A damning report on activities at a hare coursing club in Galway details hares being left in boxes alongside dead hares and left in “shock” before being euthanised.
The report also revealed poor practices by vets in attendance, one of whom left the animals in boxes to watch his own dog run.
The sport involves muzzled greyhounds chasing hares in an open field for competition.
The report from a conservation ranger to the National Parks and Wildlife Service preceded the club’s license being revoked last October and has not been granted a new one for the coming season. It details how three hares died at the club’s annual fixture.
After four hares had been “violently pinned” by dogs and some were “held through the muzzle”, they were placed in holding boxes.
A vet monitoring the event left live hares alongside dead hares while he left to watch his own dog run and returned almost an hour later. License conditions state that vets “must be available at all times” to look after the wellbeing of the hares even when involved in active coursing.
The vet later returned to check on the hares and found two of them were dead, and one appeared healthy. The conservation ranger said this about the fourth hare:
“The hare steward partially pulled [the hare] out of the box.
“He said he was going to put it to sleep. I asked why and if it was injured. He said it was in shock and would not recover. He euthanised the hare.”
A veterinary report form differs from the conservation rangers report which said two hares “apparently died of their injuries” and said that the two deceased hares were euthanised.
During the event, which initially had two vets present, one returned to Belfast and another briefly went to his private practice leaving the club in breach of the license condition to have a vet present at all times.
The Irish Coursing Club said in an email to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage that the final two days of the event were cancelled “in the interest of hare welfare” as “six hares were pinned during day one and that the hares did not exhibit a satisfactory performance”.
The council also said hares which were pinned by dogs received injuries and sanctions including a fine were being considered.
Darragh O’Brien suspended their license that evening pending an investigation.
The minister told the Dáil in March that the club “were found to be in breach of a number of conditions of the Section 34 licence to capture live hares”. He said its license was “immediately suspended for the rest of the coursing season” and “any sanctions to be taken against that Club will be considered as part of any new licence application”.
The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) told thethat Loughrea Coursing Club applied for a netting and tagging license for the coming season but were not granted one.
Aideen Yourell, campaign director with the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, who obtained the documents through FOI, said this “shameful barbarism” should be banned in Ireland. A bill is currently before Dáil Éireann which would ban the practice in Ireland.
Hare coursing is illegal in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and 77% of Irish citizens want a ban on the sport, according to a Red C poll taken in September 2019. There was little difference between the preferences of people living in urban and rural areas. An ICC spokesman said:
The ICC said it “promotes full compliance among all clubs” concerning license conditions and “does not condone any clubs that fall short of the required standard”.
“The ICC works with all clubs to ensure the highest standards are followed, practised and enforced, and offers support when required,” the spokesman said.
“In the 2021/22 coursing season, 99.51% of hares netted were released back to the countryside, demonstrating the high standard across the cohort of clubs.”