The Irish Council Against Blood Sports (ICABS) have not only complained to Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy, about what they deem as a “grotesque blessing”, but have also tweeted Pope Francis about the matter. In their message to the Vatican, ICABS asks the Pontiff to “act to stop clergy involvement in Ireland’s cruel hare coursing”.
In a letter to Bishop Leahy, the animal rights group pointed out that the blessing at Glin Coursing Club’s new grounds is in direct contravention of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly states that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer and die needlessly.”
“We also pointed to the part of the Catechism which says that ‘animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness’,” explained Aideen Yourell of ICABS.
“The blessing of a hare coursing field by a Catholic priest is a gross misuse of a blessing and should not be permitted in your diocese,” ICABS stated in a message to Bishop Leahy,” she added.
According to ICABS, the hares used at Glin coursing meeting were trapped from the wild in nets, kept captive in compounds and on the days of coursing, used as bait to run before two greyhounds. They allege that hares that are struck by the dogs can be mauled and severely injured, resulting in death.
“This priest should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, giving his blessing and that of the Catholic church to this barbarity. It is even more inappropriate, given the fact that this coursing meeting took place last weekend, which not only coincided with World Animal Week but also with the feast day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals,” she concluded.
Limerick founder of the Animal Rights Action Network, John Carmody, was equally appalled.
“We’ve documented many cases of Irish Catholic priests blessing fox hunts and other forms of animal abuse in the past. I can’t think of a single case of where the Irish church has done anything positive to promote animal welfare, if they were to do so it would send a very strong message out about kindness towards animals,” said Mr Carmody.
“But instead they bless those responsible for blatant animal suffering, and there’s nothing holy and godly about that. Not only do they deny LGBT people the basic rights other straight people have, but now they are adding insult to injury with these immoral blessings. The Irish church has a lot to answer for,” he fumed.
In response a Diocesan spokesperson commented, “We have discussed the matter raised by an anti-blood sport group with the retired priest who performed this blessing of the venue for its safe use by all patrons. Coursing is an integral part of life for many in Glin and surrounding areas and the recent opening of the new venue was a significant day for the local community, which funded and developed the facility, while the meet itself attracted over 1,500 people to the parish over two days.”
“We are, of course, very cognisant of the concerns of anti-blood sports groups and to that end have been reassured by communication we had with the Irish Coursing Club, which stressed to us that coursing operates under licence and that, in accordance with this, robust animal welfare practises applied on the weekend in question at Glin, as it does at all their events.”