Hunting and coursing targets and depletes fragile local populations of hares with serious consequences for the population as a whole. The impact of these activities goes beyond the individual animals caught or killed, and must be viewed as a threat to the species. Despite their decline in numbers, hares are regarded as a quarry species throughout Ireland. In the Republic of Ireland, hunting and coursing are promoted as a sector within the tourist industry and attracts visitors from Britain and Europe. Support the campaign to ban coursing in Ireland
It is a criminal offence to trap, net or possess live hares AT ANY TIME without a licence. It is also a criminal offence to take hares by any means during the closed season (1st February -11th August In Northern Ireland & 1st March - 25th September in Irish Republic)
Around 7,000-10,000 hares are caught each year in Ireland for enclosed (or park) coursing. This pastime was introduced to Ireland in 1813 by the British army and its rules date from the time of the Elizabeth I. This is the practice of taking hares from the wild and coursing them with dogs within an enclosed area from which the hares cannot escape. In Ireland hares are caught, using nets, under licence from the relevant government department. The hares are then packed into shallow crates and transported to an enclosed paddock where they are ‘trained’ to run in a predetermined direction. The hares may be held captive in unnatural conditions for up to 8 weeks in advance of the coursing event.
On the day of the event, each hare is released into the paddock and pursued by two muzzled dogs. The hare cannot escape from the enclosure although there is a small zone at the ‘finish’ end of the paddock that the dogs cannot enter (the ‘escape’). However, this offers no real escape nor does it constitute a safe area for the hare as it can still see, hear and smell the predators in close proximity. The pursuit continues until the hare reaches and remains in the ‘escape’, both dogs are restrained or the hare is killed or injured. All coursing in Ireland takes place under the rules of the Irish Coursing Club, the sport’s governing body.
Although dogs have been muzzled since 1993, many hares die as a result of coursing. A hare’s anatomy is not robust, and fatal injuries continue to be inflicted by physical contact with the dogs. It is a matter of record that pregnant hares are caught for coursing, along with nursing mothers whose leverets are left to die from starvation in the wild. Significant numbers of hare deaths from stress-related illness (capture myopathy) while held in coursing