Last September, the Animal Health and Welfare (Ban on Hare Coursing) Bill 2020 was put forward in the Dáil, by Paul Murphy TD. The bill seeks to end hare coursing in the Republic of Ireland. At a press conference outside the Dáil, TDs were joined by a number of animal rights and welfare organisations including the National Animal Rights Association, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports, the ISPCA , Not For Your Entertainment and Militant Left supporters.
What is hare coursing?
Hare coursing is a cruel and barbaric sport in which hares are terrorised, mauled and sometimes killed by greyhounds for the profit and entertainment of spectators. More than 5,000 hares are captured from the wild each year, confined in captivity and in close proximity to other hares (they are naturally solitary animals) and then chased by greyhounds that are 10 times their size. In the last four years, 75 hares have been reported as killed or euthanised following injuries. This is unacceptable cruelty.
The practice is legal in only three EU countries, including Ireland, and is banned in both Northern Ireland the UK. This is the third attempt to ban hare coursing, the previous bill was brought before the Dáil in 2016.
We are not naïve enough to believe that this government are any different now than they were in 2016 when they last voted against the ban. We do not think that they have suddenly become more compassionate. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are on record countless times supporting hare coursing. Enda Kenny, who was the Fine Gael Taoiseach when the 2016 bill was defeated, was seen giving the thumbs up to hare coursers who had been invited into the Dáil gallery. Sinn Fein continues to support this cruelty too, voting in favour of it at their most recent Ard Fhéis, despite numerous TDs talking out of both sides of their mouth on the issue. They are said to be reconsidering their stance at their next Ard Fhéis. The Green Party, who have always opposed the sport have now backtracked because they are in government with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, and are willing now to vote against the bill in a disgusting and compassionless U-Turn on policy.
Building on public support
However, with the correct pressure put on the establishment parties they can be forced to support this bill. We have already seen it happen twice, with bills to ban wild animals in circuses and ban fur farming being successful. These victories were not handed to us because the Irish government had a change of heart, it was because ordinary people got involved in the campaign, put pressure on the government and had a show of strength that frightened the government enough to grant us these concessions. In a recent poll by Red- C, 77% of the population have said they support a ban on hare coursing. This is the vast majority of the electorate, including in the rural constituencies that are regularly brought into the debate as pro hare coursing areas. We have seen the power of the working class in their ability to fight for change, like in the movements against austerity and the water charges, or in repealing the eighth amendment.
On a practical level, we need people to mobilise in support of this bill. Contacting local TD’s, attending protests, talking to others and convincing them to get involved will all be vital in ensuring that this bill passes.
Socialist change necessary
In order to achieve real gains for animals we need to look at changing society. While reforms can be won, they are hard fought for and we have a list the length of our arm on what we need next. The establishment may grant us certain things when they’re put under enough pressure, but capitalism is not willing or capable of truly ending cruelty to animals.
We support campaigns that will better the lives of animals in Ireland, but animal cruelty, particularly when profitable, is part of the capitalist system we live under. We must unite the fight for animal rights with the struggle for a socialist society and ensure animals wouldn’t be abused and exploited for profit or entertainment.