"Slippery slope" – Michael Healy-Rae says banning hare coursing would do more harm than good
"There is nothing whatsoever wrong with it."
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has argued in favour of the continued practice of hare coursing in Ireland, putting forward the argument that it's actually quite humane.
Animal rights activists have reacted strongly to the granting of a licence for hare coursing to carry on into 2023, calling for an outright ban throughout the country.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast on Wednesday, Aideen Yourell of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) criticised the existence of hare coursing in Ireland as "absolutely barbaric in this day and age".
On the other side of the argument – Michael Healy-Rae, who responded by painting a very different, much more serene picture.
"First of all, very high standards are set by the ICC [Irish Coursing Club]. All of the different clubs throughout the country operate to the highest standards. There are vets present at all times. There are veterinary inspections of the hares before and afterwards.
"And I would actually argue that if hare coursing was taken out of Ireland tomorrow, we would actually see a decline in the population of hares in the country," Healy-Rae added before explaining that hares are "cared for" before being let back out into the wild where they can survive without being subject to natural predators.
"The actual population of hares in Ireland is kept increased because of hare coursing in Ireland," said Healy-Rae.
"The hares are treated properly at all times, there are very high standards, they operate to the highest standard, it's a legal practice."
Challenged on this by Yourell, who said that no amount of high standards and practices can be expected to counter the "stress and terror" experienced by hares who have to race in front of greyhounds – "High standards for cruelty? There's no such thing." – Healy-Rae said he welcomed the opposing viewpoint, while offering up a fresh one of his own.
"Remember, we have people in Ireland today who actually would condemn people who go to the races and horse racing because they actually think that that's wrong," he began.
"So, if we go down the slippery slope of banning hare coursing, the next thing they would say is that our race courses should shut down. The next thing they would say is we shouldn't produce animals for export because we actually shouldn't produce animals to kill them, to eat them.
"These are the realities of living," Healy-Rae continued. "These are things that happen and if they are done to a high standard and if the animal is protected, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with it."
Healy-Rae went on to dismiss instances of hares being mauled by greyhounds, insisting that such an occurrence marks an "exception" to the norm and that accidents can happen on a regular basis in life.
Featured Image of Michael Healy-Rae via Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie