The hare is protected under national and EU law. Yet, 60,000 hares were legally captured between 2009 and 2021 for use in the coursing industry where they are chased by trained greyhounds.
Calls have grown in recent years for coursing to be banned in Ireland - one of only three EU countries where it remains legal - due to concerns over the species’ welfare.
Animal rights groups argue the wild hares are stored in poor conditions and trained in close confines, a stressful experience for the solitary creature, before being released, chased and sometimes caught by greyhounds.
While the hares are released after the events, concerns have been raised that they do not all survive the return to the wild. In 2020, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) started research into the survival and behaviour of hares released after coursing.
Hares can also die at events through stress or from injuries inflicted if caught by greyhounds. For example, three hares died on the first day of an event in October 2021.
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to investigate the key animal welfare concerns raised about the industry, the scale of deaths and injuries suffered by hares and find out if the industry is respecting the legal requirements in capturing, using and releasing wild Irish hares.
Since the 1990s there have been several failed attempts to ban hare coursing and the Green Party recently pushed unsuccessfully for a ban in the Programme for Government. Using Freedom of Information, we want to examine the key lobbying powers pushing back against any ban.
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