Agriculture/Animal Welfare, Dáil Issues

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to amend the Animal Health and Welfare Act to prohibit hare coursing.

– Clare Daly. 

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 8th June, 2016.

Ref No: 14455/16 Lottery: 6 Proof: 65

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food   and the Marine : (Michael Creed)

Under the provisions of the Greyhound Industry Act, 1958, the regulation of coursing is chiefly a matter for the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) subject to the general control and direction of Bord na gCon (BnG). The welfare of greyhounds involved in coursing is provided for in the Welfare of Greyhounds Act 2011 which, inter alia, requires that persons who course greyhounds must have regard to the “Code of Practice in the Care & Welfare of the Greyhound”, developed jointly by the ICC and BnG. The ICC has assured my Department that it has extensive systems and practices in place to underpin the welfare of hares and greyhounds involved in coursing and that it goes to great lengths to ensure the highest standards of welfare are adhered to.

A Monitoring Committee on Coursing is in place, comprising officials from my Department, the ICC and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to monitor developments in coursing and the situation is kept under constant review to ensure that coursing is run in a well controlled and responsible manner.

Hares may only be collected for coursing by clubs affiliated to the ICC in accordance with the terms of licences granted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. These licences contain 26 conditions which have refined over the years, the majority of which are central to hare welfare and include a variety of measures, such as a requirement that a qualified veterinarian attends at all coursing meetings to report on the health of the hares, a prohibition on the coursing of hares more than once in the same day, a prohibition on the coursing of sick or pregnant hares and a requirement that hares be released back into the wild during daylight hours.

Coursing clubs are required to comply fully with directives, instructions and guidance notes issued by the ICC in all matters relating to the capture, keeping in captivity, tagging, marking, coursing and release of hares, and the muzzling of greyhounds.

I have no plans to ban hare coursing, but I have no hesitation in saying that it is critically important that those involved in the sport must operate in accordance with the regulatory framework and with the welfare of both hares and greyhounds in mind at all times.

 Parliamentary Question No. 61

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to amend the Animal Health and Welfare Act to remove the exemption for fox hunting from the legislation.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 8th June, 2016.

Ref No: 14456/16 Lottery: 13 Proof: 71

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food   and the Marine : (Michael Creed)

Lawful hunting of an animal is permitted under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013. However, the Act prohibits the hunting of animals which have been released in an injured, mutilated or exhausted condition. In addition, Section 25 of the Act provides for the establishment of codes of practice and for the adoption of codes published by other persons for the purposes of providing practical guidance relating to any aspect of the Act, including fox hunting. The Irish Masters of Foxhounds Association has a detailed code of conduct in place in respect of the hunting of foxes. This code places responsibility on member packs to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare and good behaviour are maintained at all times. My Department has engaged with the hunting associations with a view to adopting codes under Section 25 of the Act in order to ensure that those who participate in hunting will continue to honour their obligations to maintain the highest standards of behaviour at all times.

I am fully committed to promoting good practices that respect the welfare of all animals and my Department devotes considerable resources to protecting animal welfare and in dealing with breaches of animal welfare legislation. Under the Act, on summary conviction, a person can receive a fine of up to €10,000 and, on indictment, €250,000 and/or imprisonment up to 5 years. There are fixed penalty payments for lesser offences. The Act provides the framework within which the welfare of animals can be safeguarded and I am hopeful that the substantial and significantly increased levels of penalties for offences of animal cruelty provided for under the Act will act as a deterrent to animal welfare abuses.

In view of the foregoing, I do not plan to prohibit the hunting of foxes.