New legislation to ban deer hunting with dogs is expected to be introduced before the Dail rises for summer, Minister for the Environment John Gormley has said.
Mr Gormley today published the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, which will prohibit deer hunting with packs of dogs and will increase the maximum fines for other wildlife related offences.
The Co Meath-based Ward Union Hunt will be the only group affected by the ban.
“The Government has decided that this particular hunting practice should cease for animal welfare and public safety reasons,” Mr Gormley said. He said he believed the Bill would have large public support and said it would have no implications for other country pursuits such as fox-hunting, hare-hunting, hare coursing or deer stalking.
Fines under the Wildlife Acts are being increased from €500 to €1,000 for a first offence on summary conviction, from €1,000 to €2,000 for a second and from €1,500 to €5,000 for a third or subsequent offence.
The maximum fine for conviction on indictment would be doubled from €50,000 to €100,000. These fines were last increased in 2000.
There are no changes in maximum times of imprisonment terms, which range from three months for a first offence up to a term not exceeding two years for those convicted on indictment.
Pro-hunt supporters Rural Ireland Says Enough (Rise) today vowed to fight the ban and continue lobbying TDs and Senators.
Rise spokesman Liam Cahill said Mr Gormley still had a long way to go before the Bill becomes law. “He has many legislative hurdles to overcome and we’ll be vigorously resisting it at every step,” Mr Cahill said.
Mr Cahill said there were more deer killed by motorists in Phoenix Park than in the hunt. He also said every hunt conducted has been closely monitored by Government inspectors and no animal welfare issues have arisen.
However, Irish Council Against Blood Sports campaign director Aideen Yourell welcomed the publication of the Bill and said it “marks a historic day in the campaign against blood sports in Ireland”.
The banning of the Ward Union will be welcomed by the compassionate majority who abhor cruelty and the terrorisation of animals for “sport”, the organisation said.