The Irish Coursing Club (ICC) announced a suspension with effect from 21 October 2020 of both parkland and open coursing events due to the Level 5 COVID - 19 restrictions. At that time I was aware that a number of coursing clubs had already captured hares on the basis of forthcoming coursing meetings which were subsequently suspended by the ICC.
Wild hares which are a protected species, are better off in the wild rather than being held in captivity in groups in confined enclosures. Accordingly, given that
- by 1 December hares would have been held in captivity for at least 6 weeks from the date of introduction of level 5 restrictions
- in many cases hares would already have been held in captivity for a number of weeks prior to the introduction of level 5 restrictions and
- it was not clear at what point after 1 December it might be possible for coursing to recommence in terms of animal welfare and the conservation of this protected species, my Department requested that coursing clubs would release captured hares back into the wild and the ICC agreed to do so.