The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has admitted that he has participated in the shameful bloodsport of foxhunting.
During a Dail debate this month in which he defended the cruel activity, Minister Coveney revealed: “I have hunted”.
Despite acknowledging that he is “sure” that foxes get pulled apart by packs of hounds during foxhunts, Coveney is continuing to refuse to ban it.
“When I have hunted, I have never seen a fox being pulled apart,” he said. “I am sure, however, that it happens and I am not saying it does not.”
Dismissing an impassioned appeal from Irish Council Against Blood Sports president, Maureen O’Sullivan TD, to embrace drag hunting and outlaw the hunting of live animals with packs of dogs, Coveney outlined that he and his colleagues are aiming to accommodate those who get their kicks from cruelty.
“Our policy decisions try to strike a balance for those who derive great enjoyment from hunting,” he said.
This included inserting an exemption into the Animal Health and Welfare Act which gives fox hunters immunity from prosecution for what would otherwise be an offence of animal cruelty.
In his Dail speech, Minister Coveney went on to demonise foxes and make a false claim that the animals “do significant damage to farm animals, poultry and so on”. This is completely untrue. Foxes are not a significant agricultural pest. Regarding lambs, the top causes of mortality are abortion, still-birth, infectious disease, exposure and starvation. Wildlife experts agree that if a lamb is taken by a fox, it is most likely to have been already dead when the fox arrived. The National Parks & Wildlife Service have confirmed this, saying “No matter what people think, foxes seldom kill and eat young lambs.” Many farmers consider foxes to be, not a pest, but a beneficial ally as they keep down the numbers of rabbits and rodents as part of their natural diet.
Minister Coveney has in the past condemned terrierwork and the digging out of foxes as involving “undue cruelty” and therefore “unacceptable” but now seems to accept it. The u-turn came after a meeting with terriermen in which the Minister was apparently convinced that sending terriers underground to corner and attack foxes (encounters which leave both foxes and terriers with horrific injuries) is somehow acceptable, despite being unquestionably cruel.
Referring to a plan to introduce “rules and codes of conduct” – which will do nothing to eliminate the inherent cruelty – Minister Coveney ludicrously claims that he is trying to “make sure foxhunting will be as acceptable as possible from an animal welfare perspective.” The only way this could ever be achieved would be to ban foxhunting.
“There was a time when we were hunters and gatherers and had to hunt animals for food, but we do not have to do this anymore,” Deputy O’Sullivan told Minister Coveney during the exchange. “It is a shame on us as a nation that we tolerate barbarity and cruelty to animals in the name of what is supposed to be a sport. It is hard to believe we continue barbaric practices.”
Due to the cruelty involved, foxhunting is an illegal activity in England, Scotland and Wales.
Contact Agriculture Minister, Simon Coveney, and demand that he removes an exemption from the Animal Health and Welfare Act which currently allows hunting with packs of dogs.
Simon Coveney, TD
Minister for Agriculture
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-607 2884 or LoCall 1890-200510.
Fax: 01-661 1013.
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Witness the cruelty of foxhunting in Ireland
THE TRUTH ABOUT FOXES
“A great deal many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence. When interviewing farmers, I found that in some cases, a dead, unwounded animal or the mere disappearance of a lamb were attributed to the work of the fox.” Professor James Fairley (Zoology, UCG) in “An Irish Beast Book”
“I’ve worked at fox dens in all areas covering every aspect of prey possibilities. I’ve observed what adult foxes have brought in, I’ve analysed countless numbers of scats or droppings, and also the stomach contents of many animals. Game birds were insignificant, and so too were poultry, and the only two lambs I’ve ever found at dens were already dead before they were carried in. They were in fact carrion mutton.” Zoologist, Dr AD Scott, BSc PhD MBOU
“No matter what people think, foxes seldom kill and eat young lambs.” National Parks & Wildlife Service
“Starvation/exposure is the main cause of perinatal lamb deaths (accounting for 57% of losses in the first week of life). The important factors include sick ewes, exhausted ewes, lack of milk, mastitis, desertion, weak lambs after a difficult birth, under and overweight lambs and exposure to cold, wet and windy weather.” Teagasc
“There is no evidence that foxes need to be controlled…no method of fox control has had an impact on the fox population.” Professor Stephen Harris, Bristol University
“The pro-hunting argument that fox hunting is an essential form of pest control has been completely shattered. This new research proves what we have said all along – that fox hunting is essentially carried out for recreational purposes. It is cruel and unnecessary.” John Rolls, RSPCA