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Spare a thought for the gentle, endemic Irish hare on this World Wildlife Day!

2nd March 2020

On this #WorldWildlifeDay, spare a thought for the gentle, endemic Irish hare, Lepus timidus hibernicus. 

Image courtesy Andrew Kelly

There are only about 250,000 Irish hares on the island of Ireland and they are protected by law. However, every year the Irish government issues licenses for hares to be taken from the wild by over 70 coursing clubs to be used for hare coursing in which the hare is chased by two greyhounds until one of the greyhounds either hits the hare or the hare changes course. 

Every year about 5,000 hares are taken from the wild for this cruel ‘sport’ by driving them towards nets and they are then kept in captivity for many weeks until used for a coursing event. Over the last four years 75 hares were killed or so seriously injured that they had to be euthanised by a veterinary practitioner to prevent further suffering.

A further 21 died of unknown causes whilst in captivity and a further 104 were ‘unaccounted for’. Taking hares from the wild is stressful – netting, handling, transporting in crates, keeping in captivity, being chased by greyhounds before the survivors are released back to the wild cannot be justified in the name of sport.

 Image courtesy of Andrew Kelly

In 2019, a new virus, Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHDV2) emerged in Ireland. This disease which can be fatal to rabbits and hares has been recorded in rabbits in 12 counties and hares in two counties. As a result the Minister suspended licenses to take hares from the wild in August 2019 but lifter the suspension in October 2019 as a result of persistent pressure from the Irish Coursing Club and a number of rural TDs who support hare coursing and some clubs were again granted licenses to catch hares.

Image courtesy of ICABS

Hare coursing is no longer acceptable in a progressive country like Ireland and the ISPCA is calling for a ban on coursing live hares. We hope the new government will take immediate action and introduce a ban on animal welfare, ethical, disease control and ethical grounds. 

Image courtesy of ICABS

The ISPCA urges its supporters to write to their TDs to urge them to bring in a ban on cruel hare coursing without delay. You can find details of your TD here 

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