The Cork Support Group intends to expand its operations this year. I would appeal to supporters based in Cork City or county to make contact with our committee via ICABS head office if you have time to spare to help with our activities. Thanks to those who have helped the Cork Support Group in 1997/98.

John Tierney, Chairman, Cork Support Group
April 1998

Traffic warning for wildlife

Every year, countless creatures get killed on Irish roads by motorists. If you’re concerned about injuring and killing an animal on the road, worry no more because there is help at hand.

Special animal warning devices can be fitted to the front bumper of your car and as you drive along, the air passing through them makes a high- frequency signal which animals can hear. The sound gives any animals ahead an advance warning that a vehicle is approaching, thus allowing them to move off the road to safety.

Manufactured to prevent animal carnage on the roads and also to reduce the incidences of motorists dangerously swerving to avoid wildlife, the devices with their self adhesive backs are extremely easy to fit. To order a pair, send £9.95 sterling (+50p post and packing) to Anderson Speciality Products, PO Box 311, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 ODS, England. Mention ICABS when ordering and the company will donate £1 to the campaign for each pair purchased.

They said it

"The report only sets about measuring the economic impact of legal and controlled field sports. It doesn’t touch on the morals at all. We are not using this to justify nefarious deeds."
Ian Hurst, chairman of the Irish Field and Country Sports, commenting on a report that focuses on the economical impact of blood sports. (Business & Finance magazine - June 1998)

"Thirty years ago, it was mostly all farmers that time, and the farmer didn’t give a damn if we tore down the whole f***ing ditch from one end of the ditch to the other."
Sean Harrington, ex-kennel huntsman, South Union Hunt (taken from an interview on South Union Hunt commemorative video).

"It’s just a nice thing to have, something I’ll treasure anyway."
Eamonn Kelleher, ex-huntsman, South Union Hunt (referring to the South Union’s commemorative video which contains scenes of a fox being dug out and thrown live to a pack of hounds).

"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. All in all, hunting is so good now that it’s very hard on horses and hounds."
Eamonn Kelleher, ex-huntsman, South Union Hunt (taken from an interview on the South Union’s commemorative video).

Richard Martin - a profile

Born in Galway in 1754, Richard Martin will forever be remembered for his outstanding achievement in securing the first ever laws to protect animals. A founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Richard Martin’s whole life was an unending crusade to protect animals. He believed firmly that the ill-treatment of animals debased and dehumanised people and made them insensitive to the suffering of their fellow men.

Nicknamed "Humanity Martin" (later changed to Humanity Dick) by William IV, he ceaselessly worked to improve conditions for both humans and animals. He pleaded the cause of Catholic Emancipation, for example, and relentlessly fought for the rights of the landless, the poor and the oppressed. He was a close friend of Willberforce whose campaign for the abolition of slavery succeeded in having it outlawed by Britain in 1833, making it one of the first countries in the world to legislate for the freedom of slaves.

One of his most famous successes for animals was the banning of bull baiting and bear baiting, revolting "sports" which were about as commonplace as coursing and fox hunting are today. After years of tireless campaigning by Richard Martin, both activities were finally outlawed.

The task of reformers at that time was very difficult and Richard Martin’s road to success was a long and arduous one. But despite being mocked and jeered in the House of Commons and being portrayed as a figure of fun by the press, he persevered until he managed to have legislation introduced for the first time in history to protect animals from cruelty.

His efforts also resulted in some protection for horses, one of the many victims of cruelty. At the time, there was no law against torturing, beating or overloading a horse but Martin succeeded in changing all that by cleverly highlighting the financial loss caused to horse owners by grooms who ill-treated animals.

Animal welfare concerns force cancellation of cruel ostrich race

A controversial ostrich race scheduled to take place at Punchestown Racecourse was stopped thanks to pressure from animal welfare groups. Organisers of the event were forced to back down after it was highlighted that the planned race contravened EU legislation.

Rules set out in the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes stating that "ostriches shall not be ridden or raced" obliged the Department of Agriculture to demand a cancellation of the event.

Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh, threatened to ban the race if the organisers did not call it off. Gardaí also acted to halt the race. The announcement of the event’s cancellation was hailed as a victory by ICABS, CIWF and other groups who had pressed for a ban.

Ostrich event "Ostriches shall not be used for public spectacles" - EU convention says this daft display is not on. (Photo: ACIG/ICABS)

The cruel ostrich racing would have involved the riding of eleven birds by jockeys weighing up to eight stone. While this did not go ahead, the group of ostriches were made run up a field as part of a ridiculous egg and spoon race. ICABS has lodged a complaint regarding this as it too is prohibited by the same EU legislation. According to the legislation: "ostriches kept for farming purposes shall not be used to achieve any other goal, including public spectacles or demonstrations"

This is a landmark case in terms of the use of farm animals for public spectacles and entertainment. It would seem logical that the EU Recommendations relating to ostriches should extend to all farm animals, including pigs which are currently being used in silly, abusive and stressful racing events at summer festivals around the country.

Town Commissioners vote for foxhunt ban

Town Commissioners in Shannon, Co Clare have voted in favour of requesting the government to ban fox hunting. The motion raised at their February meeting by Independent Commissioner, Peter Flannigan, was carried by a vote of 5-3.

According to Commissioner Flannigan, the decision to table the motion was prompted by his "abhorrence for the killing of an animal for sport".

He said: "At Christmas I watched a Channel 4 programme on fox hunting in England and I found it disgusting to watch. However, it did inform me about some aspects to fox hunting and about blood sports in general. The tracking of the fox [when it goes to ground] by electronically tagged dogs, for example, shows that the fox has no chance. Also disturbing was the shooting in the head of a dog no longer able to engage in the chase. It was unceremoniously dumped into an incinerator."

Commissioner Flannigan Commissioner Peter Flannigan: Abhors the killing of animals for sports.

This motion was the second of two raised by Commissioner Flannigan. In January a motion that "Shannon Town Commissioners request the relevant Government Department to use every measure possible to ensure that Ireland is not used as a stomping ground by blood sports enthusiasts to wallow in the despicable trade of using dogs to hunt foxes to their deaths" was defeated by 6-3.

The revised motion, however, saw some of those who had originally voted against, changing their minds and voting in favour of a foxhunt ban. Those who voted for the motion "that Shannon Town Commissioners request the Government to ban live fox hunting as a sport" were Commissioners Flannigan, Lambert, McKee, Mulcahy and O’Shaughnessy. The motion was opposed by Commissioners Hillery, McCarthy and Murphy.

Cockfight "spectator" fined

A Westmeath man who recently appeared at Athy District Court charged with cock fighting offences was fined £200 and ordered to pay £100 in veterinary expenses.

William Dunne of Riverstown, Killucan denied a charge of animal cruelty but admitted to being present as a "spectator" at a cock fight held last year in a field in Grangemageny, Co Carlow. The court heard how Dunne fled when Gardaí arrived on the scene and hid for four hours in a hedge in an attempt to escape detection. He failed to elude patient Gardaí, however, and was intercepted when he came out of hiding to return to his car.

Dunne conceals face Dunne explains to photographers why he's wearing his jumper over his face. (Photo: Philip Kiernan) Dunne with photographer Strike-a-pose: Cockfight spectator Dunne tries to avoid waiting photographers. (Photo: Aideen Yourell)

Described by Judge Mary Martin as "something of a sinister nature", the cock fight was discovered by Gardaí at 10.45 a.m. on 6th July, 1997. Giving evidence, Garda Kevin Fahy of Carlow Garda Station said Dunne's Nissan Primera was seen parked near the cock fight venue. Two bags with a cockerel inside each were found at the rear of the car. A total of 12 cocks were seized by Gardaí, one of which was dead and others severely injured. They also discovered a number of steel spurs. Spurs are tied to the legs of each cock, resulting in a fight to the death as the birds rip at each others' flesh.

Dunne was the eighth person to be convicted on charges arising out of the cock fight which was watched by as many as 100 spectators. Also appearing in court on the day was Kildare cock breeder, Hugh Behan, who accompanied Dunne to the cockfight. He too was fined £300.

Emerging from court, Dunne concealed his face with his jumper and shouted at waiting photographers.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports welcomed the prosecution by Gardaí for such a notoriously difficult crime to detect. We appeal to anyone with information on cockfighting events to contact us in confidence. Cockfighting is a particularly savage blood sport which invariably results in atrocious suffering, injury and death.

Cockfighting: an insight

Cockfighting involves pitting one cock against another in a vicious fight to the death. Taking place between Easter Sunday and the end of July, the cockfighting season sees countless birds dying horrible deaths.

Two forms of cockfighting exist, namely "naked heel" and "spur fighting". Each involves putting two cocks into an enclosed pit where their combat is cheered on by spectators, many of whom will be gambling on the outcome. In naked heel, the birds' natural spurs are sharpened to increase the degree of injury they can inflict. Alternatively, a fighting cock will have its spurs removed and in their place will be attached a pair of three-inch long steel spurs - imported from the US and designed to cause fatal injuries. Spur fighting results in even bloodier and more savage battles with cocks being mercilessly allowed to rip each other apart until one succumbs and dies.

Cock fights can last anywhere between five and twenty five minutes. The longer the birds can withstand the injuries, the longer the fight will be allowed progress.

Birds like the Irish Game Cock and the Large Old English Game Cock are traditionally used since they are particularly territorial and will instinctively chase rival cocks away. In a pit of death, heartless enthusiasts direct this natural aggression into the sick and perverted blood sport that is cock fighting.


Do you have any news to report from your area about the activities of blood sport enthusiasts? Do you have any stories to tell about your own personal campaigning efforts? If so, please Contact Us now.

Don't forget to include your name, address and telephone number. If you prefer, you can phone or fax the details to us in confidence and we will follow up and write the story.

Hunt trespass complaints continue to mount

In recent months, ICABS has been receiving record numbers of inquiries from farmers who are being plagued by fox hunters invading their property.

Free advice is available to all landowners who wish to keep hunters off their land. Our Troubled by the Hunt information leaflet details the best course of action to take, from publishing a "hunting prohibited" notice in the local newspaper to sending a formal warning to the hunt master that any invasion by hunters and/or hounds will be viewed as a trespass. We also advise that evidence of trespasses be recorded on film for use as evidence if the matter is brought before the courts.

There are several reasons why farmers show concern about hunters coming onto their land. The obvious ones are that packs of horses and hounds can cause extensive damage to the land they transverse; jumping over ditches and fences can also lead to considerable damage. If there is livestock on the land, the sudden appearance of hounds and horses galloping through can worry livestock; indeed, there have been several incidences of pregnant animals having miscarriages as a result of hunts causing havoc on farmland.

Farmers are also becoming increasingly aware of the threat of disease spread by hounds. Research has shown that infectious parasites carried by foxhounds can prove fatal if passed onto farm animals.

Many farmers, of course, are simply opposed to the cruel pursuit and killing of wild creatures and want none of it taking place on their land. Such farmers are aware that claims by hunters that the fox is a pest are grossly exaggerated and that the fox, in fact, plays a vital role in the ecosystem of the countryside.

Those who wish to find out more about keeping foxhunters at bay are invited to get in touch with us for a copy of our detailed leaflet. Just remember, the less land hunters have to hunt on, the less blood sport cruelty there will be against foxes.

ICABS Letter Writing Group

ICABS is forming a new national letter writing group and we’re looking for individuals to put pen to paper as part of our ongoing anti-blood sports letter writing campaign. At regular intervals, members of the letter writing group will receive details of companies, politicians, newspapers, etc. to direct correspondence to.

Letter writing is an effective way of highlighting the cruelty of blood sports and particularly so when large numbers of supporters join in. And remember you don’t have to be a literary genius to write successful letters. Expressing genuine feelings about blood sport cruelty in your own words are often the best. So get your pens out and write to us now to sign up to the ICABS Letter Writing Group.

Animals to be the stars in new RTÉ show

The best animal stories from all around the country are what’s promised in a new RTÉ television series to be screened from September.

Hosted by former Nighthawks presenter, Shay Healy, Beastly Behaviour will be modelled on popular BBC show Animal Hospital. As well as focusing on pet and wildlife issues, the programme will also feature the work of a vet practising in Bray.

For the producers of the programme, Shay Healy was an obvious choice for presenting. He is said to have a Pekinese dog, an adorable fluffy cat and he’s no stranger to foxes either. Shay actually feeds two urban foxes who visit his back garden every night.

Opposition to coursing at an all time high
Latest survey shows 8 in 10 want coursing banned

AN OPINION poll carried out by the Sunday Independent reveals that between eighty and ninety per cent of Irish people want hare coursing banned. The mass opposition to the blood sport comes from both rural and urban areas alike.

The results of the newspaper’s telephone poll paralleled findings of all previous coursing surveys but these latest figures reveal that opposition to coursing is now at an all time high. Polls carried out between 1981 and 1993 showed a steady increase in opposition to coursing but the Sunday Independent’s 80 per cent figure means more people than ever want coursing made illegal.

pie chart The Sunday Independent opinion poll results.

The poll is very encouraging indeed and gives another boost to our campaign to have this vile blood sport banned. But knowing that the vast majority are against coursing is no reason to become complacent. Pressure must continue to be put on politicians to sit up and take notice of such strong public opinion.

Along with your friends, family and workmates, write, telephone, fax, e-mail your Local Politicians. Tell them how you feel about coursing and demand that they put a ban in place. Together, us 80 per cent who detest cruelty to hares can force a change in legislation.

How the survey came about
by Philip Kiernan

Dismayed that the Sunday Independent newspaper was not only continuing to give coverage to hare coursing but actually including it in the sports section, a number of individuals within the management and editorial divisions of Independent Newspapers were contacted and reminded that coursing is a form of animal cruelty, not a sport, and that categorising it as such was highly offensive.

Sunday Independent columnist and ICABS president, Hugh Leonard, promptly agreed that the newspaper publishers should be challenged on the printing of coursing fixtures and results. In his column of January 4th, 1998 Mr Leonard wrote: "Hare coursing isn’t a sport. It is barbarism, promoted by those who have ascended the wrong limb of the evolutionary tree...To me, the people who work for this newspaper are not faceless. They are caring and even passionate about what is published, and I am asking them - as of here and now - to discontinue the practice of dignifying hare coursing with as much as a column-inch, except for the purpose of opposing it."

The following week, reporter Liam Collins quoted Hugh Leonard’s remarks and posed the question: how many people agree? His subsequent article headed "Eight in Ten want coursing banned" said it all.

Despite the obvious conclusions which can be drawn from the results of the poll, the publishers still need to be convinced. Coursing results continue to be included in the paper even though the editor of the Sunday Independent comments that their policy on publishing coursing results is now under "active review".

If you are one of the Independent’s one million readers, write a letter to the editor, Mr Fanning, congratulating him on publishing the poll and telling him that as a reader opposed to animal cruelty, you wish to see the newspaper disassociating itself from hare coursing. Address your letters to Independent Newspapers, 90 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1.

Irish Wildlife Trust clarifies foxhunt stance amid controversy

One of Ireland’s leading conservation groups, the IWT, quickly moved to state its opposition to fox hunting after a statement on behalf of the Trust, appearing to support foxhunittng, was published in the media last January.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (formerly the Irish Wildlife Federation) was in the process of reviewing its official policies when a statement from the group indicated that they were not opposed to hunting. As pressure continued to mount, however, they retracted the statement, claiming they were misquoted.

The saga continued on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme when it appeared that the IWT were on the verge of coming out in favour of fox hunting. The Irish Council Against Blood Sports was deeply dismayed when IWT spokesperson, Billy Flynn, said that the group did not oppose fox hunting on the basis that foxes were plentiful and not under threat as a species. He went on to try and justify foxhunting on traditional and economic grounds, the typical arguments used by hunters.

Listeners were left wondering if now-protected badgers became as plentiful as foxes, would the Irish Wildlife Trust support the legalisation of similarly cruel activities such as badger baiting and badger digging.

Following the apparent pro-foxhunt statement, ICABS appealed to the Irish Wildlife Trust to re- consider its position on foxhunting with hounds. We reminded them that there is a wealth of scientific and statistical evidence available to show that foxhunting plays no role in conservation. Furthermore, we said, foxes suffer appalling stress during and after hunts and are cruelly torn apart by hounds - not something any animal-related group should accept or condone.

In the most recent issue of IWT newsletter, "The Badger", the group leave no doubt as to where they stand on foxhunting. The policy which "takes full account of all views expressed by IWT members" reads as follows:

Referring to earlier reports in the media, the accompanying article emphasises that the IWT is not pro-hunting and is not anti-fox. "After the radio programme, we were deluged with comments on the stance the IWT should be taking on foxhunting and our members gave a variety of views. The majority were personally opposed...some felt that, as conservationists, we must respect the fox and thus we should oppose foxhunting."

Show matadors red card or prepare for penalty
Ten French towns warned - "halt bullfight horror or face massive tourist boycotts

World Cup ‘98 host France has been urged to give bullfighting the boot and act on mass opposition to the world’s ugliest and most barbaric "sport".

A major campaign launched by the World Society for the Protection of Animals to coincide with France’s hosting of the world’s most popular sporting event is asking visitors to France to:

If you’re planning on visiting France this summer, take note of the following Southern French towns and hit back at their cruel traditions by boycotting them: Beziers, Arles, Nîmes, Dax, Saint Sever, Bayonne, Vic Fezensac, Ceret, Ales, Floirac.

Petitions being distributed all over Europe by WSPA will be presented to the mayor of top bullfighting centre Nîmes, at a demonstration to be held this September. A copy of the petition is included with this issue of Animal Watch so sign up now and help to send an unequivocal message from Ireland that bullfighting is unacceptable in Europe.

During the last decade, over thirty thousand bulls have been cruelly slaughtered in French bullrings and when you compare this to the death of just one matador, it is immediately obvious how one-sided a "battle" bullfighting is between man and beast. The dirty tactics used to weaken the matador’s opponent include painfully filing its horns down to make them shorter (an operation which is carried out without an anaesthetic and is comparable to grinding someone’s teeth away). Before the fight, the bull may also be beaten with heavy sandbags and if deemed to be too aggressive it will be drugged with a sedative. Furthermore, some of the bulls used are so diseased that when they enter the arena they can hardly stand.

To illustrate the sheer barbarity of bullfighting in France, WSPA’s Jonathan Pearce attended a fight and provided us with the following harrowing account. Readers, please be warned that the language used is extremely graphic and may be upsetting to some.

"Wielding a slender sword the matador moved forward to finish off the stricken bull. His first attempt left a deep wound in the side of the animal. The bull made a loud howling noise as the blade pierced its lungs.

"Matador, Antony Losada, attempted to stay calm, enacting a series of grotesque poses to show the discipline of his so-called art but after several more failed attempts the thrusts of his sword became more and more desperate. The crowd grew restless. The bull was exhausted and recoiled in pain. Unable to charge, it stared in confusion at the red cape. The eighth stab must have found the bull’s heart and it slowly collapsed, choking on blood. Losada received a quiet applause.

"Another bull that had been stabbed twice in the back began to break down from the massive blood loss. The crowd joined together in a slow hand clap as its legs trembled and its body shook for a full 30 seconds. The clapping turned to cheers as the bull collapsed to the ground in agony".

If this makes sick with anger, act now. Contact us for a petition and lodge a complaint with the French Embassy in Dublin. Those wishing to join the demonstration at Nîmes on 12th September, 1998 should get in touch with Alliance pour la Suppression Absolue et Continue des Corridas, BP 85 - 30009, Nîmes Cedex 4, France. Fax: +33 466 64 22 97.

US greyhound group calls for end to Ireland-Spain exports

An American publication which highlights world-wide greyhound abuse, has urged its thousands of readers to write to the Irish Ambassador to the United States to urge him to help in the campaign to halt the export of Irish greyhounds to Spain.

The call by Greyhound Network News was prompted by reports in Spanish magazine, Interviu, detailing a grotesque fate awaiting retired greyhounds. Hundreds of former racing and coursing dogs were found hanging from trees in a forest in Medina del Campo, a town 100 miles north-west of Madrid.

Louise Coleman A St Patrick's Day demonstration outside the Spanish Consulate in Boston saw American campaigner Louise Coleman calling for an end to the hanging of Irish greyhounds in Spain.

Reportedly, hanging methods for retired greyhounds differ depending on the past successes of each dog. Those who have a good racing record are hung by the neck and die comparatively quickly. Those who have not done so well are also hung but in such a way that their back feet just about reach the ground below - when they become so exhausted from kicking down to save their necks, the noose tightens and they are strangled to death. Others still, are hung by a leg and slowly die from starvation and dehydration.

This sick Spanish practice was first exposed last year by Spain's Asociacion Nacional Para La Defensa De Los Animales (ANDA). It is believed to be common also in areas like Zamora, Andulucia and Madrid.

Gardaí refuse to prosecute following vicious assault on ICABS volunteer

courser with stick Irate coursing man threatens ICABS monitors Garda with courser Moments after assault, Gardaí arrive on scene to pacify the man
(Photos: ICABS)

Our pictures show the scene of an assault on an ICABS volunteer by a member of the Roscommon Coursing Club. A vicious attack that would lead to a prosecution, you might think. But no - in the view of Roscommon Gardaí, a warning to the blood sports fanatic was quite sufficient.

The assault occurred in December on a public road outside Roscommon Racecourse - venue for the coursing club’s annual two day meet - when representatives from ICABS were endeavouring to gather evidence on coursing cruelty by filming over a wall which borders the racecourse.

Our presence prompted a coursing club employee to rush to the scene and begin threateningly swinging a stick in the air. He proceeded to pull the video camera operator from his filming position on our car roof and onto the ground. When he attempted to start filming again, the man became abusive and lashed out at the camera, hitting its lens with the stick. This fellow later admitted that he was "just doing the job I was paid to do".

Gardaí were immediately called to the scene by ICABS and statements were taken. According to a Garda who actually arrived on time to witness part of the attack, the man admitted his involvement in the assault.

Some weeks later, however, when ICABS contacted the Gardaí, we were dismayed to learn that there was, in fact, to be no criminal prosecution. The Gardaí deemed it appropriate to instead issue a warning to the coursing man.

This incredible response is viewed as very serious by ICABS and we have expressed our concern to the Commissioner at Garda HQ. If decisive action isn’t taken against those who resort to this kind of violence, what deterrent is there for other blood sport enthusiasts, some of which are not fussy about whether it’s animal abuse or human abuse they’re partaking in?

The display outside the Roscommon coursing meet shows the desperation of coursing clubs to keep their cruel activities out of public view. ICABS captured horrific scenes of cruelty to hares at this same venue last year which caused disgust and outrage among viewers when broadcast on the RTÉ News. It now appears that the coursers will go to any lengths to keep the spotlight away.

ICABS is determined, however, not to be deterred by these deplorable tactics and will continue monitoring such events while pressing for a ban on this most repugnant of blood sport.

Heineken banner removed from coursing venue
Murphy's Brewery comes through for ICABS

old heineken banner Now you see it...Now you don't! Well done Murphy's Brewery. (Photos: ICABS) heineken banner removed

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has congratulated Murphy’s Brewery on the removal of a Heineken advertisement banner from a hare coursing venue in Roscommon.

Further to representations made by ICABS over the past two years, the brewery fulfilled its pledge to withdraw the banner during the annual two-day meet of Roscommon United Coursing Club. ICABS witnessed the battering and mauling of hares by muzzled greyhounds at this venue on both of the club's previous meets in 1995 and 1996.

ICABS monitors who were present at the venue last December were delighted to discover that the brewery had acted on the promise it made to us last year. Doubtless, Murphy’s will be relieved that they were fully disassociated from this event as on the day in question, a violent assault took place outside the venue when a member of the coursing club attacked one of the ICABS monitoring team who was attempting to secure video footage of the coursing from an adjacent public road.

Though recognising that Murphy's Brewery is in no way involved in sponsoring this blood sport, our original appeal to the company was on the grounds that the presence of their banner which overlooked the coursing field led to some ambiguity over their stance on the issue. Their positive response is very much welcomed.

Coursing clubs can never expect to secure support from respectable firms and, with actual sponsorship continually dwindling, their financial future looks very bleak indeed.

Clonmel 1998
Eyewitness report from the national hare coursing finals

The first shock this observer received on entering Powerstown Park for the second day of the 73rd national coursing finals was the price of admission - eight quid to watch animal cruelty in action was the order of the day. Once inside, the same picture seen on numerous observing visits to this venue in the past emerges. The attendance is mainly middle-aged men with a sprinkling of women, all drawn like a magnet to the betting arena which lies below the main viewing stand.

The start of the day's coursing was delayed for over an hour. Cold ground was the reason, according to talk in the stand where I had taken up position. The statistics for the day are as follows: sixty-four courses, which included fourteen non-slips (the hare let up the field without the greyhounds being released) and four kills. The Irish Coursing Club have claimed that no hares were killed over the three day festival but this observer is in no doubt that four hares met their untimely death on the day spent observing.

The image of the hare being used as a live bait for greyhounds still remains. Muzzling does not and will not remove the kill from hare coursing. Once released, the hare is running for its life, followed by greyhounds which still have a killing motive in their eyes.

separating hounds/hare The hounds have to be dragged away from the battered quarry.

The speed and beauty of greyhounds is awesome but they pay a heavy price in coursing. Running at speed onto a moving lure which suddenly turns can send a greyhound off balance to land with a sickening thud. One slip saw the greyhounds catching up with a slow moving hare and as they pounced, the hare screamed. The sound of the hare screaming could be heard quite clearly in the viewing stand but it passes unnoticed as the coursing followers are already reviewing the events card for the next course.

On each of the four occasions where the greyhounds had clearly made contact with the hare, dispatchers ran onto the field. They removed the hare from the greyhounds. One dispatcher had the task of putting the hare under his jacket and carrying the animal to the dispatcher shelter area. At no stage was there a visible sign to indicate that the hare was placed alive into the hare escape or into a box.

hare pinned Another Mauling: A hare is savagely pinned to the ground by greyhounds at the National Coursing Finals at Clonmel. Handlers rush in to separate the animals.

The effect of muzzling has also had an impact on coursing followers. The general view among them is that while muzzling keeps their "sport" going, it has effected the very essence of coursing. The unexpected thrill of a kill has gone. The unanswered question is why do coursing followers cling to using a live animal when coursing behind a drag is running successfully in other countries.

Leaving the Powerstown Park at the end of the day's coursing, I wonder how long more will coursing continue stuck in this time warp? Nothing changes in coursing. The legal abuse of hares and greyhounds continues. Is coursing going to remain as a festering sore in society? Will our legislators step in and give hare coursing a sharp, quick death? Until that day, ICABS observers will be present at coursing meetings no matter where they are run.

ICABS Observer

Near miss for harrier hound

A harrier hound narrowly escaped injury when it strayed onto a busy main road, according to an ICABS supporter in County Westmeath who witnessed the incident. The hound, which had obviously strayed from a pack of hounds being used for hunting in the area, left motorists swerving and slowing down to avoid hitting the animal.

This is just one of many hunt-related incidents which sees both hounds and motorists being put at severe risk of injury and death. Further proof that live lure hunting should be replaced by drag hunting, in which the hounds follow an artificial trail laid so as to keep as far away as possible from public roads, railways and prohibited land.

Nationwide asked to drop foxhunters from intro

RTÉ's Nationwide say they will bear in mind complaints about the inclusion of foxhunters in the programme's opening sequence and have indicated that it may be edited out in the future.

Said Nationwide presenter, Michael Ryan: "I can assure you that our inclusion of shots of a hunting scene from a previously transmitted story does not imply any particular policy on our part."

Write to Michael Ryan at RTÉ Cork, Fr. Mathew Quay, Cork 1, expressing your disapproval at the intro's foxhunting segment. Suggest that it be replaced with images of the semi-tame fox which was featured in a more recent edition of the programme.

Write a letter and help change the law

Minister Joe Walsh and the Department of Agriculture are one of the areas within government with responsibility for the welfare of animals. Specifically, the Department has responsibility for the 1911 Protection of Animals Act which states that it is an offence of cruelty for any person to "cause or assist at the fighting or baiting of any animal" or to "ill-treat, over-drive, torture, terrify or cause unnecessary suffering" to any animal.

Because blood sports clearly do terrify and cause unnecessary suffering to animals and leave many of them in injured, mutilated and exhausted conditions, ICABS feels that the Act should be changed so as to protect our victimised wildlife from such abuse.

Please show your support for wildlife by writing to Joe Walsh, Minister for Agriculture at Agriculture House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2. Point out to him how cruel fox hunting is and ask him to give protection to animals abused in blood sports.

Many enlightened farmers now accept that the fox has an important role to play in the ecosystem and that claims by fox hunters that foxes pose a threat are simply untrue. We therefore particularly appeal to our many farming supporters to contact Joe Walsh and draw his attention to how livestock and foxes can live peaceably side by side and that the fox's image as a ruthless killer of farm animals is grossly exaggerated. Highlight to him also all incidences of trespass and disturbance of livestock by hunts, spread of disease by foxhounds, damage caused to property by hunts and, most importantly, your opposition to the cruelty of blood sports.

Catholic Church blesses blood sport!

THE IRISH Council Against Blood Sports has called on Catholic Church authorities to stop promoting animal cruelty after a priest in County Limerick was pictured blessing a foxhunt.

Given the controversial nature of foxhunting with hounds and the terror and cruelty meted out to foxes by hunts in the name of "sport", ICABS was incensed to see local curate, Fr John Dunworth, pictured in the Limerick press holding a bible and shaking holy water at the start of a hunt in Dromin. It is appalling that certain representatives of the Catholic Church continue to be allowed give support, approval and worse still a blessing to such barbarism.

Fr Dunworth Thou Shalt Kill: Limerick priest, Fr John Dunworth, gives his blessing to foxhounds

"The idea of a priest blessing a foxhunt is an abhorrence and a perversion and is akin to priests in the middle ages urging the faithful to go out and inflict cruelty on black cats which were then considered the familiars of witches who were also persecuted by the Church," commented ICABS PRO, Aideen Yourell.

The Catholic Church unfortunately has a very poor track record in regard to blood sports. There are a number of priests actively involved in live hare coursing and hunting, and despite protests and entreaties to the Church authorities over the years by ICABS, this involvement continues. We have now renewed our appeal to the Catholic Church to request their clergy to cease all involvement in blood sport practices and to ensure that sacred rites of the Church such as blessings should not be given in such totally inappropriate and bizarre circumstances.

It is now time for the Catholic Church, as we approach the new millennium, to promote caring and compassion for all living things, not give its blessing to animal cruelty!

Cock fighting breeders exposed

The sordid underbelly of cockfighting was recently exposed by a News of the World investigation which uncovered a breeding yard in Co Kildare full of cocks living in appalling conditions.

The newspaper's undercover reporter tracked down a breeder of fighting cocks to a spot littered with dead animals. Shot foxes were dumped in a yard next to birds which had been cruelly captured by painting nearby branches with glue - when the birds land, they are firmly trapped and eventually die. Along the edges of the dirty yard were numerous cages, stacked three or more high, where the cocks spend their lives locked up.

In a conversation with the reporter, the cock fighter explained that the 3-4 year old birds are now too old for fighting and that their sole purpose is to produce a next generation of fighting cocks. He crudely outlined that his method of breeding a "good" fighting bird involves mating father with daughter.

Another breeder, meanwhile, was selling cocks from the back of a car. The reporter saw three birds being held in sacks tied with string in the boot of breeder Hughie Behan's car. Remarked sixty six year old Behan, who has since been fined for cockfighting offences: "If you are looking for a fighting cock, this is the one. He is vicious."

Cockfighting is strictly illegal in Ireland. First and second time offenders face a maximum fine of £500 and/or three months in prison. Subsequent offences are punishable by six months in prison. If you have any information about cock fighting activities please contact the Irish Council Against Blood Sports immediately.

Wildlife Act review continues

The Heritage Council who are reviewing the issuing of licences under Section 26 of the Wildlife Act have released a report on the submissions received from both pro- and anti-blood sport groups and individuals.

The report reveals that a total of 1,313 submissions were sent in from interested parties around the country and that viewpoints were put forward on all the blood sports which Section 26 of the Act encompasses, namely otter hunting, stag hunting, beagling, harrying and hare coursing.

Joining ICABS in making submissions were the following anti-blood sport organisations: Alliance for Animal Rights, Association of Hunt Saboteurs, Cork Animal Concern, Friends of Animals Galway, Green Party, International Animal Rescue, Irish Anti-hunt Campaign, ICABS (Dublin NE branch) and the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A synopsis of each substantive submission shows that the offerings of the pro-blood sport lobby are riddled with the usual dubious arguments. However, if the review is to be scientific in nature, as promised, the vast bulk of these will easily be discounted.

The pro-blood sport submissions contain a plethora of misinformation nuggets and if the subject matter were not so serious, they would be laughable.

The Irish Masters of Otterhounds Association, for example, claims that the otter has nothing to fear from otter hunts. According to the Ward Union, the deer enjoys being chased and trying to outwit the hounds. Meanwhile, the Irish Masters of Beagles Association, who hunt hares, claim that hunting causes no decrease of hares in hunted areas. The Irish Masters of Harriers Association offered one of the more absurd attempts to justify blood sports, saying "farmers are generally supportive [of harrying] and encourage their children to participate as this is much more beneficial to them than taking drugs".

The Irish Foot Harriers Association were similarly misguided, claiming that hunting with hounds is the most effective way of controlling foxes and that harrier hounds kill a fox instantly. And their icing on the cake was this ridiculous remark: "[the IFHA] are the true animal lovers".

If such submissions are to be seriously considered, the outcome of the review may prove to be a farce. The Heritage Council have, however, stated that their final recommendation to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands will be based on "the best available information" and this should mean that the misinformation contained in various submissions will be recognised as such.

As we go to press, ICABS has learned that the Heritage Council has met to finalise their review and will be making recommendations to the Minister shortly.

Duplicate submissions received from double-dealing hunters

A check of submissions received in support of the Ward Union revealed that some pro-hunt individuals went out of their way to try and deceive the Heritage Council. The Council discovered that over 40 of the pro-hunt letters submitted appeared to have been written by two individuals - the names and addresses on the letters were all different but the handwriting was the same. Quite rightly, these underhand tactics resulted in all such letters being disqualified from the review.

Another check revealed further instances of duplication by pro-blood sport correspondents - a total of 16 letters from Fingal Harriers members were found to have the same handwriting and were judged to have been written by two individuals. These too were disregarded.

Estate Agents Picketed for Promoting Hunts

An estate agent which invited UK fox hunters to buy land in Ireland was picketed by ICABS in November. The Irish & European agency targeted British fox hunters fearful of a ban in the UK in an advertisement placed in a national newspaper.

Protesters ICABS supporters protesting against promotion of foxhunting by estate agents. (Photo: John Tierney)

A spokesperson for the company admitted that the ad attracted several callers who said they were interested in moving to Ireland due to the threat of a hunt ban in the UK.

Protesters outside the company's offices in Cork waved "UK Fox Hunters Not Welcome" and "Ban Fox Hunting" placards and received words of encouragement from passers-by.

Huntsman fined for cruelty to hounds

A huntsman who was convicted of cruelty to 17 harrier hounds was fined £100 at a special sitting of the Carrigaline District Court.

Christopher O'Sullivan (40), secretary, huntsman and kennelman with Cork's Shamrock Harrier Club pleaded guilty to cruelty to two of the dogs and denied he had been cruel to the rest.

Discovered last May by Cork SPCA's Animal Welfare Inspector, Mr Ted O'Connor, the neglected dogs were reported to be in an appalling condition. According to Mr O'Connor, two were almost emaciated with the skeletal frame of one showing through its flesh. "They were tearing and scratching at their bodies," he said.

The court heard how the compound in which the dogs were being kept was covered in inches of faeces, rubbish and old bones and that there didn't appear to be any food or water for the animals.

A further ten dogs were found scratching and tearing in a wire enclosure attached to a dilapidated shed. This area too was filthy and the only drink available to the animals was from a bucket of dirty green water.

Another dog was found locked up in a car trailer with a week's accumulation of faeces covering the floor. There was no food or water in the trailer.

"It was obvious that the animals were suffering over a long period," stated Mr O'Connor, "They were left without food or water and kept in dirty compounds."

A Garda who visited the compounds told the court that the first two dogs were in a wretched condition, saying that he had "never seen a dog alive in such a condition".

Huntsman O'Sullivan claimed that the two dogs in the worst condition had been missing for weeks and that they were hungry when he found them. He had been unable to attend to the dogs properly for a few days, he claimed, because of work commitments. Regarding the other dogs, he remarked: "They were after a hard season - they were well knackered after the year - it would take the summer to get them into shape."

O'Sullivan, a member of the Shamrock harrier club for 30 years, was also ordered by the judge to pay £80 in expenses to the CSPCA animal welfare inspector.

Foxhunt claims exposed as misinformation

Professor Cris Waller of the Predator Defence Institute in the USA has conducted a review of fox studies published over the last decade and has discovered that no scientific data exists to support any of the pro-hunt theories and plenty of data to refute many.

For a start, Prof Waller tackles the common claim by foxhunters that their blood sport controls foxes numbers. She says that research done on foxes unanimously supports the idea that foxhunting at any feasible level does not reduce fox populations - fox populations are resilient and increase their productivity when mortality increases; heavily hunted populations become more productive, not less so.

She then poses the question: do foxes need to be controlled at all? Countering claims by blood sport enthusiasts that foxes are a major threat to livestock, she stresses that the reputation of the fox as a lamb predator, for example, is greatly exaggerated. She qualifies this by citing results of a study carried out by the US Department of Agriculture which compared the perceived threat of predators by sheep farmers and the actual threat these predators posed.

eviscerated fox Foxhunters claim that doing this to a fox isn't cruel.

The subsequent report published in 1993 showed massive polarity between estimated cost of predation and actual cost of predation. The average over-reporting of predation losses across eight states surveyed was an incredible 1,374%, the highest being recorded in the state of Utah with a 2,356% overestimate. The same report showed that the percentage of sheep lost to foxes as a percentage of all causes of mortality was less than 1%. Interestingly, this negligible figure (recorded in a country where foxhunting is almost non-existent) is equivalent to the figure recorded around the same time by the Irish Department of Agriculture, further demonstrating that foxhunting plays no role in controlling foxes.

Cris Waller also looks into the ridiculous claims that foxhunting is not cruel and that foxes either escape or are quickly killed. She refers to a study carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Programme which compared physiological stress responses in a) foxes pursued for approximately 5 minutes by dogs and then killed; b) foxes caught for 2-8 hours in leghold traps (also known as gin traps and illegal in Ireland); c) foxes caught in cage traps; and d) shot foxes. It was found that foxes caught in leghold traps and foxes pursued by hounds showed equivalent responses to stress. Since the hunt stress level corresponded to just five minute's of pursuit compared to several hours for the trap-related stress, it can be concluded that out of all the fox killing methods analysed, foxhunting is the most stressful to the animal.

Autopsies revealed that the hounded foxes showed 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 a condition known as "capture myopathy" - a breakdown of muscle tissue caused by exertion that is often followed by brain damage, paralysis and death. [Editor's note: this same condition has also been identified in stags chased to exhaustion by carted stag hunting clubs]. So, it is clear from this that even for foxes that escape the hounds, the threat of later dying from stress-related capture myopathy is still present. And as if that wasn't bad enough, stress can also increase the fox's susceptibility to disease.

Prof Waller concludes by stating that "foxhunting causes a great deal of fear, stress and pain in foxes" and that there is no scientific evidence to prove that foxhunting or fox control are necessary. She also dispels the arguments that cubhunting is needed to promote fox dispersal and that foxhunting selectively weeds out troublesome foxes, saying they are unsupported by any scientific data.

Freedom for beagles destined for labs

A group of 126 beagles were rescued from animal breeders in Hereford, England who threatened to send them to animal testing laboratories when their business collapsed.

The company closed down after years of protest from animal rights activists and the pack of beagles were destined to be sold for use in lab tests whereby they would have been injected with or force fed anything from household cleaners to pesticides.

The fate of the animals was turned around, however, when animal lovers donated money to buy freedom for the dogs. Animal welfare group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals even secured £15,000 from Paul and Linda McCartney which was spent on rescuing 50 of the animals.

Protests at Dáil and Clonmel convey mass opposition to coursing

Peaceful protests organised to coincide with the end of the hare coursing season were organised by ICABS in both Dublin and Tipperary. As well as our usual protest outside Powerstown Park in Clonmel, venue for the national hare coursing finals, a protest was also held outside Dáil Éireann to draw the attention of TDs to the results of the previous month's Sunday Independent opinion poll which found that eight in ten people want coursing banned.

3 politicians Trevor Sargent, TD, Tony Gregory, TD and Senator David Norris were among the politicians who joined the Dáil demonstration. (Photos: Philip Kiernan)

Organised by the Westmeath and Dublin Support Groups of ICABS, the Dublin protest was attended by amongst others TDs Tony Gregory, Trevor Sargent, John Gormley and Senator David Norris. Representing youth opposition to hare coursing were our loyal supporters from Rathfarnham's Sancta Maria College who never fail to add life and colour to proceedings.

Their huge pink hare proved extremely popular with protesters and passing motorists alike. According to their teacher, Mr Peter Brennan, the campaign against hare coursing is one of several animal welfare issues the students are involved in.

Present also were members of Friends of Animals (Westmeath), a group which runs an animal rescue centre in Mullingar and which works to help all types of domestic, farm and wild animals.

student protesters Students from Dublin's Sancta Maria College with their impressive range of placards.

The Cork Support Group of ICABS organised the anti-coursing protest in Clonmel. Friends of Animals Cork and Badgerwatch were also represented at the protest. Later that evening, TnaG News featured an interview with Cork Support Group Chairman and ICABS Wildlife Research Officer, John Tierney, who emphasised the failure of muzzles in eliminating cruelty from coursing.

ICABS monitors who attended the coursing finals witnessed a total of 7 maulings and our photographer obtained heart-wrenching images showing hares running for their lives and being mauled into the ground by greyhounds.

Hunt spokesperson teaches hunt a lesson

Janet George, chief spokesperson for the UK's pro-hunt campaign, experienced first hand the chaos, inconvenience and damage hunts cause to farmers. George, who normally cannot praise hunts highly enough, has taken legal action against her local pack and threatened to "bite the balls off" the organiser after their trespass onto her land forced her to put down two ewes.

"The hunt mustn't intrude on busy farmers and they got thoroughly smacked for doing so. They said they didn't know my farm was there, but they bloody well should have done...There are some dim people in the Wheatlands [Hunt]. Their attitude is that the hunt is everything. There is no place for those prehistoric die-hards," she stated, adding, "one out of every five hunts makes this sort of mistake".

Ms George is reportedly still very angry at the incident despite having accepted compensation amounting to £2,000.

Editor's Note: At the time of going to press, we received reports that Ms George has been dismissed from the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance group. The reasons for this are unclear.

Toyota Urged to Scrap Offensive TV Ad

Toyota Ireland has been urged to withdraw a TV ad in which a Starlet car assumes the role of a matador and confronts a bull in an arena. Following numerous calls to ICABS from members of the public who said they were disgusted by the company's use of bullfighting symbolism, ICABS asked the car manufacturers to scrap the ad.

We find it very concerning that Toyota Ireland has chosen to pursue such a controversial and offensive theme in its advertising campaign and that they have stated that the aim of this ad is to portray the style and performance of their car. While other car manufacturers can successfully achieve this aim without reverting to blood sport analogies, it is highly regrettable that Toyota failed to recognise the inappropriateness of such an approach.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is disappointed by this move by Toyota and we fear that the glossy nature of the ad has the potential to undo recent efforts we have made to unveil bullfighting's "glamorous" facade and expose its sheer cruelty and barbarity. Supported by Budget Travel Ltd, our ongoing anti-bullfighting campaign has been aiming to encourage Irish holidaymakers travelling to Spain to boycott the bloody bullrings in which thousands of bulls are slowly tortured to death each year.

Our appeal to the car company was to reconsider its advertising strategy and share the abhorrence of the general public towards this most savage of blood sports by immediately withdrawing their tasteless advert. At the time of going to press, we are still awaiting a response from Toyota although the ad now appears to have been withdrawn.

Countryside Alliance letting countryside down
Rally organisers interested only in preserving blood sports

The UK's Countryside Alliance, organisers of a march in London last February, have been accused of ignoring the real issues of concern to country people and concentrating only on opposing a ban on foxhunting.

A spokesperson for animal welfare group Campaign for the Protection of Hunted Animals (C.P.H.A.) criticised the alliance for its "deafening silence" on the issues that really matter to rural people. She stated: "They have shamelessly co-opted a whole range of policies from other groups in an attempt to make themselves look credible in the eyes of country people, but they have done nothing to campaign on them."

In a survey of rural attitudes published last October, the Countryside Alliance found that the main concerns of countryside dwellers differed little from urban dwellers, with health service levels, education and employment coming top of the list. Important campaigning issues which the alliance have now turned their backs on include seeking assurances from the governments that they would promote new jobs in the countryside, encouraging authorities to switch subsidies from overproduction and set aside to specialist farming business, encouraging rural schools to network on-line and promoting the expansion of organic farming to reduce the environmental effects of agri-chemicals.

"They have attempted to broaden their appeal by adopting populist causes as their own," commented the C.P.H.A. spokesperson, "However, people are increasingly recognising that they are only interested in preserving their own vested interests - and that is the continuation of the barbaric practice of hunting with dogs. In doing so they are letting the countryside down."

Illegal coursing on the increase: Gardaí

GARDAÍ in the midlands have launched an appeal for information in an effort to track down illegal hare coursers in the area. The call was prompted by numerous complaints from members of the public.

Making their appeal through the local media, Mullingar Gardaí said that illegal coursing - predominantly taking place between the border and the midlands - appears to be on the increase.

Gardaí say their concerns are based on both the savagery of the coursing which involves "lurcher" greyhounds chasing and killing hares and also intimidation of local landowners by those involved. In one incident, they reported, livestock on a farm was terrorised.

Speaking on Midlands Radio 3, a Garda spokesperson urged anyone with information on illegal coursing to call them in confidence.

Though welcoming the appeal by the Gardaí and sharing their concern, ICABS finds it somewhat disharmonious that the law differentiates between "legal" and "illegal" hare coursing even though both involve cruelty and abuse of hares. We look forward to the day when the law will allow Gardaí to apprehend and bring to justice those who take part in any form of coursing.

Badger baiting - you can help stop it

Pictured is the sickening remains of an illegal badger baiting session. The entrance to this sett has been completely destroyed by blood sport thugs who dug down into the ground to get at the badgers below.

Terriers were probably sent into the hole to pull the terrified badgers out into the open. At this point, there may have been an impromptu fight set up between terriers and badgers or alternatively the badgers may have been thrown into sacks and carried off to a more secluded location.

Sett destroyed Badger sett completely destroyed by baiters (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

Catching badger baiters in the act is not an easy task but there are ways in which we can all help to keep badgers in our areas safe from the sadistic scum who get pleasure from torturing these beautiful wild animals.

When in the countryside, always be on the look-out for suspicious activity. If you see vehicles plus dog trailers parked in unusual places, be particularly alert. Spotting men with terriers and spades is a sure sign that a dig-out is about to take place. In this situation, never approach the individuals - they are guaranteed to be hostile and violent if challenged.

Instead, take note of registration/colour/make of vehicles and a description of the individuals and their dogs before immediately calling the Gardaí or your local wildlife ranger (call ICABS if you require names and phone numbers). Badger baiting, badger digging and interfering with a badger sett are all illegal activities. If you suspect that anything of this nature is taking place in your locality, please don't hesitate to take immediate action. Without your help, badgers will continue to die horrible deaths at the hands of merciless wildlife abusers.

If you are interested in forming or joining a badgerwatch group in your area, please contact Badgerwatch Ireland on 051-738 76.

Save our greyhounds from Spanish hell holes

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has backed calls by the ISPCA and RSPCA to ban the export of greyhounds to Spain. Irish dogs arriving in Spain can expect to be made run till they drop at the country's squalid racing tracks.

Greyhound racing's governing body, Bord na gCon, has been urged to suspend the licences of all greyhound dealers exporting dogs to Spanish hell holes. While acknowledging greyhound abuse in Spain, the board responded by stating that they are powerless to act against the independent dealers responsible. This claim has been strongly disputed by animal welfarists.

Greyhound truck This Spanish-registered truck, pictured here parked opposite a track in Limerick, transports Irish greyhounds to Spain via England.

According to reports, the main players in the exportation of dogs are some of Ireland and Britain's leading greyhound dealers. From ports in Cork, Limerick and Waterford they are the ones organising the shipments. Dogs not sufficiently competitive for Ireland's greyhound racing tracks are being sold abroad for as little as £70 each.

Following an undercover investigation into greyhound welfare in Spain, a report compiled by the ISPCA has re-iterated that Irish dogs ending up in Spain are doomed to a life of misery and suffering. Some of the points made in the report include:

A spokesperson for the RSPCA commented: "We found appalling suffering at the Spanish tracks we visited because basic welfare steps are ignored. The dogs are often not checked by vets before racing, and many are forced to race too many times in one week. Some even have to run with injuries, wearing bandages."

Both the RSPCA and the ISPCA are now calling on the World Greyhound Racing Federation to draw up and implement a welfare charter for greyhounds.

Call for rejection of "Blood Money" from hunts

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has called on local schools and community groups to reject offers of donations from hunts. The call follows the acceptance by a primary school of a cheque from the Westmeath Hunt, a group involved in the terrorisation and barbaric killing of foxes.

ICABS was amazed and alarmed to learn that the Parents Council of Sonna National School in Co Westmeath accepted a donation from fox hunters just three weeks after an RTÉ poll found that a majority of 64 per cent of school children are opposed to the cruelty of fox hunting and wish to see it being banned. The Echo Island programme - aimed at children within the primary school age-group - held a live studio debate and invited youngsters to take part in a phone-in poll. The results of the vote makes it clear that the children of Ireland want to see wildlife spared the cruelty of blood sports.

Such donations amount to an attempt by hunters to buy their way into the good books of local people. We believe that unsuspecting community groups and voluntary organisations are being used by the hunting fraternity to give themselves and their cruel activities a veneer of respectability and an acceptance in the community. This cynical exercise is ongoing but thankfully, when the true aims of such "charity" work are highlighted, most groups concede that blood sport donations should not form a part of any fund-raising strategy.

Charity groups which have responded to our appeals to reject hunt donations include the Irish Cancer Society and the Alzheimer Society and they are to be congratulated for taking such a positive stand.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has now appealed to the Parents Council of Sonna N.S. to show its support for Irish wildlife and reject any further donations of what amounts to "blood money" from hunts. We have also invited teachers at the school to contact us if interested in organising class talks or debates on blood sports.

Foxhunters' P.R.O. gets short shrift on Questions & Answers

James Norton, P.R.O. for the Irish Masters of Foxhounds, turned up on Questions & Answers on December 1st last to ask if banning foxhunting would have a drastic effect on the economy of rural Ireland.

The ICABS office was alerted to the fact that the subject of foxhunting was going to be raised on Q&A that afternoon when we got a call from Independent TD, Joe Higgins, who wanted some background information on the subject. We wondered if RTÉ had contacted anyone on the opposing side to foxhunting, but it would appear not, as we didn't spot any familiar faces in the audience.

So James Norton appeared to have the floor to himself but it didn't do any good for his cause. He was on a loser from the start, not helped by the fact that prior to his question, the sensitive subject of abortion was being discussed. When John Bowman tried to wind up that debate, and introduce James Norton as the next questioner, an angry man in the audience continued to heckle and insist that he had more comments to make.

Mr Norton made a number of attempts to ask his question, but the heckler continued, and then walked out of the studio deeply annoyed.

James didn't get too much support from the panel, apart from Martin Cullen, Fianna Fáil T.D. for Waterford (who was all for rural traditions continuing in the country and people being allowed to do what they have done for years). Panellists Joe Higgins, T.D., Maureen Gaffney, Psychologist, and the P.R.O. for the Archbishop's office, were all opposed to foxhunting.

John Bowman made the comment that there was no need to go to the audience for a show of hands, since it was clear where they appeared to stand on the issue, and opined that James Norton would not get much support for his view from that quarter.

We couldn't have achieved a better result if we were there in force ourselves. Just goes to show that the general public are, in the main, sensible and discerning when it comes to the foxhunters trying to defend the indefensible.

Bullfighting News from Spain

Barcelona gets tough with bullring parkers

Could the decision by Barcelona officials to get tough with bullfight-supporting motorists be a subtle signal to residents to stay away from such barbarity?

So wonders Spain's Anti-Bullfighting Campaign group who report that due to inadequate parking facilities at the "Monumental" bullring, those who attend invariably end up parking on footpaths and walkways. Though the ring is always only half-full, the numbers of inconsiderate parkers cause great inconvenience to pedestrians. Poor parkers will now no longer be tolerated by city officials and can expect to be promptly fined.

Picador stabs bull A picador on horseback forcefully drives a lance into the bull's body. This is done three or four times to weaken the bull before the matador enters the ring to finish it off. (Photo: RSPCA)

Call for children to be barred from bullrings

There have been calls by the Catalonia Parliament in Spain to bring back a law which would restrict entry into bullrings by minors. The law which had been in effect since 1928 and which barred under-14s from bullrings, was unfortunately repealed by the previous socialist government. Now the new government is being urged to re-establish the law.

The government of the Catalonian region want the restriction to apply not only to bullfighting but also to boxing because both involve "violent and shocking shows which can provoke powerful impressions on children and adolescents".

Bullfighting enthusiasts will predictably resist any such moves, verbosely claiming that it would be a "sectarian persecution appropriate to totalitarian interventionism".

Another city says "No" to bull abuse

In the last Animal Watch we told you about the admirable achievement of Macia Pedros i Claret, Mayor of Olot who succeeded in banning bullfighting from his city. And now, here's some more good news!

Coslada (Madrid) mayor, José Huélamo has just abolished bull running from his city, a cruel practice which traditionally took place during the local festivals. This positive move is reflective of the mass opposition of Coslada residents to bull abuse. Answering criticism from the bullfighting minority, Mayor Huélamo told them if they wanted to see bulls, they would just have to go elsewhere!" If only those with the power to ban animal cruelty in Ireland had the guts to stand up to cruelty merchants.

Mayor Huélamo deserves our greatest praise and respect. Take the time to write a short letter of congratulations to him at this address: S José Huélamo, Ayuntamiento, 28820 Coslada (Madrid), Spain.

Meanwhile, thanks to lobbying by Spanish animal welfare groups, the Catalan Parliament has voted in favour of closing the bullring in the city of Lloret in December. This has been a great victory for animal lovers in Catalonia.

Euro savings bank promotes bullfighting

Described as one of the most important savings banks in Europe, "La Caixa" with its Barcelona headquarters, offers a ticket shop service in its many branches. Known as "Servicaixa", the shop sells tickets for various shows and sporting events. Most recently, the chain has begun offering bullring tickets for sale, a move which has angered and alarmed Spain's anti-bullfighting majority.

There have been calls by animal rights campaigners to end this practice immediately. If you wish to help persuade the banking group to stop promoting bullfighting, please write a letter of complaint to Sr Josep Vilarasau, Director General, Avenida Diagonal 557.08021, Barcelona, Spain.

Thanks to ABC International for the above stories. For further information on the work carried out by ABC write to ABC, Calle Pere Vergés, 1, 10.3 Edifici Piramidón, Barcelona, Spain.

Damages awarded against gun club secretary who pointed shotgun at tourists

A game guide who organised a day's shooting for foreign tourists in Galway was awarded £10,000 in damages arising out of an assault on him by a gun club secretary in 1991. The civil claim was heard in May at Roscommon Circuit Court.

The guide said he feared for his life when the gun club secretary came running at him over marshy ground with a loaded shotgun. One of the French shooters present was so frightened when the weapon was pointed at the group that he dropped his gun and raised his hands in the air.

The court heard that the incident took place at a time when there was a lot of "animosity" over foreign shooters coming to the area.

Earth Watch
The first in a series of reports on observing foxes in the wild

The song OF blackbirds filled a wood at the foot of the Arigna Mountains, Roscommon as daylight began to fade and our foxwatching outing got under way. With carefully placed footsteps we crept slowly forward, trying to avoid alerting wildlife to our presence. The first stop was to be a slope overlooking a badger sett - not an obvious starting point for an evening's foxwatch but I soon understood that foxes and badgers sometimes share the same home. If a fox can get away with taking over some space in ready-made accommodation, he most certainly will.

Patience is a virtue for any budding foxwatcher. You must be prepared to wait for the animals to come out and this involves sitting motionless and in complete silence when viewing an earth or sett. It eventually pays off, however, and seems very much worthwhile as you catch a glimpse of a wild animal.

Cautiously poking its head out of the sett below us was a large adult badger. He sniffed the air and, content that everything was in order, emerged into the open. The beam of our torch picked up his movements as he scuttled across the floor of the wood. A night's foraging was about to commence and before long he was off again, disappearing into the undergrowth. It was a most thrilling moment. For those who have only ever read about badgers or seen them on TV, it is extremely satisfying to see one in real life just a few feet away.

Only four days previously a fox had been seen frequenting this very same sett but as we continued to wait, it became obvious that he no longer resided here. So what had happened to him?

According to my guide for the evening, Peter Akokan, that particular fox might have got killed on the road, been gunned down by hunters or, perhaps, simply moved onto a different earth.

Earlier on that day, he outlined that it is not uncommon for badgers and foxes to live in close proximity and taught me how to distinguish between a fox earth and badger sett.

A badger sett, he explained, will have a much wider opening than a fox earth. Also, outside a badger sett there will be clumps of old bedding material which has been discarded in sett cleaning operations (badgers like to keep their homes nice and tidy!); nearby as well there will be badger dung heaps. Another good way of telling what's living down the hole is to examine the mud around the entrance for foot prints. Fox prints and badger prints are very easy to tell apart.

Travelling back out of the woods and along the dark country lanes, Peter showed me a fox path - a route of noticeably flattened grass which is regularly travelled by foxes. It led from a field and into a ditch; in the hedge bordering the other side of the lane it resumed, leading into a forest.

An experienced fox watcher who has been studying and observing these fascinating creatures for over nine years, Peter knows exactly where to find them in this area. At the cross roads close to his house, a pair of eyes glisten in the light of the torch. He coaxes the fox into coming out into the open so we can get a better look. For some moments he seems interested but then, perhaps, smells a rat and jumps out of sight. Barking from the opposite direction signals the presence of more foxes.

Some fields away one is spotted marking its territory - spraying its scent onto the grass and bushes in an exercise which will warn other foxes that this area is not to be invaded.

There aren't many foxes out foraging for food on this particular night. This is, I am told, because since the night is cold and damp, worms - which form a significant part of the fox's diet - would be deeper underground in the relative warmth and so impossible for the foxes to get at. Perhaps the fox's primary source of food tonight is hares. Indeed a group of three are seen in a field but for the moment they are safe. When hares see a fox approaching, they stand up on their back legs to let the fox know he has been spotted and that they are ready to run if he attempts to come closer. These ones though seem at ease.

March is not an ideal time to go fox watching since the population is relatively low; cubs are just being born and wouldn't be emerging from below ground for a few more weeks. Nevertheless our evening was very fruitful in that we did see a good deal of foxes out and about. It was a learning experience and extremely rewarding to see these beautiful animals in action in their natural environment.

The foxwatch was to end at about one o'clock in the morning with a close-up view of foxes eating scraps which are regularly laid out for them. The foxes typically arrive for the meal around this hour but tonight they had come early for some reason. When we arrived to take our positions, the food was all gone. Our plan to see them eating was foiled but not to worry, there will be other opportunities!

Anyone interested in organising fox watches in their area can contact Peter Akokan at He is a fount of fox knowledge and will be happy to provide you with advice and fox watching tips.

Look out for the next instalment in our foxwatching series in the next issue of Animal Watch.

Philip Kiernan

Foxes and stags around the world

Here in Ireland, we all know how much the fox is a victim of myth. Many myths surround foxes in other countries as well but happily, not all are to its detriment

In Japan, foxes are worshipped as fearful but suspicious beings. Many see the fox as a messenger of spiritual forces, often malignant, for fox spirits were thought to be able to take over a living person's body. Appearing as an ordinary human, if the fox can get close enough to you, he will steal your spirit and leave you as a wandering ghost. If only Irish foxes had the same qualities - think of all the zombified hunters we would have crawling about the countryside!

In Turkey, meanwhile, the fox is respected as a symbol of good fortune. Across Europe, the story of Reynard the fox can be found on church carvings - depicted as the arch medieval trickster who is both respected for his cunning and feared for his skills. To many Europeans, the fox is revered as a symbol of the Passion of Christ.

And what of the majestic stag? In China, the stag is a loved symbol of longevity, believed to live for a thousand years. In Tibet, stags and deer are worshipped as symbols of the Buddha - patient and kindly beings.

Art for animals

Put your hands together for Stephen in Finglas South who sent us in this wonderful piece of art with its clever slogan - "Animals were put on this earth to live, not die at the hands of man for so-called sports - Reach out and help our wild friends". Stephen wins for himself a copy of Tom McCaughren's "Run with the Wind" book. If you have a drawing you'd like to see included in Animal Watch, please send it in to us now. Best ones win a prize!

drawing by supporter Stephen's anti-blood sports art.

Book Reviews

Land of Deep Shadow by Pat Hynes
(Wolfhound Press. £3.99)

Land of Deep Shadow is a real page-turner of a book. It is so very full of excitement and suspense that you are immediately drawn into the story and become so close to the characters that you are dying to know how things will turn out for them.

The story centres around a very special brown hare named Packo. He is a seer which means he can sometimes see into the future. From as early as when he is a baby leveret, it is clear that Packo is different from all the rest and that he is destined to become a leader. The truth is that he is the one chosen to carry out an important and dangerous mission which, if successful, will give freedom back to a group of hares that are being used as slaves in a land far away.

Every good story has to have good characters and in Land of Deep Shadow, the characters are brilliant. Apart from Packo, the clever seer, the main characters are Marsha - a mature hare who is very intelligent, Lotto - a bully who changes his ways and soon transforms into a very likeable hero, and the funniest of the group, Crust - a plucky, streetwise fellow who fights as hard and as he talks fast.

The story takes you through Packo's innocent early days when his inexperience with nature leaves him close to death. Enter Marsha, who nurses him back to health and trains him how to be a survivor. From there, the adventures begins - the bloodthirsty hounds of a foxhunt have them running for their lives, owls chase them through a forest, swooping for the kill, a hungry fox chases them to the Chaos Chasm where a risky leap across a two hundred foot drop awaits them. The action is non-stop in this book and each time you try to catch your breath, the hares are again facing even more dangerous challenges.

One thing I didn't like was that all the other animals in the book, apart from the hares, were described as being villains. To the hares, I suppose they were villains because they were always making life difficult for them but for readers following the story, it isn't pleasant to see squirrels getting kicked about - even if they were the troublemakers to begin with.

Apart from that, this book by Pat Hynes is a very enjoyable and one which I can genuinely recommend. Packo is such a good character that you care about what happens to him. The ending is very tense and you can't really predict who is going to survive and who will die. All you can do is keep turning the pages and hope that the good hares will overcome the evil which has taken a grip in the Land of Deep Shadow.

The ABC's of Animal Rights by Janet Tubbs
(Children's Resource Center, PO Box 8697, Scottsdale, AZ 85252-8697, USA. $5 + $3 p+p)

Dedicated to young readers who are aware of the importance of protecting the environment, the ABC's of Animal Rights is a splendid introduction for young children to the issues of animal rights and vegetarianism.

Author Janet Tubbs is the founder of the Children's Resource Centre which develops programmes for schools, clinics and homes to help adults become better parents and children to become better students. Part of their programme involves educating boys and girls about animal rights and the benefits of a vegetarian diet - "a meatless diet benefits people because it's healthy and (surprise!) animals benefit too because they are not killed by people who want to eat meat, use their skin for shoes or just want a trophy to hang on the wall".

Endeavouring to get across the point that all living things are connected and depend on each other for survival, this simple book briefly covers such topics as extinction, pollution, the cruelty of hunting and the sentience and intelligence of animals.

There is quite a lot to learn in the ABCs of Animal Rights - from basic animal facts to the ways in which animals are used and abused by humans. As it originates from the US, it does have a slight American slant on things but nevertheless it is a worthwhile read. And when you're finished learning about how alligators are killed to make purses or how heartless farmers put poison down the burrows of prairie dogs, you can busy yourself with colouring in letters and drawing pictures of animals in the space provided at the back.

Cruel deer trapping in Co Cavan

It has been reported recently that a wild deer herd at Dartrey Forest, Cootehill, Co. Cavan is being persecuted in the most horrific fashion by poachers using football nets strung between trees as traps.

The deer are driven into the nets at high speed by lurchers. Many are killed by the impact and those which survive are savaged by the dogs or break their limbs as they hang in the nets for hours.

Wildlife Rangers found one deer which died of fright. Another was rescued when they heard its terrible cries. People living near the forest have also heard deer crying in pain and distress. Rangers report that the forest's herd has fallen from 300 to100 in the last three years.

Campaign to save Poland's remaining wolves

There are only a couple of hundred wolves left in Poland but these remaining few are now under threat from hunters intent on blasting the creatures to death. Fortunately the wolves are protected in most parts of Poland but in the Bieszczady Mountains located in the Krosno Province, the population of 150 wolves is set to be decimated by local hunters.

According to Polish group "Osrodek Dzialan Ekologicznych Zrodla", the local authorities in Krosno announced during the winter that hunters would be permitted to slaughter 93 of these animals in Bieszczady. The slaughter of so many would obviously have a serious impact on the population. And animal lovers who fear the census of wolves may be overestimated are doubly concerned.

Wildlife campaigners are now calling on the Government to give the mountain wolves the status of protected species. This would be great news for both environmentalists and farmers. While the wolves remain unprotected, the latter receive no compensation for any animals they lose to wolves.

Join the campaign to save these threatened wolves. Post a letter or send a fax to the Minister of Nature Protection, Mr Jan Szyszko, Minister Ochrony Srodowiska, ul. Wawelska 52/54, 00-922 Warszawa, Poland. Fax: +48 22 254 705. Demand that the beautiful wolves of the Bieszczady Mountains be protected from trigger happy hunters.

Drag hunting
An enjoyable and practical successor to foxhunting

Foxhunters invariably spin a web of deceit when they attempt to justify a blood sport which is unjustifiable. They say that without hunting, fox populations would soar - a claim which has been indisputably invalidated by wildlife experts. They state that foxes are pests which need to be destroyed when the truth is that foxes are in many cases beneficial to farmers and indeed, many would agree that the hunt itself causes more inconvenience and risk to farms than any fox ever could.

group of foxhounds These foxhounds could easily be trained to take part in drag hunting. (Photo: Philip Kiernan)

The truth is that foxhunting in its present form solely exists to provide entertainment to a small minority who get a thrill from chasing a defenceless creature to its death. This is one argument you will rarely hear hunters putting forward, however.

With public opinion continuing to mount against cruelty to animals, there is a strong case for the replacement of fox hunting with a humane alternative. Since a certain amount of those who ride with hunts do so primarily for the equestrian aspect, the most obvious successor to foxhunting is drag hunting. Drag hunting is very similar to foxhunting except, of course, for the fact that in drag hunting no animal is cruelly abused or killed.

So how does drag hunting work?
It's quite simple. Instead of chasing a terrified fox, hounds and mounted riders follow an artificial scent which has been specially laid along a pre-planned route. The scent can be laid in a number of ways - a rag can be soaked with the scent (aniseed or animal urine are common scents to use) and then a mounted rider with a fifteen minute head start drags the rag after him as he gallops along the course. Alternatively it can be trailed by a human running the route which the hounds are to follow.

Are there any drag hunts in operation in Ireland?
Yes. There are four in the Republic of Ireland - Athgoe Harriers, Bray Harriers, East Clare Harriers, South Co Dublin and two in Northern Ireland - Down Farmers Bloodhounds and Holestone Farmers Bloodhounds.

Would the replacement of fox hunting with drag hunting mean hundreds of foxhounds would have to be destroyed?
Absolutely not. It is no more difficult to train a hound to follow the scent of the drag than it is to train it to follow the scent of a fox, hare or deer. In the UK, drag hunts have been known to borrow hounds from foxhunts, thus demonstrating that hounds currently hunting foxes could easily be retrained to hunt the drag.

Would a changeover to drag hunting result in job losses in the countryside?
No. This claim by foxhunters is merely part of their vacuous scare tactics. Not only would there not be a negative impact on jobs in the countryside, it is likely that even more jobs would be created from a transition to drag hunting.

Certainly, the sadistic, hard-core element of hunts (usually found at the head of the mounted pack in close proximity to the kill) would depart, disillusioned and disinterested if there were no animals being terrorised or cruelly killed. However, there would be greater public participation from those who want to partake in equestrian activities but not cruelty. At the very least, the influx of new members as cruelty to wildlife is eliminated would balance out the departure of these sadists. The element of wildlife abuse is undoubtedly stopping many people from riding with hunts in their present form.

Apart from the foxes being spared the cruelty of the hunt and an increase in rural employment what are the other benefits of draghunting?

If dogs realise there is no fox to kill at the end of the hunt, will they still be eager to run the course?
Yes, they will be very eager. As mentioned above, training dogs to hunt drag is no more difficult than training them to hunt foxes. Dogs used in drag hunts are rewarded at the end of the course with meat and biscuits and they are more than happy with this treat. Foxes, after all, are members of the dog family and hounds would not naturally eat foxes. They have to be trained to do so during the cub hunting period and this is entirely unnatural and amounts to cannibalism.

Could carted stag hunting, beagling and harrying also be replaced by drag hunting?
Yes, quite easily.

Is it likely that foxhunts will change over to drag hunting?
Realistically, the only way this will happen is if the laws are changed to make hunting foxes with hounds illegal. Since foxhunters have convinced themselves that their misleadingly flawed arguments are true and justify animal cruelty, they will, of course, resist such changes for as long as possible.

What can I do to help?
Now that you understand what draghunting is all about and how much sense it would make to replace hunted foxes with a drag, help ICABS to change the laws to protect the fox from animal cruelty. Write letters to all your local politicians - they have the power to introduce and support legislation which will help Irish wildlife. Tell them about the inhumane abuse which is inflicted on hunted foxes and about the barbaric fate which awaits them when caught by the hounds. Explain why the replacement of foxhunting with drag hunting would be better not just for wildlife but for riders, farmers and the long-term well-being of the rural economy.

Anti-hunt project wins MiWadi heritage competition

Pupils from Caherelly School in Limerick have taken a first prize in the MiWadi-sponsored National Heritage Competition. Their impressive project focused on the fox and sought to persuade foxhunters to stop their cruelty.

A prize of £500 was presented to the nature enthusiasts at the Ark Children's Cultural Centre in Temple Bar, Dublin. There were over 250 entries into the competition from primary schools all over the country. The aim of the competition was to encourage a greater awareness of local, environmental, cultural and historical issues.

The children say in their project that a new awareness of the fox is needed because "Reynard has earned a bad name for himself because he [sometimes] eats chickens, geese, pheasants and ducks".

They emphasise the positive qualities of the fox, however, saying, "the fox is a shy, nocturnal animal which provides a beneficial service to farmers by killing rabbits, hares, frogs, lizards, rats and mice".

In addition to the activities of cruel foxhunters, they highlight that modern technology, new farm machinery and increased road traffic also pose a threat to the fox.

This is the second time pupils from Caherelly School have won with their well-researched projects. Previously, an award was presented to them for a project on foxhunting.

School book presents fox fiction as fact

Educational publishers, Folens, have been asked by ICABS to withdraw a fifth class text book that feeds school kids with misinformation about foxes and promotes barbaric foxhunting.

Irish title, "Gach Aon Lá" claims farmers dislike foxes because they "often kill young lambs" - a classic piece of anti-fox fiction which wildlife experts have repeatedly shown to be untrue.

In fact, Folens' negative portrayal of the fox is directly refuted by educational material distributed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Its Heritage Highlights leaflet for youngsters says: "No matter what people think, foxes seldom kill and eat young lambs."

In a separate section, the school book encourages kids to sing a song which refers to foxes as ugly and has a farmer telling a fox it will "pay dearly" for taking a goose. Rather disturbingly, the song ends with a chorus which includes foxhunter cruelty call "tally ho".

ICABS is concerned about this misportrayal of the fox and is alarmed at the miseducational nature of the section in question. The image of foxes as lamb killers is based entirely on myths and untruths - proper research by Folens would have readily revealed that such misinformation has long been disproved by nature studies.

Furthermore, we feel that the blatant reference to foxhunting is offensive to youngsters, many of whom want this barbaric blood sport banned.

Write to Folens, telling them that you are offended by the anti-fox content in Gach Aon Lá. Tell them that foxes are not ruthless lamb killers and that making animals "pay dearly" is barbaric and inhumane. Demand that future prints of the book correct the false information given about foxes and that references to cruel foxhunting be removed. The address to write to is: Folens, 8 Broomhill Business Park, Dublin 24.

An Post criticised for giving stamp of approval to hunting

A philatelic brochure recently issued by An Post has wrongly stated that fox hunting is "becoming an integral and increasingly important element of the country's tourism product". The comment was made in a section pertaining to the newly launched equestrian-themed stamps.

This item published in the "Irish Stamps - Collectors News" brochure was obviously ill-researched because, quite clearly, fox hunting is no longer recognised as a tourist attraction and is neither an integral or important part of what Ireland has to offer tourists. Bord Fáilte has even distanced itself from the cruelty of hunting and in confirming that promotion of blood sports has ended, they have stated that "interest in holidaying here for hunting is declining and we are not doing anything to halt that decline and will be quite pleased when there are no further enquiries about hunting".

The misleading remark about the supposed importance of hunting is offensive to the majority of An Post customers who would like to see animal cruelty being stamped out. Given the extremely cruel nature of foxhunting with hounds and the controversy surrounding the activity, it is very disappointing that An Post would see fit to include references to it in their publication, thus giving hunting a respectability it certainly doesn't deserve.

Thumbs down to An Post for endorsing cruelty to animals!

Animal abuse/child abuse link should be investigated

"Families in which abuse of children is going on also seem to have high levels of animal abuse". That's according to Dr Liz Paul of the Department of Clinical Veterinary Science at Bristol University.

And, she suspects, the reverse also holds - that in families where there is participation in animal abuse activities, child abuse may be occurring as well.

"The high levels of correlation between those two sorts of events suggest that some sort of investigation may be sensible," she commented recently.

Meanwhile, an article recently published in an Irish shooting magazine quoted Dr Jody Enck of Cornell University as saying: "It is a well documented fact that child abuse rates are highest in rural counties. It also is well-known that the rate of purchasing hunting licences is highest in rural counties. Thus, it is a foregone conclusion that there would be a high correlation between the two things."

Support Groups

Those wishing to form an ICABS support group in their area are asked to contact head office for more details. Support groups are an invaluable help to the campaign, their primary function being to educate people at a local level about the cruelty of blood sports.

Support groups typically partake in such activities as fund-raisers, political lobbying, letter writing to newspapers and observing. If you and your friends wish to contribute some time and effort to help bring blood sports to an end, please give us a call now.

Pie for Posh

Spice Girl, Victoria Adams, narrowly escaped a pie in the face at a recent anti-fur demonstration.

Posh Spice enraged animal lovers when she was photographed modelling fur in Tatler magazine. The singer ducked into a car and the custard pie hit the windscreen instead.

Croc wrestling banned

Israel's Supreme Court has banned crocodile wrestling at an Israeli reptile farm.

The justices stated that crocodiles shouldn't be made suffer for the sake of entertainment.

Did you know:

Over 32,000 foxes were shot and killed by shooters in Ireland last year.

"Hunting and Christianity cannot be bedfellows"
Religious group publishes Christian case for hunt ban

The author of a new pamphlet promoting a ban on hunting from a Christian point of view has stated that hunting for sport conflicts with Christianity.

Martin Palmer, a religious adviser to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, outlines in the Christian Socialist Movement document that "many early Christians could not imagine being a follower of Christ the Lord of Creation, and hunting."

The pamphlet, published in Britain as a theological and ethical contribution to the debate on hunting with hounds, was released to coincide with the top date on the hunting calendar - St Stephen's Day.

Some points put forward in the publication include:

Mr Palmer qualifies his arguments by referring to saints who have stood up for animals and protected them from hunters: "St Melangel in Wales, protected a hunted hare from a Welsh prince who, seeing her selflessness, declared he would never hunt in the valley again. St Giles in France took an arrow in his hand as he protected a doe which had run to him for sanctuary from the hunters. They too were converted and gave up hunting. St Hauberk, meanwhile, was about to kill the stag he had been hunting when he saw between its antlers a crucifix and in that saw that the passion of the stag was a parallel to the passion of Christ and converted instantly, saving the stag."

"All these illustrate only too clearly that Christian saints have seen hunting as barbaric, as indeed comparable to the crucifixion of Christ himself. They have put themselves in the way of the hunted and borne the brunt of human inhumanity or confronted it with its own image. These and many other such protector saints raise profound questions of how we live in relationship to the rest of creation."

In conclusion Mr Palmer says that those who hunt for pleasure are ignoring the Christian vision of being servants of a greater creation: "We have subverted most of creation to our demands and in arguing that hunting is a social pastime and a way of controlling animals, we have pushed this to the extreme. If we must control, then let us do so humanely, compassionately, always with the image of those saints before us."

"Coursing is a dirty thing"
Hare coursing makes unwelcome return to Ballymena

The return of hare coursing to Co Antrim's Ballymena has sickened animal lovers who expressed outrage at the cruel activity's comeback after four years.

Rev. Henry D. Heatley of Northern Ireland's Anti Live Hare Coursing Society described coursing as "a dirty thing" and has called on churches in the province to put their full weight behind efforts to obtain a ban.

Rev Heatley, a long-time anti-blood sports campaigner and ardent ICABS supporter has dismissed the muzzling of greyhounds as irrelevant, saying "whether hares are killed or not, they are left terrified".

"Muzzles do not remove the fear factor," he added.

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also criticised coursing. "It causes needless suffering," a spokesperson commented.

64 per cent of youngsters support fox hunt ban
First ever tele-poll on foxhunting

A telephone call-in poll carried out by RTÉ's Echo Island programme found that a huge majority of young people want fox hunting banned.

Following a live debate on hunting, viewers were invited to telephone in with their votes - should fox hunting be banned or should it be allowed continue? The poll left no doubts that Ireland's youth want foxes protected from the cruelty of the hunt. A massive 64 per cent said they wanted fox hunting banned.

Badger baiters fined, banned from holding guns

A pair of badger hunters from Co Kildare were banned from holding gun licences for five years and fined £40 each at Trim Circuit Court. The men were in court appealing the severity of penalties handed down at a previous sitting.

As reported in the last issue of Animal Watch, the two men - John Casey of Coolcarrigan and Peter Maher of Grangeclare, Robertstown - were caught digging at a badger sett in Kinnegad, Co Westmeath. They subsequently admitted to interfering with/destroying the breeding place of a protected wild animal and carrying a spade and shovel capable of being used for the hunting of a wild bird or animal.

A previous sitting of the court heard how on February 25th, 1996, three men including Casey and Maher, came onto land with two dogs and proceeded to dig 1.3 metres deep into the badger sett. Their actions prompted the then judge to label them "blackguards" and "sub-human".

When the two appeared before Judge Pat McCartan in Trim Circuit Court in January, he told them that this type of incident "would not be tolerated" In addition to the gun bans and fines, the pair were ordered to donate £1,400 to animal welfare charities.

Words of wisdom

"I'm totally opposed to hare coursing. I voted against my party in the Dáil on the Gregory Bill. It's a barbaric game and foxhunting is even worse. In my youth, I used to course and was sickened by it. It's a dreadfully cruel game in which timid little creatures are butchered by dogs often psyched up and blooded beforehand by unscrupulous people.

"I'm a bit cynical about the impact of muzzling. When these dogs are travelling at very high speeds and slide in for the kill, they can fatally injure these fragile creatures."
Brendan McGahon, Fine Gael TD (Sunday Independent, 11th January, 1998).

"Ban Fox Hunting, Create Jobs. With the opportunities offered by modern odour chemistry to synthesise scents of particular qualities, the opportunities for farmers to profit by diversifying the use of their land, and the great desire of ever more people to participate in benign country pursuits, there would seem to be very strong incentives, both cultural and economic, to explore with the greatest zeal and ingenuity ways of making drag hunting attractive. This would seem the only course that is likely to preserve and indeed potentially enhance greatly, the traditions, skills, social infra-structure and employment associated with foxhunting."
Dr David MacDonald and P Johnston, Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University in The Impact of Sport Hunting: A Case Study (1996).

"In previous generations, Christians have justified slavery, the crusades and apartheid. We now know they were wrong. The time has also now come for Christians to stand firmly for compassion in all our dealing with the rest of God's creation. That must mean putting an end to making a sport out of harrying an animal to death."
Chris Bryant, Chair of the Christian Socialist Movement.

Anti-fur designer gets top job

Some good news for foxes and other animals trapped or bred for their fur. French design house, Chloë, is now headed by fur-free designer Stella McCarthy, daughter of Paul McCarthy and the late Linda McCarthy.

A "frumpy old fur peddler" is how animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has described the man she replaced. In stark contrast, Stella McCarthy, recently named Elle Magazine's favourite young designer, is renowned for keeping animal skins out of her designs. She commented: "I think fur looks much better on the animal than a model and continue to be shocked by the methods used to obtain real fur."

Hunting a "protected species"
The cruel blood sport of beagling

Beagling is the hunting down of hares in their wild and natural state with a trained pack of beagle dogs. Despite the fact that hares are a normally protected species in Ireland, beagling not only remains legal but during the open season (September-February), those responsible for organising this savage blood sport don't even require a licence.

Hunting the hare with beagles takes place across the countryside by hunt followers on foot and is carried out in a slow, methodical manner. The hunt bring their dogs to the hare habitat and let them loose onto the land until a hare is disturbed and sets off running for its life. At this stage, the foot followers position themselves so that they have a good view of the hunting grounds.

Hares seldom run straight for any length of time but usually circle. They often double back the way they came so that usually in a day's hunting, the area of country covered will be relatively small. The distance each hare is chased, however, can be as much five miles.

When the hare starts running, the beagles lock onto its scent and with their heads close to the ground, they track the animal down. If they happen to lose the scent, hunt officials - dressed in green jackets and white pants - are standing by to direct them to the hare. Meanwhile, the hunt's "whipper-in" stays on the outskirts of the hunting grounds to prevent hares from escaping.

During the chase, the hare does its best to escape. It "jinks" (makes a sharp, right-angled jump to one side), "claps" (flattens its body to the ground) and tries to confuse the scent by running through fields of livestock. Should the hounds lose the scent, they lift their heads and look to a huntsman for direction.

Hares are faster than hounds, but hounds are bred for stamina rather than speed and can usually outrun their quarry. When they catch up with the unfortunate hare, they move in and kill as a pack. It can take up to three minutes for hounds to tear a live hare apart.

During the beagling season, packs hunt at least once a week - usually on Sundays - and also on major holidays such as St Stephen's Day and St Patrick's Day. A day's hunting can see any amount of hares being terrorised and killed. At present, there are 34 beagling packs operating in Ireland. Due to the stress, injury and death caused to hares, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports remains firmly opposed to this barbaric blood sport.

Blood Sports - a stressful ordeal for animals

"When a mammal like a hare is chased by a predator like a dog it will show physiological changes associated with fear. These include greatly elevated heart rate and high levels of emergency adrenal hormone production as well as other changes in hormone levels and enzymes. Extreme responses like those shown when chased by a predator can result in reduced life expectancy due to the immediate dangers of injury during very vigorous activity and greater risk of cardiovascular or other breakdown as a consequence of the responses. We must conclude that, whether or not the hare is caught, its welfare is very poor during the chase and for periods afterwards which will be prolonged in some cases. Hares have a fully functional pain detection system."
Donald M Broom, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge.

"It is impossible to completely avoid stress in hares once you manhandle them and take them out of their natural environment...stress can come in many shapes and forms and as long as you have the hare in captivity he is prone to it - resulting in his disability and even death at times."
From "Some Thoughts on the Feeding and Management of Hares - The Abbeyfeale Experience" by JJ O'Sullivan, M.R.C.V.S.

"Foxes caught in leghold traps [illegal in Ireland] and foxes pursued by hounds showed equivalent responses to stress, even though the amount of time spent being chased by the hounds was far less than the amount of time spent caught in the traps. Foxes were found to have a conditions called "exertion rhabdomyolysis", also known as capture myopathy - a breakdown of muscle tissue caused by exertion that is often followed by brain damage, paralysis and death."
From the results of a study carried out by the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Programme.

Let caged birds Gogh free

Artist Vincent Van Gogh cared deeply about creatures being denied the freedom to live as nature intended. The following is an extract from a letter written by Vincent to his brother, Theo:

"A caged bird in the spring knows quite well that he might serve some end; he is well aware that there is something for him to do, but he cannot do it. What is it? He does not quite remember. Then some vague ideas occur to him and he says to himself, "the other birds build their nests and lay their eggs and bring up their young ones..." and he knocks his head against the bars of the cage. But the cage remains and the bird is maddened by anguish.

"Look at that lazy animal," says another bird in passing, "he seems to be living at ease."

Yes, the prisoner lives, he does not die. There are outward signs of what passes within him. His health is good, he is more or less gay when the sun shines. But then the season of migration comes and attacks of melancholia.

"But he has everything he wants," say the children that tend to him in his cage. He looks through the bars at the overcast sky where a thunderstorm is gathering, and inwardly he rebels his fate.

"I am caged, I am caged and you tell me I do not want anything. Fools! You think I have everything I need. Oh! I beseech you liberty that I may be a bird like other birds!"

Report investigates effects of foxhunt ban

A study into the consequences of a foxhunting ban has concluded that since foxhunting plays no role in the control of fox populations, an end to hunting will not lead to undesirable increases in foxes numbers.

Entitled, "How will a ban on hunting affect the British fox population", the study carried out by Phil Baker and Stephen Harris of the University of Bristol examines the dynamics of fox populations, the factors that determine the rate at which fox populations increase or decrease and the factors which limit their numbers. Their findings leave no doubt that claims by hunters that hunts keep fox numbers down are entirely unfounded.

Foxhunting was not intended as a means of fox control, the report outlines, and so hunts have traditionally tried to have a minimum impact on breeding fox populations in an effort to preserve their quarry.

Drawing on international research carried out on fox population dynamics, Baker and Harris address claims by blood sport groups that without current levels of culling, fox numbers might escalate out of control until they exceed their food supply and as a result leave foxes starving to death.

We are reminded that changes in fox populations reflect the amount of food available and therefore such a fox famine scenario could not develop. "Fox numbers are in balance with their food supply," they state, "and as food resources increase, the size of fox numbers will increase - and vice versa."

The classic example presented is the impact myxomatosis had on fox populations. When the disease hit rabbit populations in Scotland in the 1950s, there was an increase in the number of foxes since diseased rabbits provided a plentiful and easily accessible food supply. But as rabbits died off and numbers drastically fell, there was a corresponding decline in the breeding success of foxes and a marked drop in their numbers.

Similarly, the food availability also influences the number of breeding vixens within each fox social group. Fox social groups typically produce just one litter of cubs regardless of how many females are present. But when the relationship between available food and fox numbers supportable by that food shifts, the number of breeding females will correspondingly alter. So when hunts kill foxes, there is effectively an increase in the food available to the remaining foxes in that area and this situation will be countered by an increase in breeding vixens or by dispersing foxes from other territories moving in.

According to the report, there is absolutely "no evidence to suggest that foxhunts play any role in the control of fox populations". It states that the activities of foxhunts have a minimal impact on fox numbers because they kill mainly young dispersing males which provide good runs for the hounds as they attempt to return home to their natal territory. Even if a breeding female is killed by a hunt, it is quickly replaced by a non-breeding subordinate from the social group which then becomes a breeder.

Referring to the findings of other studies, the authors put into perspective the sheer insignificance of foxhunting in any fox control effort. Extensive research, they outline, has concluded that fox populations can sustain 70% mortality each year without affecting the breeding population each spring. Foxhunts in the UK, meanwhile, account for at most 4% of total fox mortality.

The report also nullifies another twisted foxhunter argument, i.e. that they kill only sick, old and infirm animals (what they refer to as a "mopping up exercise").

Although there is no actual data available on the ages of foxes killed by hunts, the report deduces that since half of all deaths occur during cub-hunting and that the rest of the hunting season occurs during the main dispersal period, the majority of foxes killed will be juveniles.

The report rubbishes the hunt claim by stating that there are simply no old foxes around for hunts to kill - few foxes live long enough to reach old age. With 65% of the population dying each year, only five in every one thousand cubs born see their fifth birthday (half the maximum life expectancy); less than one in a thousand see their seventh birthday and only three in every 100,000 cubs born reach their natural life span and see their tenth birthday.

Other notable findings presented in the report are that there is no evidence to support claims that a foxhunting ban would lead to an increase in the numbers of foxes killed by other means or an increase in illegal methods of killing foxes.

Copies of the report, priced £5, can be ordered from the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, England.

Minister calls on hunters to stop digging out foxes
First ever admission that dig-outs are unacceptable

The Minister for Agriculture, Joe Walsh, has called on fox hunters to clean up their act and stop the practices of digging out foxes, earthstopping and the hunting of lactating vixens.

The call which was directed at the Irish Masters of Foxhounds and the Masters of Harriers Associations led to meetings by the Department with hunters and animal welfarists alike.

While the Irish Council Against Blood Sports welcomed the Minister's initiative in that it was the first ever admission by a Government Minister that such foxhunting practices are unacceptable, we stressed at our meeting with the Department of Agriculture officials who are advising Mr Walsh on this issue that a total ban on hunting down and killing foxes with dogs was the only effective way to eliminate cruelty from this blood sport.

We pointed out that asking the hunters to have a "Code of Conduct" would be a totally ineffective measure in that those not adhering to such a code could not be penalised in any meaningful or effective way, and could literally "thumb their noses" at such a code. We also warned that hunting packs could avoid adhering to such a code by simply disaffiliating from the Irish Masters of Foxhounds. Furthermore, though hunts employ terriermen to dig out and slaughter foxes, there are individuals independent of hunts who carry out the same sordid activities and who would therefore be exempt from any code.

Now, nearly a year after Minister Walsh initially expressed concern over the nastier elements of hunting, the so-called "Code of Conduct" has not yet emerged. According to commentary in the hunting press, it would appear that there is a "proliferation of pirate, renegade, maverick, breakaway packs" who, of course, would not want to be restricted by a code.

ICABS has renewed its call on the Minister for Agriculture to look seriously at the whole issue of foxhunting. It is not enough to ask the hunters to behave themselves. What is needed is a scientific review into the practice of foxhunting as a whole encompassing hunters' exaggerated claims that the fox is a pest which needs to be controlled and also the concerns over animal welfare.

The appalling mauling that typifies integral coursing cruelty
Images show horrifying end for hares mauled by muzzled hounds

dying hare removed The "despatcher" runs off with mortally wounded hare hare held up Despatcher roughly holds hare out of greyhounds' reach

Stags still running scared despite ban

In February, several months after a ban on carted stag hunting was announced, horrified eyewitnesses reported an incident which saw a deer being chased into a bog by hunters. It is understood that the animal was being pursued by dogs from the County Down Staghounds when it became firmly stuck in Ballynahinch Bog.

Huntsmen who were in the area at the time subsequently claimed that during the course of a drag hunt, their hounds picked up the deer's scent and pursued it. This version of events was discounted by a local farmer whose grandchildren witnessed the stag being beaten with sticks. The farmer called on the authorities to launch an immediate investigation, saying that "the stag hid itself in the bog because it was frightened - the people who took part in this incident should be hauled before the courts."

Belfast's "SOS - Save Our Stags" group who were instrumental in orchestrating the North's successful anti-hunting campaign have also discounted the drag hunting story. "We are asked to believe that stags are mysteriously presenting themselves to be hunted when the County Down Staghounds are innocently out drag hunting," a spokesperson commented. "However, there is good reason to believe that stags are carted to a safe house well before the day of the hunt and possibly sedated until required for hunting."

[terrified deer hiding] Bogged Down: A terrified deer awaits capture after being chased into bogland by hunters. (Photo: Jim Miskimmin)

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed that a vet was called to the bog but explained that as police officers approached to treat the animal, it was promptly removed and driven away in a trailer. The USPCA say they believe that "excessive force" was used to remove the injured animal and that it may have been dragged through a barbed wire fence by hunt followers.

Press photographer, Jim Miskimmin, was present at the scene and said he saw the stag with a bleeding nose being dragged away by a rope tied around its antlers. An anonymous caller later told him that the animal could not walk and that there was blood running out of it as it was dragged along a ditch and into a trailer. Local police conducted a search based on the caller's information but failed to locate the stag.

Responding to concerns over the incident, the Department of Agriculture in Northern Ireland say that they have no evidence to confirm that an offence took place in Ballynahinch Bog and that in order to sustain a prosecution they would have to establish a chain of evidence.

"The Department and also the RUC are considering how to effectively monitor such hunting activities to ensure that appropriate evidence in relation to any breaches of the legislation can be assembled," a spokesperson added.


"Animal Watch" is published by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, PO Box 88, Mullingar, Co Westmeath. Tel: 044-49848. Fax: 044-49848.

Editor: Philip Kiernan
Sub-editor: Aideen Yourell
Contributors: John Tierney, Aideen Yourell, Jim Miskimmin, Tomas Coppinger, Philip Kiernan, Don Kennedy, Ann Fox.

All contributions to "Animal Watch" should be submitted for consideration to the above address.
The views expressed in "Animal Watch" are not necessarily those of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.

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