As the issue of blood-sports and hunting came to the forefront of public conscience this Christmas, Tomás Heneghan examines the difference between the justified hunting of animals and blood sports.
This Christmas the issue of blood-sports and hunting came to the front of public conscience, as it appears to do each December. This year the issue of animal rights was linked by some with the recent Benjy the gay bull fiasco, which made a mockery of both Ireland’s animal rights and LGBTQ movements. To understand the issue of blood-sports however we must first distinguish between justified and unjustified hunting and killing of other animals.
 
Much like the legal system in Ireland, the justification for the killing of another being turns on intention. In legal terms it is known as the mens rea of an act and this is key to understanding the issue of hunting. Justified hunting must include the central aim of eating the animal and the use of it for survival or nutrition. In this, it is much like the farming of animals. The killing must also be quick and as painless for the animal as realistically possible.
 
Unjustified hunting, otherwise termed blood-sports, involves something more deviant and psychologically disturbed. This form of hunting holds the aim of torture of the animal for as lengthy a period as possible. There is no central aim to eat the animal - whether this becomes a side-effect or not is then irrelevant. The more disturbing and unsettling aspect is then that the individual partaking in the acts takes pleasure and enjoyment from the torture and killing of the animal.
 
The Stephen’s Day Hunt, as it is commonly known, is an exercise in senseless torture often in the name of tradition. Some would have the public believe it is a rural sport and that acts to curtail the Hunt are attacks on rural dwellers solely from Dubliners and city dwellers who merely fail to understand countryside traditions. In recent years Mattie McGrath, TD for Tipperary South, was one such individual to utter such sentiments when denouncing Clare Daly’s efforts to have animal rights legally protected.
 
However individuals such as Deputy McGrath fail to understand that there are many rural dwellers who not only refuse to partake in blood-sports, but also actively oppose such acts. We, the humane rural dwellers, support the efforts of Deputy Daly and all politicians who would protect animal rights in law, from the outlawing of the mistreatment of household pets to placing a full ban on hunting for “sport” with lengthy prison terms and hefty fines for those who would break such restrictions.
 
It is no coincidence that the act of torturing an animal for enjoyment is in fact an indicator of various psychological disorders, including antisocial personality disorder. Other indicators of this disorder in particular include emotional aggression and a lack of remorse and the disorder is often found within serial killers, serial rapists and serial rapist-killers.
 
In 2010, with pressure from the Green Party, the Government of the day introduced restrictions on stag hunting. This was to great dismay amongst animal torturers and their representative bodies. In the remaining term of the current Fine Gael-Labour Government, will similar moves to protect animal welfare be considered and pressed to the very edge? Any rational and humane individual would hope so.
 
Despite a reluctance to do so, the health of the individuals involved in blood-sports must also be considered by the humane members of Irish society. Such individuals should be encouraged to seek the relevant and necessary psychological assessment and treatment required to adequately address their mental health issues. For the betterment of society, blood-sports, especially the annual Christmas Hunt, should be banned as soon as possible and those involved should be given the appropriate assessment and treatment for their psychological difficulties.

Photo: m01229/ Flickr