“Something will have to be done quickly if the hare is to survive”: John B Keane

21 Apr

john b keane warning about irish hares

Irish playwright and novelist John B Keane warned about coursing’s devastating impact on the Irish Hare in a column published 45 years ago, it has emerged.

In the column, reproduced in the Limerick Leader this week, he warned that coursing clubs are driving the Irish hare to extinction.

“There can be no doubt that the hare population of Ireland is seriously on the decline and the way things are going there won’t be any left in the end of another decade,” John wrote in the November 1973 article.

He refers to areas which “once abounded in hares” and were “once alive with hares but now they are as rare in these places as grouse”.

“The reason for the decline in the hare population in North Kerry and East Limerick is obvious,” he wrote. “In this area there is a concentration of major coursing meetings every winter and for these, hundreds of hares are required annually. Naturally, the hares had to disappear.”

“Something will have to be done quickly if the hare is to survive,” he concluded.

Shamefully, over 45 years after this was written, coursing clubs are free to persecute the Irish Hare, despite fears that the species is in trouble, with dwindling numbers.

Hare coursing (branded by John B Keane as “the most controversial of all diversions”) is licensed by Minister Josepha Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service and is responsible for major interference with the species during seven months of the year (August to February). Thousands of hares are snatched from the wild in nets, held in captivity for months, manhandled, fed an unnatural diet and eventually forced to run for their lives from pairs of greyhounds. Every coursing season, hares are injured and killed on coursing fields and those who survive the ordeal are at risk of later dying as a result of stress-related capture myopathy.

Hares are not only under threat from cruel coursers but also from shooters and hunters with packs of hounds. According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service website, the permitted “hunting period” for the Irish Hare runs from “the 26th day of September in each year and ending on the 28th day of February in the year immediately following that year.” The “manner of hunting” is “shooting with firearms; coursing at regulated coursing matches; hunting with packs of beagles and harriers.”

Earlier this month, we highlighted a Mooney Goes Wild show on RTE Radio which focused on the translocation of hares from Dublin Airport to areas around Ireland where they are “becoming extinct”. Programme presenter Derek Mooney told listeners that while hares are thriving at Dublin Airport, “their numbers elsewhere around the country are dwindling”. Speaking on the show, ecologist Dr Karina Dingerkus said that “over the last 50 years, numbers have declined significantly.”

She said that the National Parks and Wildlife Service have commissioned Queen’s University Belfast to carry out a hare survey this year and next to get a population estimate. “We know that hare populations do fluctuate naturally but we don’t know by how much,” Dr Dingerkus stated. “We certainly know that numbers have declined.”

Later in the programme, she added: “We don’t see very many…Certainly over the past 50 years, we know numbers have dropped dramatically…they’re in trouble…we do know that they have been dropping over a long period of time.” Mooney Goes Wild reporter Terry Flanagan noted that “there is an overall trend over the past number of years and that trend is downwards.”

This latest acknowledgement that the Irish Hare is in trouble with numbers having “dropped dramatically” should set alarm bells ringing in Minister Madigan’s office and at the NPWS. They should learn from what happened to the curlew, a bird now on the brink of extinction in Ireland.

It wasn’t until 2012, when its numbers had plummeted by up to 96%, that a long overdue ban on curlew shooting was finally put in place.

ACTION ALERT

It is now more clear than ever that the Irish Hare must be given full protection. Urgently contact Minister Josepha Madigan and the National Parks and Wildlife Service to demand an immediate ban on hare coursing, hare shooting and hare hunting.

Minister Josepha Madigan
Minister for Culture, Heritage & the Gaeltacht
Phone: +353 (0)1 631 3800

John Fitzgerald
Director, National Parks and Wildlife Service
Phone: +353 (0)1 888 3242

Email: josepha.madigan@oireachtas.ie, ministers.office@ahg.gov.ie, wildlifelicence@ahg.gov.ie, john.fitzgerald@ahg.gov.ie, Gerry.Leckey@ahg.gov.ie, nature.conservation@ahg.gov.ie
Leave a comment on Facebook: https://facebook.com/JosephaMadiganFG
Tweet to: @josephamadigan

Sign and share our Ban Hare Coursing petition
https://www.change.org/p/ireland-ban-cruel-hare-coursing

 

Demand for hares
by John B Keane
Limerick Leader, November 24, 1973

This is a time of year when there is unprecedented demand for live hares. There are many ways of catching live hares. are hunters use nets and they use powerful torches at night but despite these methods there is still a scarcity.

The hares, of course, are used in the most controversial of all diversions, none other than greyhound coursing. They are at present fetching as much as £5 per head.

We will not go into the rights and wrongs of coursing just now. The question I will pose is this: are hares declining in physique?

Have the best specimens been eliminated over the years so that now only the íochtars, as it were, are left? Most West Limerick and North Kerry clubs go to Galway for their hares, although there was a time when Lyreacrompane was the Mecca of all known hare trappers.

There can be no doubt that the hare population of Ireland is seriously on the decline and the way things are going there won’t be any left in the end of another decade.

The late Dan Paddy Andy, the famous Lyreacrompane matchmaker, was a great warrant to direct hunters and trappers after all kinds of game.

Sometimes, he would accompany the hunters and since he was bad in the sight he would often call at a neighbouring house to ask if there were any hares in the area.

His favourite approach was to knock at the door of the house.

The knock would always be answered by a woman. Dan would always ask the same question:

“Any hares in your quarter, missus?”

In Dan’s young day, hundreds of fowlers from a wide area would converge on the vast expanse of Lyre Bog when the shooting season opened.

Amongst these fowlers were many priests. One day, a local priest was hosting an American monsignor. Both were dressed in the usual fowlers’ garb, and Dan had no knowing that they were priests.

They called at his house and were offered tea, which they refused. Finally the local man asked Dan if there was any game in the district.

“Oh by God,” said Dan, “ you came to the right spot, my man.”

So saying, he led the monsignor and the priest along the roadway for a spell. When he came to the junction he pointed towards a nearby hill.

“There’s a cottage up there,” Dan told them, “and there’s a widow there after coming home from England and she’s game to the tail.”

Still all of this has little to do with the problem of the disappearing hare. Dirha Bog and Derk near Duagh and the whole hinterland of Abbeyfeale, Listowel and Newcastle once abounded in hares. These were a very powerful breed, stockier and stronger than the hares of Galway and Mayo although not as fleet.

Places like Clounleharde and Ballygiltenane, Carraigkerry and Turrarree were once alive with hares but now they are as rare in these places as grouse.

The reason for the decline in the hare population in North Kerry and East Limerick is obvious. In this area there is a concentration of major coursing meetings every winter and for these hundreds of hares are required annually. Naturally, the hares had to disappear.

For instance, the number of nationally known coursing meetings in the area almost passes belief. We start with Glin, one of the foremost meetings in the land.

Then we have Abbeyfeale, Newcastle, Rathkeale, Listowel, Abbeydorney, Ballyduff, Causeway, Tralee, Castleisland and Lixn

aw, to mention but some. At no point is there a distance of more than forty miles between any two of these meetings. The number of hares required boggles the imagination.

Something will have to be done quickly if the hare is to survive.

The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of November 24, 1973

https://www.limerickleader.ie/news/john-b-keane/308715/feel-sorry-for-the-poison-pen-letter-writer-not-angry.html

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