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Animals still suffering while wealthy have their sport, but once it was people who suffered as they played

letter of the day: blood sports

Published 16/09/2016

AS the country - north and south - remembers those who died during the Famine, let us not forget that as this terrible tragedy unfolded, it was fun and games for some.

As documented in A Provocative Study of The Great Irish Famine in the City and County of Cork, fox hunting and hare coursing continued as if there was no famine at all.

While countless lay starving across the land, merciless hunters - their bellies bloated with food and wine - galloped by with about as much sympathy as they held for their doomed quarry.

The Cork Southern Reporter of March 13, 1847 best captured the shocking contrast: "The sound of the huntsman's horn and the yelping pack mingle in terrible discordance with the groans of the dying parent and the cries of children perishing for lack of food."

In A Complete History of the Westmeath Hunt, we are told that: "While the rich and wealthy lived in luxurious country mansions and could indulge in feasting, sport and leisure, their tenants lived in wretched poverty and in danger of starvation."

The hunters' shameful focus on fun, as the poor perished, is further highlighted in A History Of The Kildare Hunt from 1876: "There was misery everywhere. The Kildare Hunt huntsman once told me that his sufferings were great in Kilkenny during the famine years, when he saw starving people and yet had to feed the hounds."

The coursers didn't let the famine get in the way of their recreation, either. A January 1846 Cork Examiner report noted that there were numerous "country people" at a coursing meeting in Waterford and that "they all behaved in the most orderly manner, remained on the hill and showed the greatest delight in the day's sport". Among those cheering was a "Father O'Connor", whose dog, Snowball, was one of the winners.

The bloodsport brigade's lack of compassion and disregard for life continues, with greyhounds still unleashed to terrorise hares and packs of hounds let loose to chase and tear foxes apart.

The day will soon come when this, too, will be viewed as a regrettable part of our history.

PHILIP KIERNAN

Irish Council Against Blood Sports

Belfast Telegraph

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