Coursing claims are absurd: Conservationists
22 September 2004
An Irish hare conservation group has branded as absurd the Countryside Alliance’s claim that hare coursing produces a "net gain" for Irish hares.
Mike Rendle, co-ordinator of the Irish Hare Initiative said: "There is no evidence that coursing has any benefit whatsoever for Irish hares. Indeed, coursing continues to target the remaining fragile local populations."
He added that the Countryside Alliance claims are a blatant attempt to overstate the case for coursing and he challenged them to produce valid and verifiable evidence to substantiate their claims.
He also rejected ridiculous suggestions made by hare coursers that hares "wait for the dogs" and "enjoy the chase". The claims were made on the BBC’s Countryfile programme.
"This is absolute nonsense," Mr Rendle said. "You don’t have to be a hare expert to understand what’s really happening. In the wild, hares can outrun any natural predator. The hare will sit up to show the predator that it has lost the element of surprise and does not expect to be chased. These dogs are not natural predators, they have been bred and trained for one thing only – catching hares. [Coursing] is an unnatural, life-threatening situation that produces critical levels of stress that can compromise the hare’s survival."
"It is a lie to suggest that coursing does not harm hares. Its negative impact goes beyond the individual hares caught and held in captivity for coursing. Hares are netted indiscriminately – they breed throughout most of the year and it is common practice for pregnant or nursing hares to be coursed. Orphaned leverets are left to die and those born to captive mothers will most likely share the same fate. With hare numbers at such a low level, every hare is precious."
Conservationists say that the current ban on hare coursing in Northern Ireland (imposed by Environment Minister for Northern Ireland, Angela Smith) is to be applauded and that a permanent ban along with greater legal protection is essential to underpin genuine efforts to conserve one of Ireland’s oldest native species.
About Mike Rendle and The Irish Hare Initiative: The Irish Hare Initiative was established in September 2002 to promote Irish hare conservation at all levels. Mike Rendle has been working with endangered species in Northern Ireland for over twenty years and is the author of Stress and capture myopathy in hares. He is a member of the Environmental Education Forum and the Wildlife Information Network. He is also co-ordinator at Glenlark Nature Reserve in County Tyrone. This is the only reserve in Ireland created specifically for Irish hares. It specialises in the rehabilitation and reintroduction of Irish hares to areas where they have become locally extinct. Visit the Irish Hare Initiative website at: www.irishhare.org
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