Hare coursing is cruel, but unlike bullfighting it is cowardly too

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The goring of several men in the Pamplona Bull run again highlights the barbarity of the practice, and the linked savagery of bull fighting, another so-called ‘tradition’ in Spain.

But we Irish shouldn’t be smug about the cruelty of other nations.

We have hare coursing here in the Republic in which sentient creatures every bit as susceptible to pain as bovines, are set up as live bait for pairs of salivating blood crazed dogs. As in bullfighting, hares are ill-treated for human amusement.

They are mauled, tossed about, or have their brittle bones broken as fans stand about cheering or marking their betting cards.

Unlike bullfighting, however, coursing fans don’t risk injury. They observe the fun from behind wire mesh as hares run for their lives. The only threat to their health would be a substantial loss to the bookies resulting in cardiac problems or if they happened to slip on the frosty ground and break a rib or two.

Nor is there an Irish equivalent of the Pamplona festival. A running of the hares would be a decidedly one- sided affair because these timid creatures would run in one direction only...away from the menacing human form that every hare dreads.

So, in addition to being cruel like bullfighting, hare coursing is also cowardly. A matador faces a bull. A bull runner risks death or injury.

I detest both excuses for “sport” and “tradition”, but I have even more contempt for those who subject the gentlest creature in our countryside to terror, trauma, injury or death for their risk-free twisted pleasure in the depths of an Irish winter.

John Fitzgerald, Co Kilkenny