THE Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association is calling on mounted foxhound, foot harrier, and beagle hunts throughout the country, including County Tipperary, to ensure all members fully understand and respect the rights of landowners while they enjoy their sport.
Hunt organisations have traditionally enjoyed excellent relationships with farmers, but ICSA national sheep chair Paul Brady ICSA ssays members have expressed disappointment at a detectable change in attitude from a small minority of hunt members.
“This change in attitude can vary from mild disrespect to blatant intimidation in some cases. In one incident, foot harriers crossed land without permission and left a large flock of sheep in a distressed state. When challenged, the spokesman of the group dismissed the farmer’s concerns, saying they would “cross as they pleased.”
“In another case, foxhounds went into a field of pregnant mares, despite the fact that the hunt had been specifically requested not to enter.Two of these mares subsequently slipped foals. The mounted foxhunt in question failed to accept responsibility for the damage.
Mr Brady said: “Access to land on which to hunt is a privilege, not a right. Hunt organisations officially recognise the absolute right of farmers to say ‘No’, and I would be anxious that an unofficial policy of enter first and ask questions later does not creep into the ethos of various types of hunting.”
“It is a matter for individual hunts on how best to discipline the tiny minority of members who act in a maverick fashion, but perhaps the sanction of refusing subscription fees from those who continuously disrespect farmers’ rights should be an option. Ultimately it is in the interests of the hunts themselves to ensure that the rights of farmers are fully understood and respected at all times.”
Mr Brady concluded: “ICSA is keen to preserve the traditional excellent understanding between farmers and landowners on one side, and hunt groups on the other. Perhaps it would be useful for hunting organisations to appoint regional liaison officers to mediate when problems arise, which are possibly complicated by personality clashes on a local level.”