Greyhounds are kept for two reasons: for racing on the track with a mechanical hare, and for coursing, in which wild hares are captured within an enclosure. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has detailed the extent of the injuries suffered by the hares through mauling and tossing and pinning to the ground and also injuries to the greyhounds. In my view it is incongruous and it does not make sense that people who own greyhounds, regardless of their views on coursing, must pay that registration fee to the coursing club. Coursing is illegal in many other jurisdictions, including Northern Ireland and Britain, Australia and New Zealand and most of continental Europe, yet coursing with live hares is carried on in this country, in spite of the fact that so many polls show that much of public opinion is against it. Why should a greyhound owner who is against coursing have to pay fees to the Irish Coursing Club to register and name a greyhound? It is known that Bord na gCon has financial difficulties and that the track industry is in trouble. I hope the review will make a recommendation and, if so, that the Minister will consider it favourably.
Simon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
We discussed coursing in the context of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill. I hope the Deputy will attend our animal welfare conference next Friday; I understand she has been invited to attend. If she has not received an invitation, I extend the invitation now.
We will consider the Indecon report on Bord na gCon and the greyhound industry, and if it makes recommendations in this area, I have an open mind about implementation and change. So far as I am concerned, there is nothing untouchable here. Regulation, inspection and enforcement in the operation of coursing and coursing clubs in recent years has changed and improved considerably. I am aware that a large body of people, including the Deputy, would like to see coursing banned. We had that discussion in the context of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill and we decided to take a different route. If the review makes recommendations for future adjustments and changes in that area, we will consider it.
Maureen O’Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
Our point is this: why can the mechanical hare, which is used in track racing, not be used in coursing so that live hares are not used and injured?