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Deerhunt plea to Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice
11 March 2004

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has today called on the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice to intervene to stop a Ward Union carted deer hunt from going ahead in County Meath tomorrow.

The deer is brought in a cart to the location and turned out into the countryside to be pursued for anything up to three hours. This abuse takes place twice weekly from November to mid-March.

ICABS contends that this hunt is in clear breach of the 1911 Protection of Animals Act in that the deer to be hunted are from a domesticated herd, privately owned by the Ward Union hunt club in Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. Our contention is clearly and unequivocally endorsed by Professor William Binchy, School of Law, Trinity College.

It is an offence under the 1911 Protection of Animals Act to terrorise or cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. Domestic animals are fully protected under the Act from such cruelty. (ICABS wants to see this kind of protection afforded to all animals, both domestic and wild). Yet, despite the animal welfare legislation, which could not be clearer, the Minister for the Environment grants this hunt a licence under the Wildlife Act.

Seven years ago, following campaigning efforts by ICABS, the Heritage Council carried out a review into the licensing of this hunt, and advised the then Minister, Sile De Valera to establish definitively whether the deer involved were domestic or wild. She sought the advice of the Attorney General, but to date, despite repeated requests, this advice has not been revealed.

The Department of Agriculture has been monitoring this hunt over a seven year period, and in May 1997, one of their Veterinary Inspectors, Mr Kieran Kane found that many aspects of this hunt were inhumane (see conclusions below). However, this report was suppressed and more toned down reports followed over the years. ICABS tried, under the Freedom of Information Act, to gain access to Mr. Kane's first report, but we were denied. Last November, following a Dail question by Deputy Gregory for the report to be made available, it was finally released (probably inadvertently) and its conclusions were utterly damning of the Ward Union.

We are outraged that those in authority, i.e. both Government Departments involved, being well aware of the cruelty and suffering inflicted routinely on these docile and vulnerable animals, did absolutely nothing to prevent it, opting instead to protect the interests of the influential members of the Ward Union hunt club. Those who are aware of this cruelty and have the power under the law to stop it should hang their heads in shame!!

ICABS has video footage which clearly shows how these animals suffer just to provide entertainment, "sport" and kicks for a minority of people. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Inspector, Kieran Kane, saw this cruelty first-hand and outlined in his report how "a stag observed down to 30 yards range, through binoculars, having run at least 8 miles in 90 minutes, showed extreme physical distress, panting through its mouth and with a lather of white foam around its muzzle."

And outlining how barbed wire is a major hazard for stags, he stated: "One stag was seen attempting to jump a very high fence and getting his front leg caught on a top strand of barbed wire and hanging, thus suspended, for some seconds before his struggles and/or weight tore him free." In following monitoring reports, it was stated that a deer had died of an aneurism (brought on by the stress of the chase), and another was choked to death on capture.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, the County Down Staghounds, also a carted deer hunt, came to the notice of the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture in 1997 when ITV showed film footage of an exhausted deer, having been pursued by a hunt, trapped in the mud flats of Strangford Lough. This caused public outrage, resulting in the Department of Agriculture ruling that the Down Staghunt deer were tame and that hunting them was a breach of the Welfare of Animal (N.I.) Act 1972. Following on this, ICABS wrote to the Department of Agriculture, requesting that there be an inspection of the Ward Union deer to establish if they were domestic animals, but this was ignored.

fleeing deer
We are outraged that those in authority, i.e. both Government Departments involved, being well aware of the cruelty and suffering inflicted routinely on these docile and vulnerable animals, did absolutely nothing to prevent it. Those who are aware of this cruelty and have the power under the law to stop it should hang their heads in shame!

Kane Report on Ward Union (1997)
Findings and Conclusions

Among the findings and conclusions of Kane's report were:

  • The transportation of the stags in the cart is inhumane in its manner and in the design of the cart;

  • The enlargement of the stags is inhumane in that they are ejected suddenly into a strange environment and alone;

  • A stag which had been hunted previously appears, before the hunt starts, to be distressed and aware that he is about to be hunted again;

  • Stags being hunted appear to be terrified of the hounds;

  • A stag is aware when he is being hunted and continues to flee, even when the hounds are far behind;

  • Stags are terrified by people and motor vehicles during the hunt;

  • Stags are apparently distressed and exhausted towards the end of hunts and will hide and lie down at this stage. At the end of the hunt, the fact that a man can catch and hold him would seem to be adequate evidence of physical exhaustion by the stag;

  • The manhandling of the stag when taken at the end of a hunt must be terrifying and stressful for the animal

  • Domesticated red deer are obviously completely unfit for a prolonged chase by hounds. A recent scientific report in England has concluded that wild red deer are physiologically unable for a prolonged chase by hounds;

  • It could be argued legally, possibly successfully, that the stags are domestic animals and do not fall within the ambit of the Wildlife Act 1976 and thus that the hunts contravene the Protection of Animals Act, 1911 and 1965.

Furthermore, at the outset of the report, Mr. Kane obviously believed that this report would have serious consequences for the Ward Union when he stated: "I am very conscious that my conclusions may have some influence on decisions which may eventually lead to a loss of much pleasure to a large number of people who do not believe that they might have been doing anything cruel; I regret that loss to those people and trust that they will accept that I arrived at my conclusions objectively and without bias and only after much reflection."

Mr. Kane also was clearly of the belief that the deer constituted domestic animals when he wrote "As the red deer herd presently kept at Green Park by the Ward Union Hunt has been maintained in captivity for something in the region of 150 years and is augmented regularly by stock from captive herds farmed solely for venison production, it is hard to see how they avoid falling into the category of "domestic animals" for the purposes of the Protection of Animals Acts, 1911 and 1965 wherein "domestic animal" means...any other animal of whatsoever...species...which has been...sufficiently tamed to serve some purpose for the use of man."

Mr. Kane continued: "As the red deer at Green Park are obviously not wild animals, it is equally hard to see how they fall into the ambit of the Wildlife Act, 1976, which specifically refers to "Wildlife" defined therein as meaning "fauna and flora", the word "fauna" being further defined as meaning "wild animals".

Note: "Wild Animal" is further clarified and defined in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 (amending the Wildlife 1976 Act) as follows: "wild animal" includes an individual of a population which primarily lives independent of husbandry

More Info: Carted Deer Hunting

For more information on this blood sport, please visit our Ban Carted Deer Hunting website.

Please Sign our Ban Blood Sports in Ireland petition.

"Stags being hunted appear to be terrified of the hounds": Read the Kane report on the Ward Union hunt.

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