‘Legal body blow’ for hare coursing as ICC loses High Court challenge

The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) has today (Monday, January 25) lost its High Court challenge against the government decision to exclude hare coursing from being permitted under Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

The ICC was before the High Court seeking to overturn Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly’s decision to exclude the activity from the revised statutory instrument.

On December 1, hare coursing was included in S.I. 560/2020 of the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) Regulations 2020. This legislation is now amended, resulting in coursing not being permitted under the Level 5 status of the country since Christmas Eve.

One of the first to strongly respond to today’s news is the Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports, who said it found “the breathtakingly selfish and arrogant stance adopted by the ICC obnoxious in the extreme”. 

‘Legal body blow to hare coursing’

“The majority of sporting organisations, in common with the hospitality and construction sectors, have been called on to make sacrifices in the interest of public health and safety, and none of us have escaped restrictions at this time of national emergency,” the campaign said.

“Coursing clubs are essentially demanding the ‘right’ to set dogs on hares in public places…in the middle of a pandemic.

“This demonstrates how utterly callous they are in their zeal to inflict suffering on defenceless animals for fun, regardless of how this might impact on either animals or their fellow human beings.

After today’s legal body blow to hare coursing, we call again on the government to ban this blood sport completely. It stands condemned on animal welfare, conservation and disease control grounds.

“Hare coursing had no place in the 19th century, let alone in the 21st.”

The Irish Hare is a subspecies of the mountain hare, and is unique to Ireland.

“Conservationists refer to it as the flagship of Irish biodiversity, one of our few truly native mammals,” the campaign added.

“It is a treasured part of our wildlife heritage that belongs to all of us, not just to a heartless minority that derive pleasure from watching it run for its life from dogs.

During the pandemic we have acquired a deeper appreciation of nature, of our wonderful variety of flora and fauna and those celebrated land and sea-scapes that give us our semi-mythical ’40 shades of green’.

“When the emergency is over and life gets back to normal, let’s not overlook the plight of our native hares. They have endured man’s inhumanity, posing as ‘sport’ for long enough.”

‘There appears to be little appreciation’

However, the ICC previously said it is “unaware of any objective, proportionate reasons as to why other comparable activities are permitted and coursing is not” under Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions.

“There appears to be little appreciation of what resources and organising is involved in preparing for a coursing meeting,” the ICC said.

“The ICC set out clearly the reasons why coursing should continue similar to other comparable activities in terms of Covid-19, but we are unaware of any objective, proportionate reasons as to why other comparable activities are permitted and coursing is not.

This is clearly disconcerting for clubs in the first instance and greyhound owners secondly, that have complied fully with all Covid-19 protocols after enduring limited opportunity to run their greyhounds since the commencement of the season.

“The ICC is self-funding and it appears there is little appreciation of this fact and that we are not in a position to offer a care package similar to other state bodies.”

With the 2020/2021 coursing season window soon to close, there has been concern over “significant financial losses”, with TD Jackie Cahill saying that the cancellation of the national hare coursing meeting that was due to take place in early February in Clonmel “will have a major impact on the regional economy”.