The Facts About Hare Coursing
Hare coursing involves the terrorising of one animal by another and is full of unnecessary cruelty and killing. Two forms of coursing are practised in Ireland - enclosed coursing and open coursing. Both involve the use of a hare as a live lure. Every year, coursing subjects thousands of hares to stress, injury and death.
In 1993, the government, responding to public concern over this killing, agreed that the slaughter of hares in coursing could not continue. Under political pressure, the Irish Coursing Club (the governing body in coursing) were forced to muzzle greyhounds at enclosed coursing meetings. Greyhounds used in open coursing still remain unmuzzled, however.
The hare is protected under the 1976 Wildlife Act but the same act also protects hare coursing, i.e. it is illegal to trap or sell hares other than for the specific purpose of coursing them.
About a month before each meeting, club members go 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. This netting and handling is in itself cruel and hares, being timid and delicate creatures, often die or are injured as a result.
The next stage in the vicious circle of coursing cruelty is to train the hares. Releasing a wild animal into a coursing field would produce what coursing supporters would see as very poor "sport" since the hare wouldn't know where to run. Prior the coursing event, therefore, club officials subject the hares to training sessions to familiarise the hares with the field and to teach them to run up the centre of the field as is required for "good coursing".
During these training weeks, the hares are kept herded together in a enclosure. This adds considerably to the stress suffered by the hares since hares are solitary creatures, keeping to themselves in the wild and not living together in groups. In captivity, they are very prone to disease and disease can spread more easily when they are kept together in an enclosure.
Because of the secrecy surrounding coursing and all other blood sports, it is difficult to monitor the exact effects of training on the hares. Although, on the coursing days themselves, each hare should only be coursed once, it is important to realise that the rules and activities of coursing clubs are monitored by coursing officials and not an independent body.
It is clear that the practice of "blooding" is widespread. Though coursing authorities say that they are officially opposed to blooding, it is regarded by many dog owners as "essential" to performance. Yet, despite the obvious signs - boxes of rabbits being openly taken into training fields and for sale at track venues, they have rarely taken action.
All greyhound owners who want to race their dog on the track must register that dog with the Irish Coursing Club. Many greyhound owners who oppose coursing on moral grounds object strongly to this enforced subsidy of coursing. It distorts the true level of support for coursing which is, of course, relatively low. The ICC are over 90 per cent financed by these registration fees.
Unfortunately, coursing has support from among politicians and the clergy. It is particularly concerning that some clergy are so intimately involved since the Church has a responsibility for moral guidance. It is unfortunate that the small number of pro- coursing clergy are undermining this moral authority.
Most people in Ireland are opposed to hare coursing. Independent surveys carried out over the years such as the MRBI survey in 1993 have shown that around 75 per cent or more are opposed and would like to see a ban put in place. And it isn't just town or city dwellers who are opposed - the majority of rural Ireland is also against this horrible blood sport.
All animal welfare organisations are opposed to coursing. Indeed, Ireland, Spain and Portugal are the only EU countries to allow enclosed hare coursing.
There is absolutely no justification for trapping hares, or any other animal, and using them to provide entertainment for a small minority who enjoy seeing them fighting for their lives as they are being chased and terrorised by dogs. It is a one-sided contest which many of the hares lose, to suffer severe injuries or a horrific death. This is the nature of hare coursing.
When young people are allowed to witness such violence towards animals, it is a signal that such violence is acceptable, especially when it is condoned by some clergy and politicians. Any exposure to violence in any form is likely to raise the tolerance threshold of those who witness it, making acceptance of further violence easier. This is especially true for young people.
The cruelty of hare coursing is institutionalised legal violence arranged for entertainment. It belongs to the past and is no longer acceptable to the overwhelming majority of ordinary, decent people. The time has most definitely come for hare coursing to be banned. Please do all you can to support a ban.
Enclosed Hare Coursing
There are 78 enclosed hare coursing clubs in Ireland which are affiliated to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC), the controlling body in coursing. Most meetings last for two days with a maximum of 72 courses per day. Approximately 10,000 hares are coursed each season.
The coursing field is typically 400 yards long. A hare is released from one end of the field and given a 100 yards start before the greyhounds are released to pursue the hare up the field to the "escapes" at the far end. The dogs catch up with the hare about 50 yards from the escapes. Hares are very agile creatures, and they weave, turn and dodge skilfully to avoid the dogs, which are much bigger and faster. The hare is literally fighting for its life. It doesn't know that the dogs are muzzled. And even though the dogs are muzzled, they still can kill the hare by mauling it into the ground or tossing its delicate body into the air. In fact, this often does happen.
If a hare is fortunate enough to reach the "escape" area without being caught by the dogs, its ordeal is still not over. It has merely reached an enclosure where it is herded up by coursing club officials.
Open Hare Coursing
There are also some open coursing clubs in Ireland. Hares for such meetings must be herded into a field from a wide area by the "beaters", some of whom may be 2 or 3 miles away. Clearly, no prior examination of the hares is possible and the hares may already be exhausted even before entering the coursing field.
Hares are often killed in open hare coursing. They have much less stamina than the dogs, which are not muzzled and therefore quite able to rip the hare apart when it catches it.
Greyhounds and Blooding
Blooding is an illegal activity but it is now clear that its use is widespread. In a typical blooding session, a greyhound is allowed to maul and kill a young animal, usually a kitten or a rabbit, which is tied to a post so it can't run away. Such "blooding" supposedly gives the dog a taste for killing and enhances its performance for coursing or track racing. A highly bred greyhound is very expensive and so its owner is likely to use any method available including blooding to improve its chances of winning.
Needless to say, blooding is kept well away from public view. The Irish Coursing Club do not condone it, but then neither can they stop it.
Interestingly, fox hunting has its own form of blooding called cub hunting, where young fox hounds are made obtain the taste of fox blood by killing and eating baby foxes. Whereas the blooding associated with coursing is illegal, the blooding which is an integral part of fox hunting has yet to be made illegal.
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