Written Answers. - Fox Hunting.

Denis Naughten

Question:

57 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the plans, if any, he has to introduce a new licensing system for fox hunting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19898/98]

I have no plans to introduce a licensing system for fox hunting.

From a welfare perspective I have indicated that, while I am not disposed towards a ban on the sport of fox hunting, there were practices associated with the sport which caused me concern. I conveyed this concern to the bodies which represent organised fox hunting in Ireland. I was accordingly pleased to note that the Irish Hunting Association, which encompasses such bodies, announced in August last rules and procedures which will apply in particular to the practices of digging out, bolting and earthstopping. I regard this as a positive development and I have welcomed the fact that the fox hunting bodies have responded to my expressed concern in relation to such practices.

The rules and procedures will apply to all hunts which are members of the affiliated bodies of the lrish Hunting Association These include the lrish Masters of Foxhounds Association, the Irish Foot Harriers Association and the Irish Masters of Harriers Association. I have received specific written assurances on behalf of each of these bodies that they are committed to ensuring compliance with and enforcement of these measures and to imposing severe sanctions on anyone found not to have complied with them. I accept these assurances as having been given in good faith and have made clear the importance which I attach to ensuring that there is indeed full compliance by all concerned.