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The cruel 'sport' of hare coursing must be banned

We humans are susceptible to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression linked to changes in the seasons. I wonder if the gentlest creature in the countryside has any similar feelings of apprehension or misery at this time of year.

The shortening autumn days herald the arrival of a new enclosed coursing season. It kicks off at the end of this month. All across Ireland thousands of hares will be netted for use in public live baiting competitions. Following weeks of unnatural captivity - the hare is a solitary creature that lacks the herd instinct - these fleet-footed denizens of field and forest will be forced to run from pairs of hyped-up greyhounds.

Not as part of any supposed pest control undertaking or conservation initiative. The sole purpose of the whole exercise is to provide amusement and an excuse for gambling.

With the pursuing greyhounds muzzled, none of the hares are killed humanely or instantaneously in coursing. Instead, their bones are broken as the dogs maul, forcibly strike, pin them down, or fling them high into the air like broken toys. Or they can die in captivity before coursing day arrives.

The Irish hare is a subspecies of the mountain hare, unique to this country and treasured as a rare living link to the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago. It is now threatened by loss of habitat due to urbanisation and the adverse side effects of 21st century farming. Must it also endure the continued ghoulish attention of coursing clubs? Those of us who oppose animal cruelty and care about the preservation of our wildlife heritage will be lobbying for a total ban on hare coursing.


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