Dáil Éireann - Volume 324 - 20 November, 1980

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fox Hunting at Night.

5. Mr. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry whether he is aware of the danger to individuals and stock associated with fox hunting at night; and whether he has any proposals to restrict this practice which has grown and developed in recent years.

Mr. Lenihan: I am aware that the killing of foxes has increased in recent years because of the higher value being placed on their skin. The fox is not a protected animal under the Wildlife Act 1976. However, I am keeping the situation under review.

Section 44 of the Wildlife Act makes it an offence for any person to enter on lands without the permission of the owner or occupier for the purpose of hunting any wild bird or wild animal. It is also an offence to carry on the lands any weapon or device capable of being used for hunting and it is an offence to shoot into or over such lands. Anyone who has reason to believe that such an offence has been committed should report the matter to the local gardaié.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister aware of a growing tendency in recent years to engage, with new devices, in the killing of foxes by night? If so is he concerned at the dangers that might be associated with that practice in regard to life and limb and indeed also to livestock?

Mr. Lenihan: I share the Deputy's concern. Indeed under export regulations which we passed last year, Statutory Instrument 235 of 1979 made under the Wildlife Act, 1976, my permission is required for the export of skins, so that we now have a controlled situation in regard to the export of fox skins. The order came into operation on 7 August of last year. We can now control and monitor the situation. There are a number of options open to us. If it is necessary to protect fox stock — although strangely enough the Deputy and House may be [953] aware that years ago it was the reverse situation — appropriate action will be taken.

Mr. O'Keeffe: I should point out that it is not so much sympathy for the fox that motivates this question but the dangers associated with the practice of killing them at night. Is the Minister aware of any legislation at present on the Statute Book that would permit him to end or discourage this practice? I should make clear that my worry is that some tragedy might result from this type of activity.

Mr. Lenihan: It is an offence to enter on lands without the permission of the owner or occupier for the purpose of hunting any wild bird, bird or animal. It is an offence to carry on the land any weapon or device capable of being used for hunting. It is an offence to shoot into or over these lands. There are specific offences written into the Wild Life Act already in this respect.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Would the Minister indicate his disapproval of this practice because of the dangers that must necessarily be associated with it?

Mr. Lenihan: I share the Deputy's concern and I will bring the Deputy's views to the notice of my colleague in this regard. I share his concern from the point of view of the safety of the people or individuals concerned.

Mr. Donnellan: Is the Minister aware of the large population of badgers at present and would he care to make a statement on the position?

An Ceann Comhairle: We are getting away from foxes.

Mr. Donnellan: The two things are related.

Mr. Lenihan: They are. All nature is inter-related.

Mr. Donnellan: Would the Minister reply to the question in regard to badgers?

[954] Mr. Lenihan: I will have that matter investigated and I will communicate with the Deputy or ask my colleague to do so.

Mr. Donnellan: Is the Minister aware that these badgers are becoming a nuisance?

Mr. Lenihan: I know that. I am well aware of the upset to the balance of nature that is being caused in this respect. The increase in badger population is a cause of concern. I understand from supplementary information I have here that the Wild Life Council is looking into this aspect of the matter.