Night hunting and trespass proposals dropped from Wildlife Bill
Two provisions in the new Wildlife Amendments Bill which would have given some respite to both wildlife and landowners persecuted by hunt trespass have been dropped by Minister Sile De Valera (pictured right) after pressure from the gun and foxhunting lobbies.
Night hunting and lamping
A new provision for a ban on the use of lamps, lights, torches, mirrors, artificial light-reflecting/dazzling devices and sighting devices for night shooting would have eliminated night hunting.
A visit by the Minister to NARGC's AGM in Ennis last October, resulted in her obviously swallowing propaganda that the fox is a major pest which has to be shot at night.
On the 15th December last, she announced in the Dail that she was dropping the provision because a strong case had been made that this would restrict an existing practice whereby landowners control certain pest species.
This very sensible ban on night hunting - an extremely dangerous activity with risks to humans and farm livestock - would have made the job of National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) officers much easier in detecting the illegal night hunting of protected species.
Poaching of deer by night with the use of lamps is a common problem, and many engaged in the activity use the excuse that they are out lamping foxes when challenged by the authorities. There is no way to prove otherwise, unless they can be apprehended with a deer carcass. Indeed, if they shoot a deer, they can always claim that they did so accidentally while out hunting foxes. This excuse can be used for any night hunting of a protected species, thus rendering the Act almost impossible to enforce.
Prohibiting lamping of all wild animals would make it impossible for deer poachers to operate as they now do.
The other provision, dropped at the behest of the various hunting interests, was the addition of ferrets, birds of prey or packs of dogs to the list of items which one may not take onto land without permission for the purpose of hunting.
At present, it is an offence to hunt any wild animal using a firearm, other weapon, trap, snare, net, birdlime, poison, stupefying bait or other devices or instruments, including decoys, lures, lamps and other dazzling devices on land without the permission of the owner.
So the addition of dogs and other animals used for hunting was a logical and sensible move, and one which would have given extra, and much needed, rights to those landowners persecuted by hunt trespass. Again, it would also have strengthened the hand of NPWS rangers in prosecuting illegal coursers, badger diggers, etc.
However, the foxhunters went to work on the Minister, and she announced that she would change the published text of the new Section 51 which would have made it an offence to hunt with a ferret, bird of prey or pack of hounds on land without the owner's permission. She stated that "it has become clear that this would impose new controls on existing legal forms of hunting, which were never intended".
Hunters are always at pains to point out that they respect landowners and always seek permission before entering onto the lands of others. If this is the case, why do they fear the inclusion of ferrets, birds of prey and dogs in the trespass act?
Considering this, the Minister's statement is indeed curious and highly irresponsible, if looked at logically. Is she inferring that she doesn't want the hunters restricted by making them responsible for what their own dogs do? The answer is obvious. In the case of packs of hounds, foxhunters particularly, realise that they cannot control the pack at all times, and there is always the possibility that hunting hounds will enter lands which the hunt do not have permission to enter.
In this case, landowners may have recourse to the Control of Dogs Act 1986, which states in Section 9(1) that "a dog must be under the effectual control at all times".
Sile De Valera calls for review into hunting on State owned nature reserves
Is the Wildlife in our State sanctuaries up for grabs?
In what would appear to be another onslaught on our beleaguered wildlife, Minister Sile De Valera, presumably to facilitate the shooters, has asked the Heritage Council to carry out a review into hunting in state owned national parks, nature reserves and other categories of state owned lands where it has been a long established policy that no sport shooting is allowed.
The Minister acknowledges that as managers of the National Parks, Duchas, the Heritage Service, owes a duty of care to the many recreational users, such as hill walkers, birdwatchers, bontanists, schoolchildren and others who visit our National Parks, not to put them at the increased risk of accidental injury from firearms used by sports hunters.
If so, why is the Minister calling for a review into hunting in national parks? Is she looking for ways and means for the sport hunters to invade our parks, while keeping the recreational users out ?
Otter hunting to be outlawed but otters still at risk
The Wildlife Amendments Bill (1999) proposes to repeal subsection (1)(i) of Section 26.
This section "provides for the Minister to grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of otter hounds, a licence authorising the hunting of otters by that pack". This will in effect outlaw otter hunting, which is a most welcome development, albeit that this was dictated by European Directive.
The otter and its habitat has been designated Category 1 status, which means that it and its habitat should be strictly protected.
However, when otter hunting licences were suspended in 1990, following intensive campaigning by ICABS and because of an EU Directive, the four otter hunting packs operating in the Munster area promptly switched to mink hunting along the very same stretches of rivers occupied by otters.
Now, they had the opportunity to hunt otters with impunity under the guise of hunting mink. We have reliable information that otter hunting is continuing, and we have recently acquired video footage of a so-called mink hunt which shows an otter being pursued in the undergrowth beside the bank of a river.
The video footage points up the enormous disturbance caused by the hunters and their packs of up to 30 dogs which swim up and down the river and hunt on the riverbank, barking constantly, while the hunters with long sticks poke and prod the riverbank, and even use terriers to flush out their quarry. There can be no doubt that, at the very least, otters and their habitats are being severely disturbed during mink hunts.
ICABS submits that outlawing otter hunting is an empty gesture if mink hunting with hounds is allowed to continue. To fully protect otters and their habitats in any meaningful way, and to properly comply with the EU Directive protecting otters and their habitats, mink hunting with hounds should be outlawed.
New provision means licence will be required to rescue/photograph wildlife
While the Minister is bending over backwards to facilitate the hunters in persecuting wildlife, she wants to complicate the lives of those who rescue injured and sick wildlife by requiring them to take out a licence.
Consider this scenario. You are driving along in the countryside and find an injured protected bird or animal on the road. You require a licence to have in your possession, for a reasonable period of time, an injured or disabled protected wild animal. What do you do? Time is of the essence. Your first priority is the animal and its welfare. So, you must break the law, take up the creature and get it to a vet for treatment.
Now for the photography. A major component of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports' campaigning activity is field work, observing and evidence collecting.
For example, we may get a call about disturbance to a badger sett - a sett blocked by foxhunters, for example - or evidence of badger baiting or digging having taken place. We take a video camera to the location to film the sett.
The Minister, in her wisdom, now wants us to apply for a licence to do this.
The provision states that the Minister may grant a licence to a person to make photographic, video or other pictures of a protected wild animal of a species so specified on, or near, the breeding place of such an animal. In fact, any person who wants to video or photograph wildlife for any reason will require a licence.
Just think about that for a moment - the Minister wants to curtail your basic right to take a photograph of a wild animal, but she doesn't want to impose new controls on legal forms of hunting so she has dropped the inclusion of ferrets, birds of prey and packs of dogs in a new provision to strengthen the law against trespass.
Urgent - Action Item
ICABS understands that the Bill is to enter its second stage in the Dail this month. It is most important that TDs are properly informed about the above issues.
You can help by:
Points to make:
Section 46 - Night Hunting Ban
Section 46 - Trespass
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