Call for Garda investigation into alleged foxhunt incident
23 November 2007
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is calling for a Garda investigation into allegations that the Westmeath Foxhounds club threw a live fox, which had been dug out of the earth, to a pack of hounds to be killed. According to an article in today's Irish Independent, the appalling incident allegedly took place last week at Walderstown, County Westmeath.
The foxhunters' so-called Code of Conduct, agreed with the Department of Agriculture in the late 90s, is a total sham and nothing short of a 'Code of Cruelty'. This voluntary code allows for the digging out of foxes and the use of hunt terriers to viciously attack the fox underground. Before this flimsy document was drawn up, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports called for, at the very least, the practice of digging out of foxes to be banned. However, the Department of Agriculture, with the then Minister Joe Walsh at the helm, gave it the seal of approval.
It is our belief that the digging out of foxes, using terriers, and throwing them live to hounds is routine in foxhunting and carried out with impunity. These sickening events usually take place in the depths of the countryside, away from public view, and not even the general hunt followers would normally be exposed to such horrors. Indeed, the code of conduct conveniently stresses that "reasonable efforts shall be made to ensure that digging out will not become a public spectacle".
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is calling on Mary Coughlan, Minister for Agriculture, to draw up legislation outlawing the barbaric practice of foxhunting with hounds in line with our neighbours in the U.K. which has outlawed the hunting of wild animals with dogs.
Irish Independent article
Top hunt probed in cruelty claim
The body in charge of Irish foxhunting is investigating claims that a fox was dug out of its den, tied up and then fed alive to hounds during a top hunt in Westmeath.
The Irish Masters' of Foxhounds Association (IMFHA) has confirmed it is investigating the alleged barbaric incident which is said to have taken place during a Westmeath Hunt meet near Walderstown, Co Westmeath, on November 14.
Such activity is strictly prohibited under the Code of Conduct drawn up by the Irish Hunting Association and sanctioned by the Department of Agriculture and Food. Rule seven states: "In no circumstances will a live fox which has been dug out be thrown to the hounds."
A department spokesman confirmed they had been informed of the investigation and were monitoring the situation. The Westmeath Hunt, founded in 1854, is regarded as one of the country's most prominent hunts.
"It's very early days as yet," said Brian Munn, IMFHA spokesman. "We heard the rumour 48 hours ago. My colleagues have spoken to eyewitnesses and those people have denied that that happened. We have got an explanation but I am very loathe to say too much at this stage.
"Let's be clear about this -- it is very important for us that this sort of thing does not happen. We will be relieved if we discover that this is some kind of malicious rumour. At the same time, if it is true, heads will roll because we cannot have that in hunting -- it will destroy us. People would have to be barred from hunting. We would be anxious to put a message out that this is unacceptable and will not happen again. Ultimately, masters take responsibility."
An employee of the hunt, Noel Murphy, denied the allegations. "It is completely untrue. We have acted within the legislation that we have. The hounds caught the fox in the earth and when it was brought up it was dead. We're very outraged with this allegation. There are jobs on the line because of this allegation. We are taking this very seriously. The IMFHA are in constant contact with us about this."
He added: "There is no evidence of this happening, there is no photograph."
But according to a taped conversation with anti-hunting lobbyist Tom Hardiman, the landowner, Michael Murray, who was present during this part of the hunt said he saw incidences of animal cruelty.
"They tied the rope to his leg and pulled him out of the burrow and fed him straight to the dogs. They ate the fox alive. I didn't realise that they were going to do that."
When contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Murray said he had no comment to make. "I did tell people about it, but at the moment I am making no comment."
When asked whether he saw a live fox being dug out of a hole and fed to the dogs he said: "At the moment I am making no comment on it. I like foxhunting and have nothing against it. "
Mr Hardiman of the Ban Bloodsports pressure group said. "They say they have a code of practice but they are breaking all their own rules."
Please contact Agriculture Minister, Mary Coughlan, and demand that she urgently introduces a national ban on foxhunting due to the despicable cruelty involved.
Minister Mary Coughlan
Dear Minister Coughlan,
I was appalled to read in the Irish Independent about allegations that a hunt in Westmeath tied a rope to fox, pulled him out of the ground and fed him alive to the pack of hounds.
Minister, foxhunting is cruel from beginning to end. The foxes suffer great stress and damage to internal organs during the gruelling cross-county chases. When they try to escape underground, terriers are sent after them to viciously attack them and drag them out into the open. If the squealing and injured fox is not killed after being mercilessly dug out of the ground by terriermen, it will die on the run after being knocked off its feet by the pack and eviscerated.
Minister, I appeal to your sense of compassion to urgently act to save the fox from this barbarism. The fox is one of Ireland's favourite wild creatures. No living creature deserves the fate of foxes in foxhunting.
Please ban foxhunting now.
Thank you, Minister. I look forward to your reply.