Questions 120 – Answered on 11th December, 2014
Clare Daly, TD (Dublin North, United Left): To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality further to Parliamentary Question No. 126 of 16 October 2014, in which she states that she has asked the commissioner for information on the specific issue referred to by this Deputy and that she will reply directly to this Deputy; if she will provide the information as requested.
Minister for Justice and Equality (Ms. Frances Fitzgerald): I have been informed by the Garda Commissioner that the annual Glin Coursing Meeting was held on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 October, 2014 at Ballinagoul, Co Limerick. The ground at Ballinagoul is located in the Garda District of Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick. The event attracted a significant number of patrons on Saturday 4 October and a larger number of patrons on Sunday 5 October.
As with other events that attract a considerable crowd of people, local Garda management deemed it necessary to have Gardaí present. The duties performed by Gardaí were normal traffic duties, as performed at all local public events that attract large numbers of people and the Coursing Club will not be covering the cost of the Garda presence.
On Saturday, 4 October, 2014 two Gardaí attended the event referred to by the Deputy and were present for approximately half an hour. Three Gardaí were in attendance for approximately half an hour at the event on Sunday 5 October, 2014.
Questions 504 – Answered on 9th December, 2014.
Clare Daly, TD (Dublin North, United Left): To ask the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she will close off the loophole in existing legislation that is being exploited by the Ward Union Stag Union, to enable them to in effect hunt stags; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys: The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010 makes it an offence to hunt deer with two or more dogs. It is understood that since the enactment of the legislation the Ward Union Hunt have operated a “drag hunt” in order to comply with the legislation. This form of hunting involves the release of a deer to set a scent over a course. Following the recapture of the deer, the hounds and horses follow the scent. This practice is not considered to be hunting, as defined in the Wildlife Acts.
Questions 276 – Answered on 9th December, 2014.
Clare Daly, TD (Dublin North, United Left): To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to improve responses from An Garda Síochána to reports made to them by the public regarding illegal stag hunting (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter.
Illegal stag hunting by The Ward Hunt in Summerhill Co Meath on Tuesday 2nd December, reported to Trim station
Minister for Justice and Equality (Frances Fitzgerald): I am informed by the Garda authorities that all incidents reported to Gardaí are responded to a soon as possible and any complaint made to An Garda Síochána regarding illegal hunting is fully investigated.
I am further informed that the specific incident referred to by the Deputy is currently under investigation.
Question 36 – Answered on 12th November, 2014
Maureen O’Sullivan, TD (Dublin Central, Independent): To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in view of the fact that hare coursing is now a criminal offence in Britain, Northern Ireland and much of Europe, if it is time to make this barbaric so called sport a practice of the past, follow in the footsteps of Australia by replacing live hare coursing with drag coursing to ensure no loss of jobs in the industry; if he acknowledges the extent of injuries to hares and greyhounds to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney: Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon (BnG).
The welfare of greyhounds involved in coursing is provided for in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which inter alia requires that persons who course greyhounds must have regard to the “Code of Practice in the Care & Welfare of the Greyhound”, developed jointly by the ICC and BnG. The ICC has assured my Department that it has extensive systems and practices in place to underpin the welfare of animals participating in coursing and that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of hare and greyhound welfare are adhered to.
An enhanced system of regulation for the detection of prohibited substances in coursing greyhounds, accompanied by more stringent sanctions, was put in place by the ICC in August 2012. The Executive Committee of the ICC has also established a sub-committee (the Testing Review Committee) to examine current practices for the detection of prohibited substances in coursing greyhounds with a view to extending the scope and frequency of testing. The Committee will report back to an EGM with recommendations for consideration and approval by members before the end of March 2015.
The ICC has established a “Hare and Field Committee” charged with assisting individual clubs in improving their infrastructure, facilities and knowledge base. Furthermore, the ICC provides a grant to individual clubs to improve their facilities.
An inspection is carried out by the ICC in advance of every coursing meeting to check that all arrangements are in place and ready for the event to proceed. This inspection is carried out by an ICC Control Steward, a member of the ICC Hare and Field Committee and a veterinary surgeon.
Each coursing meeting is overseen by one ICC Control Steward, one veterinary surgeon and one member of the ICC Executive Committee. The ICC Executive Committee member has wide-ranging powers to curtail or abandon a meeting The ICC has on occasion postponed coursing meetings due to adverse weather conditions.
The role of the veterinary surgeon at coursing meetings has been expanded, including the inspection of hares before and after coursing.
As a further control measure, Rangers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and veterinary inspectors attend from my Department attend a number of coursing meetings in a monitoring capacity.
The ICC organised a seminar, attended by the vast majority of clubs, giving expert advice on how to care for hares. The ICC also has a guidance document on the “Care of the Hare” almost ready to roll-out to clubs; much of the information in the document has already been relayed to Clubs.
Hares are assembled for coursing in accordance with a licence granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These licences have 26 conditions attached, dealing with items such as welfare and veterinary supervision at coursing meetings. Conditions of the licences require Coursing Clubs to:
o have a veterinary surgeon in attendance at a coursing meeting,
o not course hares more than once per day,
o not course sick or injured hares,
o have adequate escapes for hares during coursing,
o comply with Irish Coursing Club directives,
o co-operate with National Parks and Wildlife Service staff .
A Monitoring Committee on Coursing was established during the 1993/94 coursing season and comprises of officials from my Department and representatives from both the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the ICC to monitor developments in coursing and in that regard the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner in the interests of both hares and greyhounds alike.
A review of the outcome for the most recent season indicates that the procedures and processes in place in terms of animal welfare are appropriate given that 99.4% of hares were released back to the wild at the conclusion of coursing.
I am informed by the ICC that drag/lure coursing is not a feasible alternative to coursing because coursing greyhounds will not chase a drag/ lure indefinitely and that after chasing a drag/lure once or twice the coursing greyhound will lose interest and disengage from the chase.
It is my belief that the systems in place to oversee coursing are effective, proportionate and working well and accordingly, I have no plans to ban hare coursing.