Cruel sports in Northern Ireland The League has a strong presence in Northern Ireland, the one place in the UK where hunting with dogs is still legal. We work closely with MLAs from all parties to highlight animal welfare abuses in Northern Ireland, and were delighted when in 2015 the maximum sentence for animal cruelty was increased to five years imprisonment. Northern Ireland is now leading the way in the UK when it comes to punishing those guilty of animal cruelty – but there is still a lot more to be done. Hunting in Northern Ireland Sadly, Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom without a ban on hunting with dogs, which includes fox hunting, deer hunting and hare hunting. However, we do have support from MLAs of all parties for a ban on the ‘sport’, and will continue to work towards that within the Northern Ireland Assembly. However, under the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act, hare coursing has been banned since 2011 after determined campaigning by the League. It is now an offence to organise, participate, or attend a hare coursing event. We continue to work with MLAs and local councillors to highlight not only the cruelty of hunting for the quarry, but also the damaging effect it has on rural communities, in particular ‘hunt havoc’, when the hunt and hounds cause problems on the land on which they hunt, such as chasing livestock or pets or causing traffic chaos. Help Ban Hunting in NI Dog fighting in Northern Ireland Despite the failure to introduce a ban on fox hunting, Northern Ireland has led the way in tackling other forms of animal cruelty. In March 2014, three men were given suspended sentences despite being involved in what was described as one of the “vilest examples of premeditated abuse” of animals, when they set dogs on badgers, cats, and other dogs. The public and political outcry that followed, as well as lobbying from the League and others, led to the Justice Act 2015, which increased the maximum sentence for animal cruelty to five years imprisonment, and included provision for unduly lenient sentences to be appealed. Despite these successes, the League continues to work to raise awareness of animal cruelty across Northern Ireland, and that these new maximum sentences are used by judges where appropriate. Snaring in Northern Ireland As in other parts of the UK, we continue to press for a full ban on the sale, manufacture, and use of snares in Northern Ireland. The League believes snaring is a cruel, indiscriminate, ineffective and outdated method of predator control. The League believes that regulation is not working, is ineffective in addressing animal welfare concerns and the only way to address this is to completely ban the manufacture, sale and use of all snares. An undercover investigation 'Tightening the noose' was carried out by the League in Northern Ireland in early 2010 into the use of snares on key shooting estates. It found mass breaches of the code of conduct which informally regulates the practice of snaring. The League found snares set with ‘no stops’ as well as snares set over water courses and attached to drag poles, all of which contravene industry guidelines. In December 2015, the then-Environment Minister Mark H Durkan introduced legislation, which would have seen the same kind of ineffective regulation that is currently in place in England and Wales. The League and our supporters lobbied the Minister to withdraw the legislation, and introduce a full ban. While the lobby was successful, and the legislation withdrawn, Assembly elections prevented any further move towards a ban. In October 2016, it was announced that the same Snares Order would be re-introduced. Despite opposition from several MLAs, the Assembly’s Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Committee passed the regulation. We are working with MLAS from all parties to press the case for a ban, and ensure that Northern Ireland does not fall behind when it comes to animal welfare. Another League investigation into snaring in Northern Ireland in 2016 discovered more shocking evidence of animal suffering, as can be seen in our video Snare Horror Exposed. Badger Baiting in Northern Ireland Badgers and their setts are protected by law throughout Ireland and Great Britain. However, despite this, they are often persecuted by cruel individuals intent on killing these beautiful animals for their own pleasure. Badger baiting is a bloodsport in which people set dogs on badgers. A baiting session typically results in the death of the badger, and often serious injuries to the dogs as well. This horrendous activity is particularly prevalent in Northern Ireland and therefore the League Against Cruel Sports has highlighted it as one of our regional campaigns. HOW CAN I HELP? Why not join our Northern Ireland supporter group and get active with other like minded people? To find out more, get in touch!