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Heritage Minister shamefully issues licences for cruel hare coursing
11 August 2021

Heritage Minister Darragh O’ Brien has shamefully issued licences which allow coursing clubs to net thousands of hares from the wild and use them as live bait for dogs to chase.

Minister O’Brien dismissed appeals to him to refuse the licences and spare hares the cruelty of coursing. This despite last year acknowledging that “hares are a protected species and are better off being in the wild rather than being held in captivity in large groups [in coursing compounds]”.

The licences pave the way for dozens of coursing clubs around the country to cruelly net hares from the wild between 14 August 2021 and 28 February 2022, hold them in captivity for weeks or months and eventually force them to run for their lives in front of greyhounds

Download a copy of the licences
or view on NPWS website

“All hares suffer fear and stress and every coursing season, hare injuries and deaths occur,” we stated in our appeal to Minister O’Brien. “Among the injuries documented are broken back, spinal injury, broken legs, damaged toes and dislocated hips.”

Hares suffer at all stages of coursing – during capture, while held captive in compounds and at the coursing meetings where they can be seen desperately running as a merciless mob cheer the greyhounds on and gamble on which dog will force the hare to change direction first.

Our appeal was also directed at Green Party Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan who has described himself as “an animal rights activist” and in the past condemned coursing, saying the appalling treatment of hares “highlights a shocking disregard for the welfare of the animals”.

Coursing is set to continue despite fears relating to RHD2, the highly contagious virus that can spread easily between hares and which, Minister O’Brien’s predecessor warned, could wipe out the Irish Hare species. Hares affected by the virus suffer the most horrendous death, with swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth.

“The National Parks and Wildlife Service division of your department has made it clear that ‘the catching of hares in nets, their transportation in boxes and the collection and holding of hares in confined areas can all be considered to increase the risk of disease spread’,” we recently reminded Ministers O’Brien and Noonan. “The NPWS went on to state that ‘if one infected animal is found in netting for a coursing meeting then the entire capture would need to be put down.’"

In response to a Dail Question from Jennifer Whitmore TD (Social Democrats), Minister O’Brien stated: "the available evidence suggests that RHD2 remains primarily a disease of rabbits, with some limited spill-over into hares. Furthermore, the total number of reports has declined noticeably in 2021."

We had asked him to bear in mind that his curtailment of coursing activities last season [due to Covid-19 restrictions] is likely to have been a major factor in slowing the spread of this deadly virus and that any resumption of coursing could present RHD2 with an opportunity to spread, leading to devastating consequences for the Irish Hare species.

We pointed to a recently published NPWS coursing monitoring report which revealed that, shockingly, coursing in Bantry in October "took place WITHIN an RHD2 virus 25km restriction zone". Rangers present said that they "did not observe any members of the coursing club taking biosecurity measures e.g. using foot baths as we did."

“We implore you to act in the best interests of the iconic and supposedly protected Irish Hare species and make history by refusing a 2021-22 licence,” we stated in our appeal. “With the ongoing threat of RHD2 as well as the suffering, stress, injury and death caused to hares at coursing meets, there should be absolutely no hesitation in finally ending this shameful activity.”

In issuing the latest licences, Minister O’Brien has disregarded the majority view in Ireland that coursing should be banned. A RED C opinion poll has confirmed that 77% are in favour of a ban while just 9% disagree with a ban.

Witness the cruelty of hare coursing in Ireland


Urge Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan to REVOKE the coursing licences and give Irish Hares the proper protection they deserve.

Minister Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fail, Dublin Fingal)
Tel: (01) 618 3802 OR (086) 251 9893

Malcolm Noonan TD (Green Party, Carlow Kilkenny)
Minister of State for Heritage
Tel: (01) 618 3148 OR (01) 618 3156

With a RED C opinion poll confirming that a 77 per cent majority of citizens want hare coursing banned (with just 9% disagreeing with a ban), it is now time for politicians to consign this nasty bloodsport to history. Join us in contacting all TDs and urging them to act to ensure that a ban is urgently introduced. Visit the Oireachtas website for contact details for TDs

Urge Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar to respect the wishes of the majority and ban hare coursing and all bloodsports.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Phone: +353 (0)1–618 4350 or +353 (0)21-432 0088

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar
Telephone: +353 (0)1-640 3133
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Contact Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Green Party, Sinn Fein and Labour Party TDs and urge them to pledge support for the Animal Health & Welfare (Ban on Hare Coursing) Bill 2020.

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