Hare coursing is “downright cruel” and should be banned, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports has said.
The sport involves greyhounds chasing hares and there are currently 89 registered clubs on the island of Ireland.
The Irish Coursing Club says it has been practised and enjoyed for centuries but opponents say it has no place in modern society.
“It’s stressful for the hares they’re terrorising,” Aideen Yourell of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports told The Pat Kenny Show.
“They’re taking hares out of the wild in nets and keeping them in compounds for weeks on end, using them for trials - which is trialling a young greyhound and using them on the day of coursing for three days of coursing.
“Running them up the field, using them as live bait in front of greyhounds where they risk injury and death.
“And it is happening that hares are still being injured, they’re being mauled, they’re being pinned to the ground and mauled - I’ve seen it happen.”
The sport is strictly regulated but Ms Yourell says that does not make the experience any less stressful for the hare.
“No amount of regulation, vets standing by, rangers from the national parks standing by is going to alleviate the stress, the terror and take the risk of injury away,” she said.
“They can’t stop cruelty happening… It’s downright cruel and, in fact, it’s a breach of the Animal Health and Welfare Act.”
Limerick TD Niall Collins says that he respects opponents of the sport but does not support a ban.
“I think it’s fair to say that it’s very well-regulated,” he said.
“There are a number of layers of regulation and - most importantly - the people who are involved in hare coursing are very dedicated to it.
“They want to see it succeed, they want to see coursing meetings run right, they want to see the industry regulated correctly and they’re very engaged in all of that.”
Deputy Collins also raised a concern that a ban on hare coursing could impact other sports as well.
“Where will they stop if they succeed in banning coursing?” he said.
“They will then move onto greyhound racing, they will then move onto horse racing.
“Is fishing on their agenda? Fox hunting is on their agenda. Will it stop at the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants that put food into our food chain?”
Main image: Hare coursing in Clonmel, Tipperary, 03-02-2013. Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images