General Election 2016 - Where do the candidates stand on animal cruelty issues?

'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated' - Mahatma Gandhi
'Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation' - Martin Luther King

Before voting in the general election on Friday 26th February, read our guide to the candidates and where they stand on animal cruelty issues. Please make your vote count for the animals.

Individual candidate views may differ from official party policies, to which members are expected to follow in Dail Eireann. Click on the link to view party policies in relation to animal issues. Help us expand this list - let us know about responses you receive from candidates. If you are a candidate and wish to be included in this list, please get in touch with us now.


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Cllr Christy Burke (Independent, Dublin City Council)
"I am against any form of animal cruelty." from an email to ICABS, April 2014.

Joe Costello, TD (Labour, Dublin Central):
"I am opposed to all blood sports."

In January 2012, Joe Costello (Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) attended a protest against hare coursing outside the Department of Agriculture. Minister Costello stood alongside a banner calling for TDs to "Support the Bill to End Hare Coursing". Read More

"The legislation is silent on blood sports. While it refers to hunting, this concerns licences for hunting and ensuring there is not indiscriminate killing of wildlife. The two are different. One is the shooting or culling of wildlife whereas bloodsports concern a person chasing wildlife for pleasure and enjoyment. We must address the bloodsports issue in Ireland. We have touched on it from time to time but we have never dealt with it seriously, either in terms of coursing, fox hunting, stag hunting or badger baiting or hunting, nor have we addressed the considerable cruelty attached to the manner in which it is done and the way the animal is treated both in the hunt and in the killing. We hear horrific stories every season. We must recognise that the animals involved are all wild animals, foxes, stags and badgers, and are hunted, not for human food but for human pleasure. That is what we must examine...Hunting for pleasure is unacceptable and the line must be drawn that, while there is commercial hunting, fishing and culling of wildlife, there should not be commercial or other forms of bloodsports where human beings not only chase animals but kill them, which is the normal outcome of the chase. It involves a considerable amount of cruelty, does not benefit anyone and does not redound to the well-being of or a sense of respect for animals which we should have. I urge the Minister to examine this issue seriously to see whether some movement can be made." (Speaking as a Senator in 16th November 2000).

Paschal Donohoe, TD (Fine Gael, Dublin Central):
In March 2013, Paschal Donohoe voted against 3 amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare Bill which sought to secure a ban on some of Ireland's worst acts of cruelty to animals - foxhunting, hare coursing, digging out, terrierwork, ferreting, badger culling, fur farming and the use of animals in circus performances.

Mary Fitzpatrick (Fianna Fail)
As a candidate in the 2014 European Parliament election, she signed a Eurogroup for Animals animal welfare pledge, including "I will strive to ensure that animals are recognised as sentient beings in all legislation that comes before the Parliament and strive to ensure all existing animal welfare related legislation is properly enforced..."

Cllr Gary Gannon (Independent, Dublin City Council)
"I am fully against blood sports in all their forms and would be fully supportive of any Dublin City Council motion which called for a ban on such unnecessary cruelty. "

Jacqui Gilbourne (Renua, Dublin Central):
"I deplore animal cruelty, full stop." from an email to ICABS, February 2016.

Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Fein, Dublin Central):
In March 2013, Mary Lou McDonald voted against amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare Bill which sought to secure a ban on some of Ireland's worst acts of cruelty to animals - fox hunting, terrierwork, digging out, ferreting, badger culling and the use of animals in circus performances.

In 2007, Mary Lou McDonald signed Written Declaration 0002/2007 - "Written declaration on the EU-wide ban on bullfighting"- which aimed to get bullfighting banned in the EU.

Cormac McKay (Direct Democracy Ireland, Dublin Central)
"I support you and your group and its objectives for animal protection and cruelty prevention." from an email to ICABS, January 2016.

Diana O’Dwyer (Anti Austerity Alliance, Dublin Central):
"I'm opposed to bloodsports and support a ban" from a tweet to ICABS, February 2016.

"The Anti Austerity Alliance is fully behind animal welfare issues and I would support further animal welfare legislation." in reply to Maynooth University's Animal Rights Society.

Maureen O'Sullivan, TD (Independent, Dublin Central):
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is honoured to have Maureen O'Sullivan as our President. Maureen is an invaluable ally to ICABS in Dail Eireann, tabling Dail questions and making representations on an ongoing basis.

"Nobody will tell me that coursing is the sort of activity where there is no cruelty... I do not think it is doing our international reputation any good to be one of three countries that continue with live coursing...This was a golden opportunity to get rid of hare coursing which I think is very obvious the majority of people in this country totally oppose." Animal Health and Welfare Bill debate in Dail Eireann, March 27th, 2013. Watch on Youtube

"Let me refer to coursing. I could read out a catalogue of instances of coursing cruelty but I will refer to just a few pertaining to various coursing meetings. Over two days of coursing at one event, 16 hares were hit by dogs. Nine were pinned and seven died of their injuries. At another meeting, six hares were hit by muzzled dogs, six were injured and two were killed. Over another two days, ten hares were hit, two were killed, two were injured and two died overnight. At another meeting, 12 hares were hit by muzzled dogs, one was killed, four were injured and one was put down because of injuries...We know what occurs before coursing meetings. The club members go out collecting hares. Sometimes they do so outside the bounds of their licence. Netting involves supporters yelling and shouting to herd hares into a net and then into an enclosure. This, again, is cruel to hares because they are solitary creatures. The wild hare is released into the field where we know what happens. Blooding with hares, rabbits and kittens is practised by people who own greyhounds. While debating legislation before the recess, I discovered that hares can also be shot. I do not know what the poor hare ever did to Irish society to be subjected to such cruel treatment...Let me refer to fur farming. I have seen evidence of the manner in which animals are kept, breaching all animal welfare laws, even those we had before now. The practice is similar to the medieval torture chamber represented by the badger traps. A review group submitted a report some months ago but this is not being addressed in the Bill. I hope separate legislation is being planned as a consequence...

"I accept that we are not fully free of bovine TB and that control measures are necessary but such measures could be carried out in a humane way, not through the most barbaric, gruesome and inhumane practice of catching badgers in a snare. I have seen the snares; they belong to a medieval torture chamber and are not part of a modern, civilised society. The trapping is cruel and when the badger is caught, it is a sitting target for the hunter to shoot it. A consequence is that the young badgers are left to starve. There are no badgers in the Isle of Man, yet there is bovine TB there. Farmers who are against badger snaring say other measures could be used to combat TB, including strict movement controls, thorough cleansing of livestock buildings, good ventilation and double fencing on all boundaries. There were some measures of note taken in England. Movement controls, improved cattle testing and biosecurity saw a 15% reduction in bovine TB. There are similar improvements in other countries where there is no badger killing...If one culls intensively for four years, there is a net TB reduction of 12% to 16%. Therefore, 85% of the problem remains. I hope that the legislation could lead to a vaccination strategy instead of using the very cruel and barbaric practice of badger snaring. The Irish Wildlife Trust stated in a letter to The Irish Times this week that since culling began in Ireland many years ago, 90,000 badgers have been killed. However, 80,000 of the badgers were healthy. In Northern Ireland, badgers are tested in the field so that only those infected with TB are killed..." from Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed), Dail Eireann, 20 September 2012. Watch on Youtube

"I do not know what the hare has ever done to Irish society to justify the treatment meted out to it, first, as a result of many years of coursing and now by virtue of the fact that people will be able to shoot it. The Minister referred to open season which, for hares, will be five months long. However, open season for hares lasts all 12 months of the year...Let us consider what the supposedly humane practice of muzzling has done for the hare. About one month before each meeting club members go out into the countryside to collect hares in a process known as "netting". This involves a gang of supporters shouting and yelling to herd hares into nets which have been strategically placed. The hares are then put into boxes for transport to the coursing venue. These are another two instances of cruelty, but the Bill does not go into much detail on this aspect...During the training weeks hares are kept herded together in a enclosure. This adds considerably to the stress suffered by the hares which are solitary creatures and keep to themselves in the wild. They do not live together in groups. In captivity, therefore, they are very prone to disease which can spread more easily when they are kept together in an enclosure." Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2012 [Seanad]: Second and Subsequent Stages, 18 July 2012. Watch on Youtube

"I wish to focus on the hunt aspect and the proposal to prohibit stag hunting with hounds in Ireland, which will apply to the Ward Union Hunt. I believe this is a humane and an enlightened initiative that is long overdue.

Do we have some romantic view of the hunt in terms of the red jackets, the men and women on horseback and, I understand these days, on quads and jeeps, with the horns blowing, the dogs baying and the so-called thrill of the chase? The words I use are animal cruelty. There are incidents of deer becoming entangled in barbed wire, drowned and chocked to death. Do we really want to see images of hunted deer covered in blood, wounded, bitten and bruised, with steaming tongues hanging out as they drop to the ground exhausted? The hunt is causing unnecessary suffering to these animals. It is a gruelling experience that can last up to and even longer than three hours.

I cite, as the late Deputy Tony Gregory did in the Dail debate of October 2007, the veterinary documents which show the injuries and fatalities. They include fractured ribs, ruptured aortic aneurysms, a deer collapsing and dying after desperately trying to escape over an 8 ft high wall. There is considerable photographic and video evidence of the cruelty, and reports in newspapers of numerous incidents of cruelty. Is it sport to terrify an animal so unnecessarily and for what?

The Ward Union Hunt states that it has implemented a wide range of health and safety measures in recent years. That is equivalent to telling a prisoner that after being tortured a doctor will be on hand to bandage the wounds. What health and safety measures can be brought in that will alleviate deliberate suffering and torture of an animal? That is a total contradiction." Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010: Second Stage, 24 June 2010. Deputy O'Sullivan voted in favour of the bill.

"Maureen O'Sullivan, TD said one of the major regrets of the late Tony Gregory was that more hadn't been done for animal rights in his lifetime. She had always shared his views on animal rights, she said, and hoped to continue his work against coursing. 'It is absolutely vicious, I couldn't look at the video footage of coursing, how people call that a sport, I do not know,' Ms O'Sullivan said." (From a report in the Irish Times, August 14, 2009)

"Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan have told the Herald that they are determined to see stag hunting ended. Both say that blood sports are entirely wrong and should be stamped out as soon as possible..."To me it's animal cruelty. To see deer caught in barbed wire, bruised, bleeding, hurt," she told the Herald. "I don't consider it sport to terrify animals, the hounds baying. In some cases they are going after domesticated deer. They are often killed through exhaustion. It's ludicrous." Evening Herald, June 29 2010.

On 27th March 2013, Maureen O'Sullivan presented/supported amendments to the Animal Health and Welfare Bill which sought to outlaw hare coursing, foxhunting, terrierwork, digging-out, ferreting and fur farming.

"This was a golden opportunity to get rid of hare coursing. It is very obvious that the majority of people in this country totally oppose it. I know that Deputies are annoyed by the volume of emails they receive on this matter, but this shows the extent of the support for putting a ban on coursing...Damage is being done to greyhounds, who are gentle animals. They are being deliberately blooded and trained to do something that is against their nature. We know also of the damage to hares in the way they are netted, housed and used. There is also an increasing use of rabbits [for blooding greyhounds]." Animal Health and Welfare Bill debate in Dail Eireann, March 27th, 2013. Watch on Youtube

In an April 2015 Dail question, Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture "if he will provide the number and names of active fur farms at present; if any fur farms have closed in the past three years; if any applications have been made to establish new fur farms; if so, the species the potential fur farms are seeking to breed; and if he will make a statement on the matter."

Cllr Cieran Perry (Independent, Dublin Central)
"I am fully supportive of animal rights and was previously an animal rights activist." from a reply to the National Animal Rights Association, 2016.

"I believe that the netting and coursing of wild hares is a cruel and barbaric practice that has no place in the Ireland of today. Despite the introduction of muzzling, which coursing enthusiasts reassured the public would remove the "kill" element of this so-called sport, it is clear that the coursing fraternity cannot be trusted to police their own events. It is surely now time to consign this cruel and shameful practice to the dustbin of history once and for all". From a statement issued on 03 February, 2011.

In October 2010, Cieran Perry succeeded in getting a motion passed in Dublin City Council to ban the import and sale of real fur, in the jurisdiction of Dublin City.

Cllr Eilis Ryan (The Workers' Party, Dublin City Council)
"Fully opposed to hare coursing." from a tweet to ICABS, November 2015.

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