The Ward Union Hunt Club notes that the Government has approved the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2010. This is the Bill to give effect to the ban on this Hunt contained in the Renegotiated Programme for Government concluded last year by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.
According to media reports, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has cited two reasons for introducing the Bill. Neither of them stands up to scrutiny.
Public safety: The Minister has focussed unduly on no more than two or three incidents that occurred out of more than 400 hunts conducted over the last ten years. At the same time, the Minister is taking no action to tackle the real public safety issue of motorists colliding with scores of deer on major thoroughfares each year, including the Phoenix Park in Dublin.
The Ward Union Hunt has implemented a wide range of health and safety measures in recent years and we are willing to see what further measures can be identified in discussions with the Minister’s Department, the Garda Síochána and the Road Safety Authority. Banning the hunt in order to address concerns over public safety is an excessive and unfair response.
Animal welfare: Over recent years, each hunt conducted by the Ward Union has closely monitored by Government inspectors and their reports have not identified animal welfare issues. Veterinarians from the Department of Agriculture and Food conducted a major study of every deer hunted during the 1997/98 Seasons and reported that the health of the deer did not appear to be affected in either the short or the long term after hunting.
Government approval of the Bill is no more than a necessary step towards implementing the commitment in the Renegotiated Programme for Government. There is a long way to go yet and the Minister has many legislative and political hurdles to overcome before he might be in a position to enact the legislation.
We will be vigorously resisting this legislative proposal at every step. We will consult with our professional advisers to see what avenues are open to us.
We welcome the statement by Fine Gael that they oppose the Bill and will – if it is enacted – repeal it if they are in Government. We call on other political parties to give a similar commitment. In particular, we believe that Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators should not allow themselves to be sleepwalked into supporting a Bill that is a first step towards destroying our rural pastimes.
We do not stand alone. The Ward Union Hunt is a driving force in the RISE! Rural Ireland Says Enough! campaign that was formed last January by the Hunting Association of Ireland and FACE Ireland to promote and defend all our traditional rural sports. The campaign is continuing to marshal considerable public and political support for its objectives. This is helping our cause enormously and we are confident that we will ultimately be successful.