Queen's university's hare research criticised
4th March 2010
Research carried out by Queen's University Belfast has been criticised by the League Against Cruel Sports in Northern Ireland. The research which claims that coursers benefit hare numbers has been described by ICABS as "a promotion for the Irish Coursing Club".
A statement issued by the League criticised the Queen's report for "failing to adequately consider vital issues" and went on to highlight that the Irish hare can "suffer from injuries and fatality at all stages of the coursing process including capture, handling, transportation captivity, during the coursing event and also after release."
"Of particular concern is the impact of a stress based syndrome ‘capture myopathy’," League spokesperson Mary Friel added. "The syndrome leads to a compromise in the immune system and consequently death to hares which have appeared to initially survived a coursing event. This syndrome is thought to vastly increase the number of mortalities by the ‘sport’ and its effects on the local population are unknown."
Quoted in the Irish Examiner of February 25, 2010, Aideen Yourell of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports said the Queen's study "seems to be a promotion for the Irish Coursing Club".
"Hare preserves were merely places where coursers go to trap the animal rather than organised preserves," she said. "I would have no faith in any data that was supplied to this study by the ICC."
She also said clubs routinely struggle to trap enough hares.
Referring to their findings, the authors of the report concede that "we cannot rule out the role of habitat" and that the claimed level of hares recorded could be "because [coursing] clubs select areas of high hare density". On its website, it also adds that "it is necessary to evaluate the impact of removing hares from the source population and of returning coursed hares to the wild before the wider impact of coursing on wild hare populations can be determined."
According to the "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report (2008), the overall conservation status of the Irish Hare is "poor" and "factors likely to reduce hare numbers locally include loss of refuge areas, change from grassland to silage growing, increased urbanisation and HUNTING." The report confirms that the main pressures and threats to the hare include "trapping, poisoning, poaching" and concludes that the overall assessment of the hare is "unfavourable" and "inadequate".
Status of Irish hares is "poor": report
The overall conservation status of the Irish Hare is "poor" according to the "Status of EU Protected Habitats and Species in Ireland" report. Issued this week by the Department of the Environment, it states that "factors likely to reduce hare numbers locally include loss of refuge areas, change from grassland to silage growing, increased urbanisation and hunting."
The report confirms that the "Main pressures" and "Threats" to the hare include "trapping, poisoning, poaching" and concludes that the overall assessment of the hare is "unfavourable" and "inadequate".
You can download the full report from:
You can download the report's Annex from:
In the "Background to the conservation assessment", we are told that "local factors likely to negatively influence hare numbers include loss of refuge areas for daytime shelter, such as hedgerows and rushy areas; changes in farming practices, such as the conversion of semi-natural grassland to ryegrass (Lolium spp.) dominated pasture or marginal land to forestry; increased urbanisation; hunting."
Referring to coursing, it adds: "During the coursing season (September to February), 6-7,000 hares are taken from the wild (under license), and run at coursing meetings. They are then returned to their place of capture. Re-release data suggests approximately 90% of hares are returned to the wild after coursing. However, further research is required to establish the reproductive viability of these hares post-coursing and the impact on local population demographics of hare removal and return."
ICABS has continually stressed to the Environment Department that the welfare of hares is severely compromised once they are snatched from their habitats by coursers and that their chances of survival diminish as a result of human handling and being terrorised by greyhounds.
For many years now, we have been calling on successive Environment Ministers not to issue licences for the capturing of thousands of hares for use as live lures and for all hare hunting, beagling and harrying to be outlawed.
The alarm bells have been ringing for a number of years for the Irish Hare and this report is another wake-up call for those charged with the responsibility of conserving our wildlife. It's time now for Minister Gormley to move swiftly to ensure the survival of our hares by protecting then from all hunting and coursing.
Please urgently contact Environment Minister, John Gormley, and appeal to him to prohibit all forms of hare persecution, including hare hunting and hare coursing.
Minister John Gormley
Dear Minister Gormley,
The conservation status of the Irish Hare has been described as "poor" in the "Report on Status of Habitats and Species in Ireland". This is cause for enormous concern to myself and the majority of Irish people who value the hare as an important part of our precious heritage.
Minister, as you are no doubt aware, most people in this country want the hare to be allowed to live free from persecution by coursing and hare hunting clubs. We oppose the cruelty inherent in these outdated activities but also the threat they pose to regional hare populations and the species as a whole.
In coursing, hares continue to die at all stages - during the capture, during the time they are kept in captivity, during the coursing meetings and also subsequent to their release back to the wild. Such deaths have been documented by your NPWS division. These timid and fragile creatures die as a result of physical injuries or from the stress caused by human handling and being chased by greyhounds.
I implore you to act on the wishes of the electorate, and on the findings of this latest report, and immediately ban coursing and hare hunting.
Thank you, Minister.
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