Multiple breaches of COVID19 guidelines at hare coursing meetings

9 Jan


On the day that 8,248 more cases of COVID19 infections were confirmed, the Irish Coursing Club was back in the High Court attempting to overturn a widely-welcomed decision by the government to stop hare coursing. Coursing was halted at the end of December as part of the latest Level 5 restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus but the coursers don’t want the pandemic to get in the way of their nasty bloodsport.

They and their handful of backers in Dail Eireann continue to claim that while COVID19 infections soar and deaths increase, bringing up to 178 people together in a field to watch hares running for their lives is harmless and should be allowed to resume.

At the centre of their case is the claim that all HSE guidelines are being followed at coursing meetings. However, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports can reveal that numerous breaches of COVID19 guidelines have been identified at coursing meetings around Ireland, exposing as FALSE a claim by the coursers that all guidelines have been adhered to.

The Irish Examiner has reported today that “the ICC [Irish Coursing Club] says it has complied with all Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines” However, the truth is that multiple breaches have occurred and have now been brought to the attention of government representatives dealing with the ICC’s High Court challenge.

We have highlighted that while a notice on the Irish Coursing Club website stated that “a face mask or visor must be worn at all times”, there were breaches of this observed.

Individuals at coursing meets were seen without face masks (including coursing club “judges” on horseback) while others wore masks improperly (i.e. nose and/or mouth not covered as per guidelines).

In direct conflict with the HSE’s COVID19 advice (repeated by the Irish Coursing Club on its website) to “maintain a social distance of two metres AT ALL TIMES”, coursers were seen in close proximity to each other – in the slipper’s hut from where the greyhounds are released to terrorise the hares, along the boundaries of coursing fields where they watched hares desperately running and at the top of the field where they run in together to retrieve their dogs

Despite the country’s crisis, coursers are keen to continue congregating for their bloodsport. Events in fields around the country saw up to 178 people coming together. In comparison, the current Level 5 restrictions allow just 10 people to be at a funeral and 6 at a wedding ceremony or reception (whether indoors or outdoors). The restrictions also state: “No organised outdoor gatherings should take place”.

At coursing meets, two individuals were permitted to attend with each greyhound, plus an additional 30 members of the coursing club “to facilitate the meeting”, meaning that up to 178 people were in attendance. They were seen standing in close proximity along the boundaries of coursing fields.

On the first day of the Abbeydorney meet in County Kerry in October, for example, 74 greyhounds were listed, meaning as many as 148+30 could attend. A long line of vehicles were seen parked bumper to bumper inside the coursing field and, alongside some of the vehicles, clusters of people.

Meanwhile, at the Kilflynn coursing meeting, there were more apparent social distancing breaches: individuals in close proximity while retrieving greyhounds at the end of coursing, a courser with a mask not covering either his mouth or nose and two coursing club members sitting next to each other at the side of the field.

On its Facebook page, Kilflynn coursing club maintained that “Kilflynn Coursing Club are committed to following the instructions given by the ICC in these unprecedented times”, going on to say: “Please follow the instruction of the stewards on the day – always wear your face covering.” However, despite this, the coursing club’s judge on horseback was seen without a face mask.

There was a similar scene at another coursing meet in December, with a coursing club judge on horseback not wearing the required face mask.

In relation to the post-coursing presentation of prizes – when the owners of greyhounds are photographed next to dogs and trophies – the ICC had decided that a “maximum of four people [were permitted] at the presentation – two located at front, two at the rear and all socially distanced” adding “mask to be worn for photograph.” In stark contrast, coursers were seen standing next to each other posing for photos, some of them without masks. It goes without saying that bringing four people together to pose next to dogs in the midst of the country’s Covid crisis is utterly farcical and reckless.

The Irish Coursing Club’s court case is frivolous, given that it is the prerogative of the government, and not the coursers, to determine what measures must be taken to slow the spread of coronavirus. The government is not compelled to give coursers an explanation or any notice of restrictions.

We have urged government representatives to stand firm and proceed with the utmost determination in defending the decision to stop coursing. This would be welcomed by the vast majority of Irish citizens who want coursing permanently banned and by all who favour any step that effectively slows the spread of coronavirus and helps protect public health.

With the coursers’ case largely hinging on the argument that if greyhound racing continues, so too should coursing, the government must not hesitate to shut down greyhound racing also. This would not only undermine the coursers’ case but also further reduce the coronavirus risk associated with multiple channels of greyhound owners and trainers traversing the country to visit tracks, where they make numerous close contacts with others, and risk spreading the virus when they return to their communities.


With coursing stopped, hundreds of hares remain in captivity in coursing compounds. Please join us in urging Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien to order the release of all hares in captivity and permanently suspend coursing licences.

Minister Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fail, Dublin Fingal)
Tel: (01) 618 3802

Contact all TDs and urge them to back a ban on coursing. Visit the Oireachtas website for contact details

Urge Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar to respect the wishes of the majority and ban hare coursing and all bloodsports.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Phone: +353 (0)1–618 4350 or +353 (0)21-432 0088

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar
Telephone: +353 (0)1-640 3133
Tweet to:

Contact Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Green Party, Sinn Fein and Labour Party TDs and ask them to back a ban on cruel hare coursing.

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Please sign and share the petitions

Ban Blood Sports in Ireland

Ireland – Ban cruel hare coursing

Find out more about Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how you can protect yourself and your family at

Witness the cruelty of hare coursing in Ireland

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