Bad Hare Days Spawn Darker Shades of Green!
John Fitzgerald, 09.12.2008
Observations on the snares and pitfalls of
mounting protest campaigns on difficult animal welfare issues. Anyone taking up
a cause should be aware that it may carry a hefty price tag!
I am an Irish anti-blood sports campaigner and
my book Bad Hare Days is generating a lot of controversy, not unexpected given
the long running debate on the ethics of live hare coursing in Ireland. I can
accept criticism, but not the bullying and the blind unreasoning hatred that my
legitimate opposition to this so-called sport has elicited from some coursing
My book was NOT written to drive coursing fans wild, or to split families and
divide communities, as one critic has accused me of doing. I have received phone
calls from defenders of hare coursing threatening all manner of unpleasantness!
There is such a thing as the constitutional right to free speech. I have got
phone calls in the past week since the book went on sale telling what should be
done with me and people like me.
I set out simply to recount my own personal high profile involvement in the
Irish anti-hare coursing campaign.
I joined that campaign thirty years ago after witnessing scenes of cruelty in a
field where hares were being netted for coursing opened my eyes for the first
time to the downside of Ireland's "field sport" tradition.
I then determined to learn more about the peculiar form of "entertainment" that
passed for sport in parts of the Irish countryside. Nauseated by the spectacle
of hares being made to run for their lives from hyped up greyhounds, and by the
heart-rending cries of the hares as the dogs tore them apart, I joined the
campaign against blood sports.
I found that hare coursing was high on the list of activities that animal
welfare people wanted banned by law. This we sought to achieve by picketing
coursing events, letter writing on the subject, and lobbying politicians.
But I found that taking a strong public stand on a deeply emotive and
controversial issue almost always carries a price tag.
I, like many others who opposed the powerful vested interests and lobby groups
that promote and support hare coursing in Ireland, suffered at their hands. I
was assaulted at work, subjected to severe bullying and fired from my job with a
farmers Co-op for my anti-coursing and anti-hunting views.
I describe that in the book and it seems that some people now aren't happy with
that. Fine. We can disagree, but bullying I reject with the utter contempt it
always deserves. Bullying and democracy are opposites.
Hare coursing in Ireland has the backing of leading politicians and wealthy
business people. The pro-animal baiting lobby has enormous influence within the
corridors of power. This is why, despite being opposed by a majority of the
population (according to opinion polls), this sadistic practise continues to
shame our country.
But as far as simply holding and expressing one’s opinion on the subject is
concerned…I certainly wouldn't attempt to prevent a hunter or coursing fan from
writing his or her memoirs, so maybe they might respect the right of an "anti"
to tell his story?
Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Phone: 00 353 56 7725543
In Ireland the 'humble hare' has been the
subject of great controversy. After years of an abusive sport, which resulted in
its child-like death screams being heard regularly throughout Ireland, a result
was achieved. For those few dedicated people trying desperately to save the
gentle creature from the horrors of the cruel sport of hare coursing, the
struggle was painful and fought against great odds. The author writes about one
of the 'world's most barbaric blood sports' continuing during a deadly period
for the hares, the 1980s. His own peaceful and non-violent action and that of,
initially, a few others' did arouse the public and achieve what at first
appeared to be a hard-won benefit to the hare. But the hare's troubles were- and
are- far from over. Though it can no longer be torn apart by greyhounds, now
muzzled, it can still be mauled, injured, and tossed about like a rag doll on
the coursing field. In addition to highlighting the hare's sad plight, this is
also a campaigner's story. The author recounts vividly the ups and downs of his
own fight against cruelty. He paid a major price in suffering as a result of
being persecuted for his beliefs. The gentle hare, apart from its use and abuse
in coursing, has now become an endangered species in Ireland, and this book
reinforces its right to be protected.
The cruelty of blood sports