Bear-baiting, badger-baiting and cock-fighting have been banned... time for hare-coursing to follow suit
letter of the day: ANIMAL CRUELTY
The tide may be turning against bloodsports in Europe. A few days ago thousands of people marched through the Spanish capital Madrid demanding an end to bullfighting and opinion polls indicate that 58% of Spaniards now want this horrific practice outlawed, with 19% still condoning it.
There was a time when even a whisper of opposition to bullfighting within Spain would have been unthinkable. The image of the matador, with his swishing red cape and shimmering sword, dodging a tortured animal, razer-sharp lances inserted in its bleeding shoulder blades, was almost synonymous with Spanish culture.
Now it is fast becoming a major embarrassment and holidaymakers worldwide are being urged by animal welfare groups to avoid bullfights if they visit Spain.
Not that we can lecture Spaniards about animal cruelty. We have our own legal, State-sanctioned forms of recreational torture.
The new hare-coursing season kicks off at the end of this month. The "sports people" involved won't be risking their lives against a formidable (if substantially weakened) opponent like the matadors. They'll be nice and snug in full winter gear, swigging whiskey or hot soup from flasks and marking their cards as gentle captive hares, their eyes wide with terror, run from blood-crazed dogs.
Matadors are occasionally injured or killed in the ring. You'll find no such contrived heroism on the coursing field. Overfed Hibernian aficionados, wheezing and nursing prominent beer-bellies, haul themselves around the baiting venues, cheering on the greyhounds and conspicuously tut-tutting when a hare is mauled, or pinned to the ground, or tossed into the air like a broken toy - as if the animal's ordeal had nothing to do with them and they had no role in its demise or suffering.
Attempts to defend animal cruelty on cultural grounds are loathsome and should be dismissed out of hand. As civilisation evolves and progresses, I hope that these obscenities posing as "sport" will go the way of bear-baiting, cock-fighting and badger-baiting.
Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports