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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Protest against hare coursing
Hare is chased by two dogs
Opponents claim hare-coursing is inhumane

Campaigners against hare coursing have called for an end to the practice during a protest in County Tyrone on Saturday.

The League Against Cruel Sports took its campaign to Dungannon to coincide with the main meeting of the Dungannon Coursing Club.

Northern Ireland-based supporters of the league have been protesting in the town centre against what they said was the "cruelty still inflicted on the native Irish hare in the name of sport".

The protest has been taking place at the war memorial in the town.

League Against Cruel Sports chief executive Douglas Batchelor said: "The latest poll shows that 74% of people across Northern Ireland want to see an end to hare coursing.

"By protesting in Dungannon on the day of the coursing club meet, we are letting those people who take part in this bloodsport know that their barbaric pastime must stop."

The protest comes less than two weeks after a row erupted over the refusal of a Stormont minister to grant the Dungannon club a permit to net the animals for its meeting.

Stormont Environment Minister Angela Smith, who campaigned against blood sports in the past, said her personal views played no part in her decision to refuse the license.

Protected species

She said further measures were planned to protect the hare population, preventing them being taken or killed.

Ms Smith said she had made her decision because the Irish hare was in danger.

She said the DoE had commissioned a review of the Wildlife (NI) Order 1985 which will examine the recommendation that the Irish hare should be included in a list of species which are protected at all times from being killed or taken.

But Dungannon Coursing Club was angered by the decision and said it could take legal action.

A spokesperson said the decision was an "outrageous display of personal prejudice and arrogance by a blow-in minister".

The Countryside Alliance, a country sports group, also reacted angrily.




SEE ALSO:
Row over hare permit
14 Oct 03  |  Northern Ireland
In pictures: Hare coursing
28 Feb 02  |  UK
Protest at hare coursing cup
26 Feb 02  |  England


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