Dáil debates

Thursday, 18 October 2007

5:00 pm

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Dublin South East, Green Party)

I thank Deputy Gregory for raising this matter. Section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act 1976, as amended, provides that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government may grant to the master or other person in charge of a pack of stag hounds a licence authorising the hunting of deer by that pack during such period as specified in the licence. I know there are different views as to whether activities of the Ward Union Hunt are licensable, given that the deer owned by the hunt are considered domesticated animals. Accordingly, my Department obtained legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General which confirms the previous interpretation of section 26, to the effect that this section provides for the licensing of carted deer hunting irrespective of the status of the deer, wild or captive.

The Ward Union Hunt made an application to my Department in August 2007 for a licence under section 26 for the coming season. My Department wrote to the hunt on 10 September advising that I was considering not granting a licence to the hunt due to serious concerns relating to conservation and the protection of stags generally and failure to comply with previous licence conditions. I am aware that Deputy Gregory has attended hunt meetings as an observer. Officials of my Department then met with representatives of the Ward Union Hunt on 18 September and strong concerns put to the hunt representatives were discussed. Subsequently, the Ward Union Hunt responded by letter of 28 September.

I wish to see a number of issues clarified with the Ward Union Hunt and my Department will write to the hunt shortly. Following a further response from the hunt on these issues, I will be in a position to make a decision on the licence application.

Animal welfare and legal protection of animals from cruelty are the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The programme for Government includes a commitment to introduce a comprehensive animal welfare Bill, which will update existing legislation to ensure the welfare of animals is properly protected and penalties for offenders are increased significantly.

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