Cruel hunting shames society
Look at the images carried in this newspaper today of young children posing like big game hunters with the bodies of dead animals which have been shot in the fields of Northern Ireland. Look also at the pictures of rabbits, foxes and dogs which have suffered terrible injuries before death during these hunting expeditions.
We defy any right-thinking person not to be shocked by these photographs and the barbaric cruelty depicted in them. And most shocking of all, this practice is legal.
It has to be accepted that some controls on wildlife have to be exercised, but it should be done humanely and, preferably, by properly trained and licensed experts.
What is appalling is that underground hunting - sending small dogs down tunnels to flush out foxes - is permitted. The League Against Cruel Sport has performed a signal service in highlighting what actually happens on many occasions.
The fox may not be cleanly flushed out into the open to be shot. Instead, it and the small terrier sent into the burrows engage in a horrific fight for survival in which either or both could die.
What sort of mind thinks this is an acceptable sport for anyone, never mind for young, impressionable children who may well grow up thinking that cruelty to animals is a way of life?
As the league points out, many of those engaged in these activities openly boast about their exploits on social media, accompanied by the most graphic photographs. Remember the global outcry when Cecil the lion - admittedly a protected species - was shot dead in Africa by a big game hunter. Greater animal cruelty is perpetrated right on our doorsteps many days and nights of the year with hardly a voice raised in protest.
But now this newspaper is happy to join with the league and with other animal welfare bodies in calling for this vile practice to be banned.
It cannot be beyond the wit of legislators to frame laws which allow for the control of vermin or dangerous animals but which ban the killing of wildlife simply for sport, often accompanied by the most gruesome cruelty to both the prey and the dogs used to hunt them.
While this could not be achieved before the next Assembly elections, it should be at the top of the in-tray of the next incumbent of the Department of the Environment.