It's 'beyond time' to ban the practice of hare coursing, a Dublin TD has said.
A bill to ban the practice - which involves hares being chased by greyhounds - is being launched today by RISE TD Paul Murphy and animal rights groups.
Under the proposals, anyone who engages in the practice could face a fine of up to €1,000 or a jail term of six months.
Similar bills have been introduced in the past - initially in the 1990s, and again in 2016 - but Deputy Murphy said this bill comes in the wake of 'big victories' against fur farming and the use of wild animals in circus.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said 75 hares have died in the last four years.
He argued: "It's beyond time for Ireland to ban hare coursing - we're one of only three countries in the EU that hasn't moved to ban it. It's even banned in the North of Ireland.
"Hare coursing is a really cruel and barbaric practice. Every year, over 5,000 hares are captured in the wild... they are held in captivity, in very close confinement to each other when they're solitary creatures... they're trained in which way to run... and then they're coursed.
"They're released down a track, they run, and they're chased by two dogs which are ten times their size."
Deputy Murphy said the dogs are often hit by the dogs, or thrown in the air - with some hares dying or suffering very serious injuries.
He suggested: "In this day and age, we should not have such a sport happening."
He said fewer hares have died since muzzles have been put on the dogs, but hundreds of the animals have been pinned to the ground and suffered serious injuries.
'I don't agree it's cruel'
Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae, meanwhile, says he doesn't believe with Deputy Murphy's claim that coursing is a cruel practice.
He said: "I was brought up to love and care for hares... I know where they are in our farm.
"These people that are involved in hare coursing have to get permission from the farmers or land owners to net the hares... one of the understandings is they have to bring back the hares again.
"That always happens, and if it didn't happen one year they wouldn't be allowed go in the next year.
"There are people right around [Kerry] who are spending thousands of euros on this sport... they have been doing it for generations. They certainly care for the hare, and love them as much as they ever could."
Deputy Murphy said he doesn't doubt Deputy Healy-Rae's love for hares, but suggested that coursing is a "funny way of showing love for something".