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Kabul's cruel 'sport' mirrored in Ireland

Kabul in Afghanistan has been dubbed the dog-fighting capital of central Asia, due to the prevalence of the 'sport' in the city.

Crowds assemble at a makeshift amphitheatre to watch as hulking, half-starved mastiffs square off against each other.

Fans cheer and gamblers mark their cards, heedless of the anguish caused to the animals. Their suffering is deemed an unavoidable side-effect of a competition between sets of rival dogs.

Fans deny they take any pleasure in the cruelty. Local hostelries are booked out for the duration of the festivities and businesses say the sport is a much needed boost to the local economy.

It has echoes of hare-coursing in Ireland. Hares are subjected to the terror of a contrived chase, the culmination of an ordeal that began when they were snatched from the countryside with nets and held in captivity for several weeks. Some hares are mauled, or tossed about, by the dogs, sustaining injuries that cannot heal, as the hare is a brittle-boned creature. Hares also die post-coursing from stress.

As in Kabul, fans here reject any hint, or allegation, that they enjoy seeing animals suffer. The hare's predicament is just an incidental concomitant of the sport, they insist, not its objective.

Two bloodsports, on different continents and separated by thousands of miles, but equally shamed by their association with deliberate, stomach-churning ill-treatment of animals for fun.

JOHN FITZGERALD

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