‘Thugs illegally hunting are threatening to burn down farmers’ sheds’ – McGrath

Independent TD Mattie McGrath has said that “thugs illegally hunting hares and rabbits are threatening to burn down farmers’ sheds”.

Deputy McGrath was responding to the recent call by the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) for a ban on hare coursing to be put in place.

He explained: “Maurading gangs with lurchers and terriers that are threatening farmers is something that is never talked about.” He said that such crimes will “thrive” if hare coursing is banned.

Also Read: Call for ban on 'cruel and barbaric' hare coursing - IWT

Deputy McGrath said that groups such as the IWT “undermine rural Ireland” by condemning hare coursing, while “never opening their mouths about the gangs going around killing hares and rabbits and terrorising farm families”.

“They have total double standards – these groups. I never hear the Irish anti-blood sport groups talking about this illegal carry-on of terriers going after hares, pulling them asunder and then – those doing it – putting up pictures on social media of themselves standing with three or four rabbits hanging over their shoulders.

“They kill them with unmuzzled dogs, at unlicensed events, illegally hunting and it’s going on widespread.

If farmers try and confront these thugs about them being on their land, they cut farmers’ wires and hose-pipes. The most extreme threat they make is to burn down their sheds. It’s terrorism.

“But, of course, you never see these agencies that want to ban coursing talking about this. What they don’t seem to get is that if you ban coursing, that [illegal hunting] will thrive.”

‘Contrived, concerted campaign to undermine rural Ireland’

One of the main reasons the IWT says that it is calling for a ban on coursing is due to recent cases of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHD2) being identified, with the body saying that coursing “is likely to contribute to its spread”.

“That’s not proven – where is it proven? Last year there were all kinds of incidents of rabbits found with so-called diseases,” Deputy McGrath countered.

However, it’s very mysterious where and when the rabbits were found – it was very shortly before the coursing clubs were to meet. It seems like a contrived, concerted campaign to undermine the practice and rural Ireland.

Saying that animal rights groups are “hell-bent” on undermining rural Ireland, Deputy McGrath called them “self-righteous”.

“Take their hands off rural Ireland and just allow the people there to live. In a time like this, when people have so few recreational activities, it’s an abomination that they would talk about this in the middle of a pandemic,” he continued.

“These same people came along years ago and cut the wires on preserves before coursing was due to take place and allowed the hares to run on to a motorway, where they were slaughtered by trucks and the animal rights groups found that to be okay.

These people are a minority that are trying to bully, dictate and intimidate. They are keyboard warriors and they don’t support anything.

Concluding, deputy McGrath said that the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) and the Department of Agriculture “supervise this sport and that the hares are taken very well care of, and the dogs are muzzled during activities”.

“It’s an industry by people [using] their own money on which they pay tax. These people love and care about animals and wildlife. It is not an animal rights issue; as usual, it is an issue with rural Ireland.”