I am more interested in the Minister's views and his policy on this issue than those of the Irish Coursing Club, about which I am well aware. Does the Minister agree that the introduction, even on a pilot phase, of drag coursing, which uses a lure rather than a live animal, would be a step forward and a more humane alternative to the current practice of traumatising timid wild animals — hares — and subjecting them to the cruel and terrorising practice of greyhounds being set upon them? What is the Minister's view on the introduction of drag coursing and would he see it as a more humane alternative? Does he agree that a tiny minority of die-hard coursing people are resisting change and a more humane practice? As the Minister well knows, these are the same people who resisted the introduction of muzzling, which had to be forced on them.
I dislike posing this question under the heading of "sport" because I do not regard the terrorising or infliction of cruelty on animals as sport. Is it not part of our appalling record in animal welfare that we allow the practice of enclosed hare coursing as well as the use of packs of hounds to hunt domesticated tame deer, as practised by the Ward Union Hunt? Moreover, other activities have been exposed recently which would not be tolerated in other EU countries, such as puppy farming and the new development of fur farming in which Arctic foxes are farmed for their fur and subjected to horrific deaths.
Does the Minister agree that, due to the activities of a small minority, we unfortunately have a dismal and appalling record in animal welfare and does he further agree that the continuation of such a medieval, archaic and anachronistic activity as hare coursing is part of that culture of cruelty? What are the Minister's views on these issues because they are important and, if the Government does not deal with them, action will be forced on us by the European Community.