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Galway Blazers cruelty exposed - former supporter speaks out

Foxhunt victim

Below is the testimony of a former Galway Blazers hunt supporter. Tom Hardiman of Craughwell (home to the Galway Blazers hunt club) followed the Blazers for over 25 years but says he can no longer tolerate the gratuitous cruelty meted out to foxes by the hunt. He is totally opposed to the digging out of foxes and wants it stopped.

He has approached ICABS with his story in the hope that his testimony and photographic evidence will convince Minister Joe Walsh to ban the digging out of foxes and the use of terriers to flush foxes from earths.

Mr Hardiman believes that foxes should not be dug out under any circumstances and ICABS applauds his courage in coming forward.

In the wake of the revelations made here, ICABS is once again calling on Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh to legislate against this horrendous cruelty. The so-called 'Code of Conduct' which he gave his blessing to in 1997 is now clearly a sham and unworkable. In any event, it does not prohibit digging out of foxes or earthstopping which Mr Walsh is on public record as finding "unacceptable."

Now that we are on the brink of the new millenium, perhaps our Government would see fit to introduce humane legislation which would at the very least give protection to foxes and other wild creatures from the horrific cruelty described here today, and carried out by hunters in the name of "sport."

Written testimony of Thomas Hardiman, Craughwell, Co. Galway

Fox dig-out

I have a story of cruelty to foxes by a hunt in Galway called the Galway Blazers. I'll explain it as best I can.

The Minister for Agriculture made an order in August of 1998, outlawing the killing of foxes at dens, but the hunt kept on killing foxes in a vulgar way at the dens. If for any reason they have to kill a fox, under the new rules, they have to shoot the fox below ground, but that's not being done, not that there's any reason whatsoever to shoot any fox. What happens is when the fox goes to ground, the huntsman calls for the terrierman with the hunting horn, and when the terrierman arrives at the den, he lets the terrier into the fox den. The terrier goes straight to the fox and fights in a furious way with the fox. The terrier keeps on fighting with the fox while the terrierman tries to locate where the terrier has the fox cornered. The terrierman pokes with a thin iron bar in his effort to find the spot where the terrier has the fox cornered, and when he finds the spot where the terrier has the fox cornered, he digs the clay away from the den (see picture). He then takes the terrier away from the fox. Then the huntsman lets the hounds in on top of the fox. The hounds drag the fox out of the hole and tear him to pieces.

I have been to a hunt in a place called Knockbrack, Athenry, and I saw all this going on. It's a vulgar act. No fox deserves to be killed in such a horrible way. The fox is a great wild animal, and very cunning and can evade a pack of 36 hounds, if given fair play, but he's not being given this fair play. I have been to hunts where the fox covert has been almost surrounded by followers on horseback in an effort to try to make the fox run in the direction that they want to go. As a result, the fox turns back into the covert because when he's not allowed to run through the countryside he knows, he gets confused as a result of being turned back and doesn't leave the covert. He then has only one thing left to do, so he goes to ground, and this is where the cruelty takes place with the terriers and the poking bar and the digging. It's wrong and cruel. I have taken photos of foxes that have been killed in the way that I have described in an effort to try and save the fox from this horrible cruelty. No fox deserves to be treated like that. The trouble is that there's no one to see that the rules of hunting are obeyed.

Digging out of foxes at their dens and killing should be stopped completely. The fox is entitled to be left alone when he evades the hounds. There's no sport in digging the clay away from his den and letting the hounds in on top of him, dragging him out and tearing him to pieces. I have heard the huntsman on one occasion when the hounds were killing a fox, shout "break him up." That's not sport.

I hope that you will publish this true story for the sake of the fox.

Thomas Hardiman

Rules And Procedures Of The Irish Hunting Association

The following are the Rules and Procedures in relation to hunt terrier work of, and as observed by, all registered hunts engaged in Fox Hunting and affiliated to any of the following Associations:

The Irish Masters Of Foxhounds Association
The Irish Foot Harriers Association
The Irish Masters Of Harriers Association

General Principles

  1. Fox Hunting as a sport is the hunting of the fox in its wild and natural state with a pack of hounds. Nothing shall be done which in any way compromises or is inconsistent with this precept, notwithstanding that the fox is vermin.
  2. In all circumstances, the fox shall be given fair advantage before being hunted.
  3. The Master/Committee's Nominee is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Rules and Procedures set out hereunder.
  4. Formal organised hunting as a sport shall take place between the 1st August and the 31st of March inclusive.

Rules and procedures for the use of hunt terriers

  1. The digging out of a hunted fox shall never be undertaken for the purpose of re-hunting that fox. Such fox must be humanely dispatched or left.

  2. The decision whether or not a fox is to be dug out, with due regard for the wishes of the landowner/lawful occupier, shall be made by the Master or his nominee by reference to the following:

    (A) The condition of the fox (e.g. mange, injured, maimed, aged, deformed).

    (B) Local concerns about the impact of fox predation on other wildlife species (e.g. ground nesting birds, hares, wild fowl, etc.)

    (C) The level of the local fox population

    (D) Whether it appears that digging can be done quickly and efficiently, taking into account relevant factors such as the site/situation of the earth and the soil conditions/depth.

  3. Digging shall only be conducted by a small number of experienced people and assistants appointed by the Master or his nominee. The hounds shall be kept well away out of sight and hearing of the location of the dig. Reasonable efforts shall be made to ensure that digging out will not become a public spectacle.

  4. Only one terrier at a time may be used to locate the fox except in rocks, stacks of bales or stick piles, etc., where one terrier is unable to locate the fox.

  5. When the terrier is located, it must be dug to as quickly as possible and withdrawn and the fox dispatched humanely.

  6. No instruments may be used other than those required for digging or locating the terrier quickly. There shall be no handling of the fox, save as may be necessary for the safe, humane dispatchment of the fox below ground. Where possible, an electronic locator should be used in conjunction with a suitable baying terrier.

  7. In no circumstances will a live fox which has been dug out be thrown to the hounds.

  8. The carcass of the dead fox must be properly disposed of. The carcass of the dead fox may be fed to the hounds.

  9. The earth and its surrounding area must be reinstated. Particular attention should be given to the safety of persons and livestock and the earth's future use.

  10. If following commencement of the dig, it becomes apparent that the fox is inaccessible for the safe humane dispatchment, it may as an exceptional measure be bolted with the objective of being caught immediately.

  11. The practice of bolting a fresh fox and the practice of bolting a fox which has gone into a man made structure, such as a drain, stick heap, rock pile, bale rick etc. and rocks or other places where digging is impossible/impractical, is permitted. Provided in any such case the fox must be given fair advantage before being hunted.

  12. Earth Stopping

    Earth stopping shall not be allowed for the sole purpose of preventing a hunted fox from going to ground. It shall be allowed, with due regard for the wishes of the landowner/lawful occupier, in the interests of the safety of, and the prevention of danger to other animals and/or members of the public, and to assist in the finding of foxes above ground. In general, earth stopping should be undertaken in any given instance only on lands to be traversed by the hunt in its initial stages.

Code of Misconduct - Foxhunters' "rules" document a farce

A CODE of conduct, supposedly drawn up to eliminate some of the cruelty from foxhunting, has in no way restricted the barbarity of foxhunters.

The farcical two-page document presented on August 5th 1998 by the Irish Hunting Association and approved by Agriculture Minister, Joe Walsh, allows it to be business as usual for the cruelty brigade. Not only does the "code" fail to address the Minister's stated concerns about fox dig-outs but it effectively clears the way for the re-hunting of foxes which have been dug out. According to the code, "If following the commencement of the dig, it becomes apparent that the fox is inaccessible for the safe humane dispatchment, it bolted with the objective of being caught".

Prompted by concerns expressed by Minister Joe Walsh, at the 1997 Kerrygold Horse Show, the code amounts to nothing but a simple outline of what hunters have been doing for years. What Minister Walsh originally claimed to find "unacceptable" were:

Digging out - this takes place when a fox succeeds in escaping underground. The hunt's terriermen use shovels to dig out the terrified animal. Their vicious terriers are sent down to drag the squealing animal back out into the open.

Earthstopping - this involves blocking up earths (and in some cases badger setts) to prevent the fox from finding refuge below ground. This ensures that the fox will have no choice but to keep on running and so, prolong the hunt's crosscountry ride.

The section of the code referring to earthstopping is ridiculous. Perhaps Minister Walsh was caught out by the word play.

"Earthstopping shall not be allowed for the sole purpose of preventing a hunted fox from going to ground," says the code, yet in the next paragraph this is blatantly nullified - "earth-stopping shall be allowed "to assist in the finding of foxes above ground".

ICABS did not expect much from a code created by the hunters themselves. The Minister's approval of it, however, goes beyond belief. He claims it represents "positive advances" for foxes. This is clearly untrue. As it stands, it represents positively deplorable steps backward for Irish wildlife.

Minister and foxhunters collude in cruelty con

On August 5th 1998, both the Minister for Agriculture and the foxhunters appear to have pulled off the biggest con ever in introducing a so-called code of conduct which can only be described as a cruelty charter.

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is incredulous that the Minister has been duped into believing that this worthless code of conduct has addressed concerns he expressed last year over the deplorable hunt practices of digging out, terrier work and earthstopping.

In reality, the code has placed no restrictions on hunt activity and it remains business as usual for the cruelty brigade with digging out, earthstopping, blooding hounds in cubhunting set to continue as usual.

Last year ICABS asked the Minister to introduce legislation against hunt cruelty but he preferred instead to ask the hunters to issue a code of conduct which we hoped might at least ban dig outs and the horrendous practice of blooding young hounds by cubhunting.

Not so - after a year of talking and discussions, nothing has changed, as expected. We are appalled and incensed that the Minister for Agriculture would condone the continuance of such cruelty and we call on him again to introduce legislation to outlaw this barbarity.

Aideen Yourell


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