Coursing banned in Northern Ireland
19th December 2003
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports is delighted at the news that hare coursing will be banned in Northern Ireland for at least 12 months from January 19th, 2004. We have today called on Minister Martin Cullen to now impose a ban on coursing in the Republic. Please join us in our efforts by responding to the Urgent Action Item below.
Article from Belfast Telegraph
Minister puts ban on hare coursing
17 December 2003
ENVIRONMENT Minister Angela Smith today announced a controversial 12-month ban on hare coursing in Northern Ireland.
The measure was immediately denounced by the pro-coursing Countryside Alliance, who hinted at the possibility of a legal challenge.
Mrs Smith today denied that her past involvement with the League Against Cruel Sports was an issue.
She said the temporary ban, which comes into effect on January 19, will allow DoE officials to conduct more research on the Irish hare population.
"It has been established over a number of years that Irish hare numbers are low," the Minister said.
"As a result, the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment has published a Species Action Plan which includes a target to double the 1997 population levels over as wide an area as possible by 2010.
"It is clear that the activities which a ban would prevent put the lives of Irish hares at risk."
Ulster coursing clubs use muzzled dogs but opponents point out that hares can still sustain fatal injuries at the events.
Coursing supporters argue that there is no link between the activity and the decline in the Irish hare population.
Mrs Smith was a senior employee with the League Against Cruel Sports, before entering Parliament.
She said today: "It is no secret that I hold strong views on cruelty to animals but, in this case, my views are not the issue here.
"The real issue, which we all have to focus on, is that the overall numbers of Irish hares are low."
The Countryside Alliance today accused the Minister of "prejudice". The organisation is now considering a High Court challenge against the 12-month ban.
It has already initiated legal proceedings against an earlier decision by Mrs Smith to refuse a Dungannon club a licence to trap hares for a coursing event.
Gordon Anderson, director of political affairs for Countryside Alliance Ireland, today said: "We will not accept this type of outrageous prejudice displayed by this unaccountable Minister.
"We now plan to challenge this decision."
The League Against Cruel Sports today welcomed the 12 month ban. Its chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: "The Irish hare is under threat, and each time coursers go out to inflict suffering on this beautiful animal, the threat becomes greater."
Q&A from the UK Parliament - 11th December 2003
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will meet (a) the Game Conservancy Trust and (b) Professor Montgomery of the School of Biology at Queen's University, Belfast, to discuss management of the hare population in Northern Ireland. 
Angela Smith: As Minister with responsibility for environmental matters, including issues relating to management of the Irish hare population, I would be prepared to consider any request for a meeting on the issue.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the effect of (a) legal coursing on the recovery of the hare population and (b) appropriate land management by coursing clubs and responsible hunting groups on hare conservation; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: No such assessments have been made.
The Species Action Plan (SAP) for the Irish Hare, published by the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment in October 2000, contains a number of steps to encourage all relevant landowners to adopt hare and habitat management practices that will contribute to the SAP objective to double the population of Irish Hares, over as wide an area as possible, by 2010.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the reliability of evidence for the decline in the Irish hare; what assessment he has made of the effect of (a) setting up a monitoring system and (b) developing current hunting, shooting and coursing practices to ensure they cannot have an unsustainable impact on hare numbers; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: The Irish Hare Species Action Plan, published by the Department of the Environment in 2000, identified the need for regular surveys of the Irish hare population, building on the baseline population for the species established by research commissioned by the Department from Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) in 1997. This was followed by The Northern Ireland Irish Hare Survey 2002, also carried out on the Department's behalf by QUB. Both reports confirmed that Irish hare numbers are low. I am satisfied that this research provides as accurate a population estimate as can be made for such an elusive and uncommon animal.
The Department intends to carry out regular monitoring throughout Northern Ireland in order to detect future trends in Irish hare numbers. The next survey is scheduled for spring 2004.
No assessment has been made of the effect on hare numbers of developing current hunting, shooting and coursing practices to ensure they cannot have an unsustainable impact on hare numbers. These practices are subject to the provisions of the Game Preservation Act (Northern Ireland) 1928, as amended. I recently published notice under the Act, of a proposal to introduce a temporary ban on the killing or taking, or the sale or purchase of Irish hares. This is intended to allow time to consider, within a current review of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, whether there is a need to strengthen the statutory protection afforded to the Irish hare.
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what scientific evidence he has assessed that supports the case for banning hare hunting and coursing in Northern Ireland; for what reason such evidence was not circulated in detail to concerned parties; and if he will make a statement. 
Angela Smith: Research carried out at the Queen's University of Belfast (QUB) reported in 1997 that the population of the Irish Hare was at low density in Northern Ireland.
This assessment was followed up by a research study, "The Northern Ireland Irish Hare 'Lepus timidus hibernicus' Survey 2002", commissioned by the Environment and Heritage Service (EHS) of the Department of the Environment and also carried out by QUB. It reported that Irish Hares were widespread but occurred at a low density of about one hare per kilometre square. The report of this study included the recommendation that the Department should consider removal of the Irish Hare from the quarry list and giving protection under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. This recommendation is among the issues being considered in a current review of the Wildlife Order.
I considered the research and survey report in the context of the Irish Hare Species Action Plan published by EHS in 2000, which has among its objectives a target to double the Irish Hare population, over as wide an area as possible, by 2010. The inconsistency between this policy objective and the continuing practice of hunting and coursing Irish Hares led to the proposal for a temporary ban on the killing or taking, or the sale or purchase, of Irish Hares, pending the outcome of the Wildlife Order review.
A seminar delivering the results of the 2002 Survey was held in January 2003 at Queen's University Belfast. Interested parties were invited to attend. Following this seminar the full text of the report was made available on the EHS website, www.ehsni.gov.uk/pubs/publications/IrishHareSurvey2002.pdf where it remains available, together with the Irish Hare Species Action Plan. Copies of both documents have also been placed in the Library.
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will place in the Library a copy of all the evidence and advice given to him by his Department on the issue of the ban on hare-hunting. 
Angela Smith: I have placed in the Library copies of:
Biodiversity in Northern Ireland—Species Action Plans—Irish Hare, Chough and Curlew, published by the Environment and Heritage Service of the Department of the Environment in 2000; and
The Northern Ireland Irish Hare "Lepus timidus hibernicus" Survey 2002 by Dr. Jane Preston, Dr. Paulo Prodohl, Dr. Alex Portig and Professor Ian Montgomery of the Queen's University of Belfast; commissioned by the Environment and Heritage Service.
These documents provide evidence of the size of the Irish Hare population and assess the reasons for the decline in its numbers. They were the principal sources of information on the low numbers of Irish Hare on which I took the decision to refuse a licence to a coursing club to net hares and to propose the making of a special protection order to introduce a temporary ban on killing and taking Irish Hares, pending the outcome of a current review of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, which will examine, among other things, whether the Irish Hare should be placed on the list of species that are protected at all times.
Q&A from the UK Parliament - 3rd December 2003
Mr. Colin Pickthall (West Lancashire) (Lab): What measures he is taking to halt the decline in numbers of the Irish hare. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela Smith): The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland is currently considering a number of steps. We have a species action plan to double the number of Irish hares by 2010 and we are reviewing whether the Irish hare should be given protection at all times under the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. Meanwhile, I am looking at a proposed temporary ban on the killing or taking of Irish hares, and we are encouraging the provision of Irish hare sanctuaries by landowners.
Mr. Pickthall : I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on advancing and strengthening the decision made by Assembly Members in 2001 to restrict the hunting of hares. I welcome the temporary ban, which will mean no hunting or coursing of Irish hares in Northern Ireland, but if and when the scientific evidence again shows that hare numbers are under severe pressure, will she find the means to ensure that the ban is made permanent and the hare is removed from the list of quarry species?
Angela Smith: My hon. Friend's interest in the issue and his concern about protecting the hare are well-founded. I can assure him that when we look at the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order all scientific evidence will be taken into account. After consultation it will be the appropriate measure to use to end the killing of all hares.
David Burnside (South Antrim) (UUP): The Minister will be aware that I used to be retained as a consultant to the Countryside Alliance, as she was retained by the League Against Cruel Sports. From our different points of view, we both admire that noble animal, the Irish hare. Why is she using her personal prejudice, as hare coursing is muzzled in Northern Ireland? No animals are killed and a professor and a doctor of biochemistry from Queen's university, Belfast say that "hare coursing clubs benefit the Irish hare population".
The Minister is showing personal bias against country people—[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. The House is getting far too noisy again, and it is important that I hear the Minister's answer.
Angela Smith: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I glad that the hon. Gentleman declared his personal interest. My interest concerns the welfare and numbers of the Irish hare. Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman misquoted Professor Montgomery, who did not say what was cited. In fact, it was Professor Montgomery who first asked the Department to consider removing the Irish hare from the list of quarry species. However, all those matters will be considered in the light of scientific evidence. There is no way in which I could allow the netting of hares for hunting and coursing following the Assembly's decision to protect the Irish hare.
Take Action: Demand an end to hare coursing in the Republic of Ireland
Phone/Fax/Email Minister Martin Cullen
Minister Martin Cullen
Tel: 1890-202021 (Locall) (Request to speak to Minister Cullen or his Secretary)
Dear Minister Cullen,
As one of the eighty per cent majority of Irish citizens who wish to see coursing banned in Ireland, I appeal to you to immediately intervene to call a halt to coursing activities.
As you may be aware, coursing in Northern Ireland will be banned for at least 12 months from January 19th, 2004. I call on you to revoke the licence issued by your Department to the Irish Coursing Club and to ensure that no further licences are issued in the future.
The licensing of coursing cruelty in Ireland has been condemned not only in Ireland but all over the world. Coursing represents a blemish on Ireland's international reputation. In this, the 21st Century, it is time for the Irish Government to replace this blood sport with the humane alternative of drag coursing.
Drag coursing sees greyhounds chasing a mechanical device known as a drag. The drag, comprising a piece of cloth or plastic, is rapidly dragged along by a wire cable and can be made to be as unpredictable as a hare and to provide challenging runs for the greyhounds. This is practised successfully in the United States, Australia and also by some clubs in the UK where a ban appears likely in the near future. There is no reason why Ireland should not follow this compassionate route and replace live hare coursing with drag coursing.
Thank you, Minister. I look forward to your positive reply.
Contact your local politicians
Eight in ten Irish people want to see coursing banned in Ireland. We desperately need to keep reminding the politicians about this enormous opposition to coursing and demanding that they work towards making it illegal in Ireland. Please write to all of your local politicians and ask them to support the campaign against coursing and other blood sports. Encourage your friends and family to contact them too. We need as much help with this campaign as possible. Thank you.
Write to your TD at:
Write to your Senator at:
For the names and contact details of politicians, please visit the Irish Government website at www.irlgov.ie.
Coursing Cruelty: Further Information
For more information on hare coursing cruelty in Ireland, please visit our updated Ban Hare Coursing website at www.banbloodsports.com/coursing.
The site includes details for the current season along with a photo gallery, video clips and petitions.
Please sign our Ban Blood Sports in Ireland petition.