Hare Today… Gone Tomorrow?

I recently received an e-mail about a new book that aims to bring attention to the subject of ‘hare coursing’, a vicious blood-sport whose innocent-sounding name belies the horrific nature of the activity. 

“Hare coursing consists of terrorizing hares (better known as Jack Rabbits in North America) by setting trained and ‘blooded*’ greyhounds in pursuit of them in a large, wired-off enclosure… The so-called ‘sport’ revolves around forcing captive hares to run for their lives in the enclosures, each hare being pursued by two greyhounds.”

* Coursing clubs scour the countryside in search of hares for their baiting sessions, using large nets to capture the animals. Many hares are injured while being netted, which makes them unsuitable for coursing. These injured hares are commonly used in a training method called ‘blooding’, a viciously cruel practice in which hares and rabbits, and occasionally cats, are fed live to greyhounds to give them a taste for blood.

The above quote is an excerpt from ‘Ban Hare Coursing’, a website produced by John Fitzgerald, a free-lance journalist and writer from Ireland who authored the book, ‘Bad Hare Days’. Fitzgerald has been involved in Ireland’s anti-hare coursing movement for almost thirty years.

A review of Fitzgerald’s book contains the following excerpt: 

“In Ireland the ‘humble hare’ has been the subject of great controversy. After years of an abusive sport, which resulted in its child-like death screams being heard regularly throughout Ireland, a result was achieved… But the hare’s troubles were – and are – far from over. Though it can no longer be torn apart by greyhounds, now muzzled, it can still be mauled, injured, and tossed about like a rag doll on the coursing field… The gentle hare… has now become an endangered species in Ireland, and this book reinforces its right to be protected.”

Hare coursing is not restricted to Ireland though. According to Wikipedia,

“Since 2005, hare coursing has been banned in [England] but continues elsewhere in the world as a regulated and judged, competitive sport, especially in Ireland and Spain, as well as in Russia and the Western United States… Until the 1970s, there was a dearth of scientific evidence on the welfare impact of coursing. The first thorough study was carried out in 1977–79 by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), albeit that it said that it was ‘not easy to draw conclusions from these reports’”

Not easy to draw conclusions from these reports? What reports does one need to come to the conclusion that this barbaric practice serves no necessary purpose and should be outlawed due to its cruelty alone?

“Though the dogs at official coursing events are muzzled, they still routinely kill or injure the hares. It is a regular sight to see hares being tossed into the air by the competing dogs. Because it is a brittle boned creature, the hare cannot recover from the wounds and bone breakages inflicted. At pre-coursing ‘trials’ (dress rehearsals for the official events) at which no rules apply and the public is kept away, un-muzzled greyhounds are unleashed against hares, resulting in live tug-of-war spectacles in which the animals are literally torn asunder.”

According to Fitzgerald, there are seventy-eight coursing clubs in Ireland, and approximately 10,000 hares are coursed each year. Seventy-five percent of the Irish people oppose hare coursing and want it banned, as has already occurred in Britain. However, not only does it continue, but clubs actually promote hare coursing as a ‘tourist attraction’.

As stated on the Ban Hare Coursing website, “Gamblers, greyhound owners, hunters, and other coursing fans laugh and applaud as the hares are forced to perform for their amusement.”

As horrific as this is, it is only one of many signs that indicate how horribly confused we are about what animals really are. One reader recently sent me a comment blatantly stating her belief that ‘animals are here to be used’. This is a very common attitude toward non-human animals, but as far as I’m concerned, it is the exact opposite of the truth.

I was contemplating this prejudice this morning while I was out on the deck, watching our little rescued rabbit, Poof, hopping around, doing his thing. I’m sure that wild hares are quite different to this fluffy little guy, but I imagine they’re probably pretty similar inside. Poof runs around us in circles and does twirls in the air when he’s excited. He loves his daily treats – a handful of oats puts him in absolute bliss, and a tiny spoonful of papaya-banana smoothie takes him to nirvana. Poof’s previous owners, neighbors of ours, couldn’t possibly know these things about him. If they did, perhaps they would have thought twice about taking him to the pound when they finally moved. 

Our previous rabbit friend, Dapper, was rescued from a tiny cage that was hanging on a forty-five degree angle, in the middle of a junkyard. When we let him inside the house to play, Dapper used to run straight into the kitchen. Sometimes he was so excited to get to the fridge that he skated across the shiny tile floor like Bambi’s Thumper on the frozen pond.

There is no doubt in my mind that animals want and deserve not just to live, but to enjoy their lives, free from the persecution of their most vicious enemy – humans. This is not just true for Poof or Dapper, but for every rabbit and hare, as well as every other sentient being. 

If animals are meant to be used by humans for any reason at all, it would only be for the purpose of our learning how to love, by learning how to see them clearly. Many people have no problem understanding this in relation to their dogs or cats, or other animals who our society considers ‘pets’. But these same people are unwilling to acknowledge that the same is true with other animals, including the ones we currently use for ‘sport’ or food.

When we insist on using animals for food, entertainment, clothing, or any other purpose, we have no choice but to keep these animals at an emotional distance. A change in diet, along with other simple lifestyle changes, makes such cold-heartedness unnecessary, and we are able to allow all animals into our circle of compassion. This makes it possible for us to see their loveable qualities, which can enrich our lives in ways that are deeply healing.

If we are simply willing to break through our prejudice and see animals as they really are, we have an opportunity to learn how to love life itself, because it is through the magnificence and mystery of our fellow animals that we can connect with the wonders of the natural world and the mysterious forces of creation that have blessed us with such wonderful friends and teachers.

I strongly believe the day will come when humankind will break through the delusion we are currently under, in relation to animals. It will happen one step at a time, with one person at a time recognizing that just like little Poof, and just like dogs and cats, all animals are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.



Image: Irish Council Against Blood Sports


Irene M.
Irene M7 years ago

Please sign this petition.


charlotte b.
charlotte b8 years ago

I totally agree with this article! I beleive that animals are here to be love and cherished by us and respected at all times. I love animals forever.

Cathy W.
Cathy Wilde8 years ago


Here in Ireland we have been protesting and campaigning to have Hare coursing banned for many years. There is to be a rally in Dublin soon outside the Minister for Environment's Office (He happens to belong to the Green Party) please go to www.aran.ie or www.icabs.ie for further details, and I hope everyone signs the petition!

Denise Tankha
Vijay Tankha8 years ago

Who gave man the right to hurt, hunt or sport with animals. Its a sign of his innate arrogance that makes him think he is superior. Maybe the Bible should have kept quiet about man being made in the image of God!

Lynda Caines
Lynda Caines8 years ago

Torture to the hare, and what happens to the greyhounds when they are no longer fast enough?

darla h.
darla h8 years ago

It amazes me,how inhumane ways are passed by law and others not.To me inhumane is for all,who inflict unessary pain on anything or human life.Just because the law accepts it,doesn't make it right! So who are the terrorist? These kind of people,who can do this inhumane crap and condone it are a waste of human life! We should put an end to this and all animal sports and enforce the law and encourage compassion for our kids today,instead of teaching them to be mean and kill is ok.

Debra H.
Deb H8 years ago

Thanks, Angel. Personally, I'm coming from the approach of doing something FOR 'your' animal, not in the context of using them/it as a means for something where they/it would end up being used for human-based 'entertainment' gain.

Someone else had mentioned "lure coursing" in another discussion & so I like to be as informed as possible about whatever the topic may be. It strikes ME that those who would label an activity with their dog as something with obvious links to blood sports training, may not be simply playing with their dog, or they'd just be CALLING it general "playing." Hence, my suspicions about this supposedly benign-sounding activity.

I agree that animals are not here to be used, but to be loved (even catered to, depending) and learned from. IF they happen to really enjoy some activity, one still has to be very careful & discerning as to whether they TRULY enjoy it, or not, AND not to force them into 'performing' anything. Unless it's for their own safety considerations (e.g. kind & respectful training for some basics, such as "stay, come, down, etc....& yes, even for cats, if they'll willingly agree to it; mine did, usually), if they don't really love the activity &/or it promotes something that's not peaceful, or puts them or another creature at certain or unreasonable risk, it shouldn't be forced upon them. If it's not for THEIR true welfare, it's not right.

Hope that makes it clearer why I was asking.

Angel Flinn
Angel Flinn8 years ago

Hi Debra,

I don't know what John Fitzgerald thinks about other animal use in entertainment. I know he is opposed to all blood sports, however.

I am staunchly opposed to any animal use whatsoever, as I believe I made clear in my article. I think that it is a fundamental flaw in the fabric of our society that we believe animals are here for us to use.

For more information, please visit my Care2 group, The Vegan Solution.

Debra H.
Deb H8 years ago

Angel, do you happen to know what the author's opinions are about "lure coursing" alone, i.e. using inanimate objects, not live animals? I wouldn't THINK that was bad by itself, & could be likened to playing with one's animal with toys on strings or the like, but I may be missing some finer point that hasn't occurred to me.

Debra H.
Deb H8 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly, Judy. (I'd somehow missed that 'okay' to 'regular' racing) People have to start looking further into any one issue to find out EVERYTHING it might (& usually does) involve for the animals at stake, rather than ONLY considering what it looks like on the surface. These issues almost always hurt animals in one way or another, once you dig a little deeper. But most people, in my experience, simply prefer to "lalalalalalalala" their way into denial, directly because it DOES hurt to think about it or know what goes on, and they, too, wish to avoid any type of pain, just like the animals do. So instead of facing the hurt that the animals are FORCED to feel, & then make lifestyle changes &/or attitude changes that would actually HELP the animals, they just say, "I don't WANT to know!" What's unspoken is the thought that "I imagine it's too horrible to allow entrance into my mind."

Putting yourself in their shoes/paws & trying to practice The Golden Rule is a good way to approach all such things in this world.

Like Angel, I too believe the world paradigm (& so its thinking) will change, but my heart cries for all the dear & precious souls in animal bodies who will suffer so greatly until that time comes. My dream would see ALL harmful forms of using animals for mankind's own ends come to an end, but I'm sure mankind (another oxymoron!) will debate what's "harmful" for as long as it can, to delay having to make those changes.