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Kane report damning of Ward Union
11 March 2004

Read the report the Government kept hidden for nearly seven years. The conclusions of Veterinary Inspector, Kieran Kane, are utterly damning of the Ward Union - a hunt which continues to receive an annual licence from Minister Martin Cullen.

The Department of Agriculture had been monitoring the Ward Union over a seven year period and in May 1997 the report by Mr Kane found that many aspects of the hunt were inhumane. His report, however, was suppressed. The Irish Council Against Blood Sports tried, under the Freedom of Information Act, to gain access the report but our request was denied.

In Autumn 2003, thanks to a Dail Question from ICABS Vice-president, Deputy Tony Gregory, the report was finally released.

Read the full version of the Kane Report on Ward Union or see the key points of the report below.

This report is also available to view in pdf and Microsoft Word formats
and at

Key points of the Kane report

"…I believe it might be shown that there is some weight to the argument that humankind should not cause avoidable suffering to any sentient being and if stag hunting be condemned it must be for this reason alone." (Section: Foreword)

"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." (Section: 1. Introduction)

"In the following of the hounds, fields are galloped across, ditches and fences jumped, roads crossed and recrossed, gates opened and some fences cut." (Section: 4.3. Progression of the hunt)

"Nervousness of stags in the cart prior to hunts was variable, some appearing calm and some appearing very nervous or stressed. At one hunt it was notable that of the two stags in the cart one, which had been hunted previously, was showing body tremors, excessive salivation and panting whereas the other stag, which had not been hunted previously, appeared relatively calm." (Section: 5.1. Health and condition of the stag before the hunt).

"…a farmer who saw, at very close range, the stag at bay on 7th February told me that it was bleeding from one leg; also I was informed by Hunt staff that some stags are given antibiotic treatment after hunts if they have injuries such as wounds or swollen limbs. The non-capturing of stags at hunts where my presence was known to the Hunt may be significant. In fact the marked decline in taking of stags after the commencement of the adverse publicity at the end of December and consequent attendance at hunts by news media personnel and other people with cameras may be significant." (Section: 5.2. Health and condition of the stag after the hunt)

"Stags are first hunted when between 3 and 4 years of age before which age they are not bold enough to face the hounds and are liable to run themselves to collapse and death. On the morning of the hunt, having spent his entire life until then in grass paddocks of 15 acres or less, surrounded by high fences the stag has been closed into the cart, out of which it can see through the ventilation slits, and transported to the hunt venue behind a motor car. When released from the cart he finds himself in a new and strange environment without his companions with whom he has lived all his life. Stags then run, apparently aimlessly, to and fro in fields until they find an escape route or decide to jump a hedge and then continue running in the next field or even along a road…on two hunts on which the route of the stag was traced well on a half inch map, it was calculated that one stag had run at least 8 miles and the other at least 12 miles." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"A stag which has been hunted before is, presumably, aware that he is about to be followed by hounds and runs from fear: indeed it is notable that the stag runs although the hounds are not yet on his trail. In the early stages of the hunt the stag runs constantly but as the hunt progresses he may stop running and hide or even lie down and it is at this stage that the hounds may catch up with him." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"A major hazard encountered by stags is barbed wire. One stag was seen attempting to jump a very 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." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"Stags are frightened by people and motor vehicles when they cross public roads, which they frequently do during hunts. Stags were seen running towards roads and then shying away from the traffic or people." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"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. This same stag, which had been hunted previously 17 days before, was apparently aware that he was being chased and, towards the end of a hunt in which the hounds had been hot on his trail for much of the time, was constantly raising his head and pricking his ears and listening." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"I was informed by two eye-witnesses that hounds, although chary of a stag at bay, will attempt to bite him." (Section: 5.3. Treatment of the stag during the hunt)

"The enthusiastic following of the course of the hunt by Hunt followers, in 20 or more motorcars, around the roads, lanes and by-ways, constantly trying to be ahead of the hunt so as to see the stag or the field arriving at an anticipated viewpoint leads, on occasion, to blockage of narrow lanes or by-ways. Any dangerous situations which I saw at these times were not due to any behaviour of the Hunt or the followers but due to aggressive and dangerous driving by some drivers who failed to reduce speed despite clearly visible activity ahead." (Section: 5.4 Conduct of the hunt and its followers)

"…as the stag goes where he pleases and the hounds follow his trail, on occasion, and perhaps inadvertently, trespass undoubtedly occurs onto land where the Hunt have not been formally prohibited entry but neither have been given permission to enter." (Section: 5.5.1. Trespass)

"Physical damage to the surface of pasture inevitably occurs consequent to the passage of 50 or more horses…" (Section: 5.5.2. Damage)

"…as hunts progress some riders fall behind the field and thus, being anxious to catch up and out of the realm of any Master, such riders, on occasion may cross unsuitable surfaces and cause some damage." (Section: 5.5.2. Damage)

"Wire fences are sometimes cut by one of the Hunt officials permitted to carry a wire cutters. Such fences are repaired the following day by a team of volunteers who follow the route of the hunt for that specific purpose." (Section: 5.5.2. Damage)

"Very few livestock are abroad during the hunting season but any which are are likely to become excited or frightened by the passage of the hunt. Particular risk categories would be pregnant mares or ewes. Horse owners are frequently aware of the hunts and keep pregnant mares indoors on hunt days. The Hunt keeps well away from flocks of sheep where possible, however some sheep farmers remain very anxious that the hunts should come nowhere near their flocks." (Section: 5.5.3. Impact on domestic livestock)

"The second or reserve stag having already been transported to the Meet is then subjected to being carted at speed around the highways and byways for the duration of the first hunt in case the hunted stag is taken or in case the second stag is needed for a second chase. On one occasion I followed the cart at 60 m.p.h. along minor roads with very poor surfaces and many potholes for 38 miles while following the hunt." (Section: 5.6.2. The second stag)

"The second stag is frequently a young animal taken out to get him used to travelling in the cart." (Section: 5.6.2. The second stag)

"According to the records maintained by the Hunt nine stags were hunted twice in the 1996-97 season at an average interval of 24 days, within the range 7 to 49 days. I was told that an older stag might be hunted three times in a season." (Section: 5.7. Repeated hunting of individual stags)

"A significant number of stags are not taken at the end of the hunt. Some of these are subsequently hunted as outliers and may then be taken; others are captured when they return to the vicinity of the Deerpark and are lured in: others are captured by being immobilized by means of a projectile dart loaded with a narcotic drug." (Section: 5.8. Recapturing of stags remaining at large after hunts)

"The breeding of replacement stock may not keep pace with the numbers of stags escaping from hunts and, to compensate, a number of young stags are bought in from commercial herds." (Section: 5.9. Husbandry and record keeping at the Deerpark).

"I was told that antlers are removed by the Veterinary Surgeon in the Autumn when the velvet has dried, however I believe that this procedure is actually done by Hunt staff. I was told that hinds are rarely hunted, however this season, according to the records, six hinds were hunted." (Section: 5.9. Husbandry and record keeping at the Deerpark).

"Stags are hunted until about 9 years of age at which time they may get "stiff" or fail in condition and I was told that they are then sold or exchanged with commercial deer farms or slaughtered for venison." (Section: 5.9. Husbandry and record keeping at the Deerpark).

"I was shown records of stags hunted for the 1996-97 season. However the accuracy of the identification system of eartags or else the record keeping is in doubt as I saw a stag enlarged and hunted which was not the one recorded for that day." (Section: 5.9. Husbandry and record keeping at the Deerpark).

"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 animal" 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". (Section: 5.11. Some legal aspects)

"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". (Section: 5.11. Some legal aspects)

"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 has 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 sometimes wounded or injured during hunts by physical incidents or by the hounds. 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 handling of the stag when taken at the end of a hunt must be terrifying and stressful to the animal." (Section: 6. Conclusions)

"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." (Section: 6. Conclusions)

"A strong campaign against this Hunt is underway and seems likely both to continue and to grow." (Section: 6. Conclusions)

"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 Acts, 1911 and 1965." (Section: 6. Conclusions)

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