By Oisín Cusack
A petition started by the Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) to ban hare coursing has obtained over 140,000 signatures.
There are 89 clubs across the country involved in the activity.
There are two coursing clubs in Galway based in Oranmore and Loughrea.
Aideen Yourell, a spokesperson for ICABS was pleased at the milestone but also recognised their goal had not yet been reached.
“We want to get people to support our cause and urge their local TD’s to do the same. Hare coursing is barbarism and it should have been banned years ago,” she said.
Hare coursing is currently illegal in Northern Ireland, the UK and across Europe, however, in Ireland the practice is still permitted. Hares are a protected species in Ireland.
“We are the last ones apart from Spain to outlaw it but Spain have a terrible reputation for treating animals poorly just look at bullfighting.”
“They think they have a God given right to go out in the wild and trap hares and then use them as live bait for their own entertainment,” she said.
Ms Yourell is astonished that hare coursing has not been banned.
“It’s a surreal experience. Not every hare is killed but some are pinned down by the dogs and torn to shreds. You are watching it and thinking, what year is this, what planet am I living on if this is being allowed,” she said.
The coursing community has defended the sport against such accusations by claiming the objective of hare coursing is to test the athletic abilities of the dog instead of killing the hare.
Irish coursing clubs have also used muzzles since 1993 on their dogs and the community believe this sets them apart from illegal hunters.
A request was made to the Irish Coursing Club (ICC) to comment on the petition but none was forthcoming.
In 2016, a Bill to outlaw hare coursing in Ireland was defeated but there is another bill due before the Dáil later this year to achieve the same aim.