Ministers urged to revoke coursing licence after disease spread warning

31 Aug

ministers urged to revoke coursing licences copy

Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State Malcolm Noonan are being urged to revoke licences which allow coursing clubs to net thousands of hares from the wild and use them as live lures for dogs to chase. 

Brought to the Ministers’ attention was a report in the Guardian newspaper last Friday (27 August 2021) which highlighted a very worrying development in relation to a form of myxomatosis which has crossed over from rabbits and is now among a number of diseases posing a threat to the future of hares.

“This form of myxomatosis is known to have caused the deaths of hares in Spain, Portugal and the UK (hares were found dead with lesions consistent with those observed in myxomatosis) and there are fears that it will surface in Ireland and have a devastating affect on hares here,” we stated in a renewed appeal to the Ministers to stop all coursing activities.

The Guardian report, headed “New ‘viral cocktail’ killing hares in UK and Ireland, scientist warns”, quoted Diana Bell, a professor of conservation biology at the University of East Anglia, as saying that the “viral cocktail” of several deadly new diseases was pushing the hare population in Britain and Ireland to the brink, alongside other pressures, including illegal hare-coursing and habitat loss.

It added that “some hares have been reported with closed eyes and swollen heads – similar symptoms to myxomatosis, which first broke out in Britain in 1953 and drastically reduced rabbit populations – but others are dying with dilated pupils and eyes wide open” and that “most hares die out of sight”.

Along, with RHD2, this myxomatosis, could strike a lethal blow to the Irish Hare species.

“Every possible step must be taken to protect hares and this includes stopping a bloodsport which a 77% majority in Ireland want banned (just 9% want it to continue),” we told Ministers O’Brien and Noonan. “Coursing clubs bringing thousands of hares together in close proximity should be recognised as extremely risky and must be stopped.”

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has made it clear that “the catching of hares in nets, their transportation in boxes and the collection and holding of hares in confined areas can all be considered to increase the risk of disease spread’” and warned that “if one infected animal is found in netting for a coursing meeting then the entire capture would need to be put down.”

It is entirely reckless to gamble with the future of one of Ireland’s most treasured species, to facilitate those who find fun in watching hares desperately running from dogs.

Ministers O’Brien and Noonan must apply the Precautionary Principle, immediately revoke the hare coursing licences and order coursing clubs to return all captured hares to the wild.


Please join us in sending an urgent message to Ministers O’Brien and Noonan, asking them to revoke the licences and put in place proper protection for the Irish Hare.

Minister Darragh O’Brien (Fianna Fail, Dublin Fingal)
Tel: (01) 618 3802 OR (086) 251 9893

Malcolm Noonan TD (Green Party, Carlow Kilkenny)
Minister of State for Heritage
Tel: (01) 618 3148 OR (01) 618 3156

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