Letters to the Editor

13 Feb

Help raise awareness about Ireland’s animal cruelty issues – write letters to the editors of local and national newspapers to speak out against hare coursing, foxhunting, etc.

I would have preferred Ned O’Keeffe had never entered politics
Douglas Post, December 2014

I had mixed feelings when I read about the imposition of a hefty fine and a suspended sentence on former Fianna Fail TD, Ned O’ keeffe. He had admitted to filing fake invoices to claim more than €3,700 in mobile phone expenses.

Mixed because nobody is perfect and I recognize that it must represent a severe personal blow to him to be subjected to this public ignominy, even if he did bring it on himself.

On the other hand, as a long time campaigner against animal cruelty in Ireland, I recall that as a TD Mr. O’ Keeffe was for years the most vociferous cheerleader for the so-called sport of live hare coursing. When the late Deputy Tony Gregory moved a Private Members Bill in June 1993 to abolish the cruel practice, Mr. O’ Keeffe mounted a ferocious attack on what he described as an attempt to remove one of the most edifying and delightful pastimes from the heart of rural Ireland.

Brushing aside evidence of hares being mauled to death or agonizing injury by the dogs, and the screams of the hares that were relayed from a tape recorder in the Dail by a Green Party TD in defiance of Oireachtas rules, he eulogized an activity that has since been outlawed on animal welfare grounds in many jurisdictions, including Britain and Northern Ireland.

In September 2009, when the Greens in government hinted that they would like to see a ban on hare coursing, Mr. O’ Keeffe again came to the rescue of his beloved “harmless rural pastime”, warning that he and like-minded TDs would block any move to end it.

The spectacle of a political giant being brought low is not something to celebrate. But nor, in my opinion, should the spectacle of a hare being terrorized or tossed about like a broken toy by a pair of hyped-up greyhounds, be celebrated.

Mr. O’ Keeffe’s departure from Fianna Fail is unlikely to bother anyone in the greyhound industry. His position as the political mouthpiece of the pro-blood sports lobby has been filled by South Tipperary’s Deputy Mattie McGrath, who is gleefully trotting out the same old tired excuses for allowing hare coursing to continue in 21st century Ireland.

As for Ned O’ Keeffe’s resignation, I would have preferred for the sake of our persecuted hare population that he had never entered politics in the first place.

John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports

Hare coursing disgraces Ireland
Irish Independent, 19th December 2014

With dozens of animal baiting fixtures to be held over Christmas, a stark reminder of just how anomalous and out of date our animal cruelty laws are has been provided by the conviction of four men earlier this month for hare coursing in Cambridgeshire, England.

In addition to fining the culprits, Huntington Magistrates’ Court ordered that two of their vehicles be crushed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6tdJD1GJ-_c

By contrast, here in Ireland hare coursing is permitted by law and supported by some leading politicians.

Following weeks of unnatural captivity, the timid and inoffensive hares can be mauled or otherwise injured as the dogs pin them down or toss them about on the coursing field.

A special provision exempting hare coursing from prohibition was inserted into the Animal Health and Welfare Act at the behest of the powerful pro-hare baiting lobby. This legislative anomaly utterly disgraces Ireland in the estimation of decent people worldwide.

Hundreds of hares will be forced to run for their lives over Christmas, with snugly dressed fans gathering to watch the iconic creatures, their eyes bulging from sheer terror as they dodge and swerve to evade the salivating dogs.

John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports
Callan, Co Kilkenny

Animals deserve compassion
Irish Independent, December 13, 2014

A homeless man dies on a morgue-cold Dublin street, residents of a residential care home are manhandled by dullards and Christmas is about to be celebrated in a fugue of alcohol while people remain emotionally clamped to consumerism.

What is happening to Irish society? A seam of callousness has opened, revealing a disconnection of feeling and understanding for those adrift from our normal functional world. Self-interest has rendered the tenets of caring and acting in a compassionate manner obsolete.

This coarsening of life in Ireland is brought into sharp focus at Christmas time, when in this Christian and supposedly civilised country there will be widespread cruelty inflicted on wild animals over the Christmas holiday season.

No Christmas respite is given to wildlife by bloodsports followers.

Despite the displays of support for those who reside on the fringes of society, the core of Irish society is hollow. As a nation we have all but all given up on really caring – as opposed to charity-induced caring – for the human and non-human members of our society that need respect, financial support and the reach of a helping hand.

The thought and deed of kindness is in fear of dying in Irish society. The emotional connection to another person and to the non-human members of our society has been unplugged.

John Tierney
Waterford

Inhumane “sport” has had its day
Sunday Independent sports section, December 14th 2014

The greyhound industry has a serious PR problem, but it was never without its critics.

Brendan Behan made reference to it in Confessions of an Irish Rebel: “track racing is too dull and coursing is too cruel. I did go coursing betimes for the screams of the hares gave me the excuse to stop in the tent drinking whiskey for to drown the noise.”

Because the dogs are now muzzled hares do not scream as loudly or as often on the coursing field as they did in the days when the much loved Behan wrote, drank, and entertained, but their plight remains a sad and shameful one. Muzzling has only made the cruelty less visible.

Instead of those tug of war scenes that Behan would have observed before retiring to the whiskey tent, with hares being stretched and torn apart between the competing dogs, we now see hares being mauled, struck, tossed into the air, or pinned down by their pursuers and later dying of their injuries if not put out of their misery by the official club “dispatchers.”

The Irish Hare, as a species unique to Ireland that survived the last Ice Age, is as much a part of our wonderful wildlife heritage as a writer like Behan is central to our world renowned literary heritage. Yet our laws permit its organized abuse in a barbaric, unequal game of chance. Sport is about fair play and competition. In coursing the hare is on a par with the sloither on a hurling pitch…a mere plaything.

With Christmas approaching the coursing season is reaching its peak as this iconic creature is hounded for sport at venues nationwide. In hail, rain or snow, each hare will swerve and dodge and turn to evade death or injury. Well fed punters decked out in snug winter clothing will laugh or cheer as the hares perform. Fans of this activity argue that it is part of Ireland’s culture, embedded in tradition, and should therefore be allowed to continue.

I would argue that is the Irish Hare that needs preserving and protecting, not a practice that is intrinsically inhumane and gravely undermines the image of our greyhound industry.

John Fitzgerald

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