‘Cruelty capital’ of Ireland

National Hare Coursing Festival

National Hare Coursing Festival

The three-day National Coursing Festival in Clonmel marks the culmination of four months of medieval savagery in our countryside. Hares have been forced to perform in some of the worst weather conditions for years, with fans snuggled up in comfy winter clothing as the animals twisted and dodged on wind-swept, frozen or water-logged fields.

The aficionados of this so-called “rural pastime” clapped, roared, cheered or marked their cards, oblivious to the terror being inflicted on defenceless wild animals for fun. Hares were mauled, tossed about like broken dolls, or pinned to the ground, and all for a laugh or a bet on the dogs. Even websites dedicated to promoting hare coursing carried pictures of the horror that some human beings seem to find amusing.

Clonmel becomes the Cruelty Capital of Ireland for the duration of the hare baiting extravaganza, with Powerstown Park race course taking on the ambience of a tin-pot coliseum. The fans may not wear togas or play lyres and there mightn’’t be a chariot in sight, but it’’s definitely Nero’’s scene.

The government had the chance to outlaw this practise last year via the Animal Health and Welfare Bill. Instead it had a special clause inserted into the bill EXEMPTING hare coursing from abolition, enshrining its legality and throwing the hares of Ireland to the dogs.

Hare coursing has long been a beneficiary of Irish style cute-hoor politics, with the party whip system also acting as a lifeline to it. Many TDs and Senators favour its abolition, but are prevented from voting for a ban by our antiquated and undemocratic parliamentary procedures.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland and in Britain the same act of barbarism is banned.

Special police units work tirelessly to track down hare coursing gangs in those jurisdictions and convicted coursers are not only fined heavily. By contrast, Gardai at the Clonmel event will be directing traffic outside the gates. Some day, a government with guts will ban it.

John Fitzgerald

Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports