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Hunters decline debate in Dublin newspaper
03 September 2008

A discussion about hunting went ahead in a popular Dublin newspaper despite hunters declining to take part. Publishing an ICABS presentation about why hunting should be banned, the editor of Dublin Informer acknowledged that "some of the pro-hunting organisations have taken a strategic decision not to engage anti-hunting campaigners in debate". ICABS congratulates the paper for refusing to allow the hunters to kill the debate.

Dublinís Dilemma - Should hunting be banned?

When the question of hunting is raised, emotions are raised too. The treatment of animals is an increasingly contentious issue in our society. The debate in Ireland has been influenced by the very bitter row over the banning of foxhunting in Britain.

We were not able to arrange for someone to contribute to the 'no' side. It would have been unfair not to have published the 'yes' side in these circumstances. Here's two contributions to the debate.

by Philip Kiernan
Irish Council Against Blood Sports

The tranquillity of the countryside is shattered as a fox squeals out in agony. The blood-curdling cry signals the end to yet another hunt outing as a fox, with lolling tongue and bulging eyes, is knocked off its feet by a pack of hounds and disembowelled.

This merciless abuse of our wildlife underlines why the government must act on the wishes of the majority and urgently outlaw this barbarity.

The suffering is unrelenting in foxhunting but Irish hunts, of course, have no concern for the welfare of foxes. Instead, they boast about how they push the creatures beyond the limits of endurance. One proclaimed that a fox was persecuted for three hours and 10 minutes while another described "pushing a fox for 50 minutes in terrible driving rain before catching it".

What happens to foxes that manage to find refuge underground must rank as some of the worst imaginable cruelty. A hunt terrier is unleashed and sent down into the hole where it viciously bites and claws the cowering creature into a corner. From above, shovels are used to uncover the bleeding prize.

Hunters try to justify their pastime with claims that they're helping farmers but the idea of the fox as a threat to agriculture has long been dispelled.

For example, both the Department of Agriculture and the National Parks and Wildlife Service agree that foxes play no significant role, if any, in lamb mortality.

Thankfully, farmers are listening and realising that it's the hunters, not the foxes, that are the real culprits.

One hunter admitted in the national media that hunts "gallop like cavalries over rain-sodden fields" and leave them "looking like venues of epic battles". Familiar devastation to farmers.

Weary of livestock being scattered, fences being broken and pastures left pockmarked beyond recognition, they are increasingly joining the calls for hunting to be banned.

Foxhunting is just one of several blood sports that the Irish Council Against Blood Sports is campaigning against. Among the others are hare hunting and deer hunting.

During deer hunting, the deer frantically tries to outrun the horseback hunters and hounds. It crashes through hedges, across roads and even into ponds and rivers. According to official monitoring reports obtained by us under the Freedom of Information Act, the victims include deer dying of aneurisms, a deer drowned in a quarry, a deer that died after sustaining fractured ribs, a deer hanging by its front leg on barbed wire and a deer that dropped dead after trying to escape over an 8ft wall.

Similarly, hare hunting and hare coursing have their countless casualties. Not only because of the cruelty should they be banned but also due to continuing concerns about the future of the species.

The latest alarm bells were heard in May when the "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report warned that the overall conservation status of the Irish Hare is "poor" and that "factors likely to reduce hare numbers locally include hunting."

For the foxes, hares and deer persecuted by hunters, there may be hope. A new Animal Health & Welfare Bill is currently being drafted by the Department of Agriculture and one of its stated intentions is to prohibit "potentially cruel activities involving animals".

As hunting subjects animals to the most horrendous cruelty, we fervently hope that this legislation will finally bring the long overdue ban on blood sports that Ireland's compassionate majority are awaiting.

-Dublin Informer-
The hunters don't have many good arguments. Tradition could be used to justify all kinds of wickedness. The fact that the community gets together to hunt is good but it could get together for something else. The fact that people enjoy it is almost counter-productive. (Niall Gormley, Editor, Dublin Informer)

In time
by Niall Gormley
Editor, Dublin Informer

The fact that I'm writing this article says a lot about the state of the hunting debate in this country.

I couldn't find anybody to write the 'no' side. This is because some of the pro-hunting organisations have taken a strategic decision not to engage anti-hunting campaigners in debate.

While this is not good for newspapers like us, I think they are probably making a wise decision. At the moment hunting is allowed. Any raising of the issue will only bring forward the day when hunting will not be allowed. It's a reverse of the old adage about all publicity being good. From the hunter's point of view, they would be better keeping a low profile.

And the main reason for this is that the course of history is against them. We live in an increasingly urbanised society. We live in a society where food generally comes wrapped and marketed to suburban tastes. The majority of urban people experience animal (live animals) as pets. They don't like the idea of cruelty.

I come from a farming background and I have shot a lot of animals when I was younger. However, I can see that there is an ethical problem with killing animals for fun. I don't think it's going to last. As Bob Dylan pointed out - you don't need to be a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing.

However, if we ban hunting we will eventually have to face some deeper issues to do with our relationships with animals. Killing animals for fun may be unethical but it isn't necessarily cruel. You could creep up on a rabbit, for example, and kill him before he experienced fear. I have done it many times.

Would that be cruel? Would you be happy with that?

It seems to me that this is also cruel. And if that is so, then raising and killing animals for food is also unethical, even if the animals are treated humanely. Many vegetarians believe this.

The fundamental question is: are animals our equals? Is is right to kill any other living creatures at all?

Meat eating in our society is cultural. As I understand it, humans don't need to eat meat. You can live without it. So when somebody goes out to dinner and has a steak, they are eating for leisure. The animal that has been killed has been killed for their leisure time. Isn't that killing for sport?

This sounds extreme but it is a logical extension of our desire to feel empathy with our fellow creatures. Many people have travelled down this road and wonder whether it's right to eat fish. About whether it's right to exploit cows for milk. What about people swotting flies? It raises genuine moral dilemmas for people who care deeply for the rights of animals. It can be a bit of a headwrecker.

For now the question is political. If majority opinion is against hunting then eventually it will be banned. We live in an authoritarian society as shown by the smoking ban, the hysterical campaign against drink driving and the vicious repression against those who decide to smoke dope.

And the hunters don't have many good arguments. Tradition could be used to justify all kinds of wickedness. The fact that the community gets together to hunt is good but it could get together for something else. The fact that people enjoy it is almost counter-productive.

On balance, hunting should probably come to an end sometime in the future. Nobody argues against the ban on dog fighting. It's not a simple case of personal liberty as there are other creatures in the equation. There are alternatives.

But I'm not sure that broader society is willing to face up to the ethical consequences.

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