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Ulster hare hunting ban

A ‘TEMPORARY’ ban on the hunting of hares in Northern Ireland was last week forced through by direct rule Northern Ireland Environment Minister Angela Smith.

The ban, which forbids all forms of hunting of hares, including coursing, beagling, foot harriers and mounted packs will come into effect on January 19. Minister Smith, who first mooted the ‘temporary ban’ in November and then pushed the ban through Government two weeks ago, is a former employee of the League Against Cruel Sport.

Her logic behind the ban is seen not to be one in support of conservation, but rather personal opposition to hunting. Ronan Gorman, chief executive of Countryside Alliance Ireland, and hunt supporters throughout Northern Ireland, are outraged over the decision to ban the hunting of hares, especially as Ms.Smith forced the ban through without consultation or evidence to prove a serious decline in hares.

When Ms. Smith announced her intention to introduce the ban six weeks ago pro-hunt campaigners voiced their objection by submitting over 13,000 letters. A protest was also held outside Government buildings, however Ms.Smith, despite earlier saying she was open to consultation, ignored all their pleas. Hunting groups within Northern Ireland are now gathering together to challenge the decision, but in the meantime intend to carry out hunting as normal until the Order is announced in early January.

In statement released just before Christmas, Ronan Gorman said: "Angela Smith 's actions have united Ireland's country sports communities. There is a dangerous principle at stake and the wider country sports community is concerned that if a Government Minister can force through legislation to ban one aspect of country sports without consultation there are no guarantees that one would not do the same to other country sports."

The Hunting Association of Ireland, which represent six organisations, has pledged support for hunting packs in Northern Ireland, of which 30 involve harriers, and have issued a statement in light of the Minister's announcement. "Hunting, coursing and racing groups governed by Irish organisations and the HAI believe that where the decision on issues where wildlife and conservation is concerned, co-operation and proper evaluation are essential."

The Hunting Association of Ireland has called for an emergency meeting on January 5.