- 19 April 2009 at 7:40 pm #7184
Taking up a wildlife protection cause is no "bed of roses", especially if you find youself against powerful forces that oppose your objectives.
A book I heartily recommend on the subject of wildlife protection and the challenges associated with it is Bad Hare Days by John Fitzgerald. It’s the memoir of a dedicated lifelong wildlife protection activist. It tells the story of his extraordinary battle to save the endangered Irish Hare, which faces a dual threat from loss of habitat due to modern farming and the activities of hare coursing clubs…which snatch the wild creatures from their natural home in the countryside for use in baiting sessions.
The book’s theme is so topical, and certainly one familiar to animal lovers worldwide…a wildlife prtotection cause is taken up by people who have different ideas about how to tackle the issue…while some favour peaceful legal means such as letter-writing to the media and protest pickets, others resort to “direction action” methods that entail acting outside the law.
But the author of this book gets blamed for the activities of “underground” activist groups despite having no dealings at all with them.
You don’t mess with those fellows! Irish anti-blood sports campaigner John Fitzgerald is thus warned by an elderly “wise man”, who is referring to hare coursing clubs in Ireland…but the teenager shrugs it off, his youthful enthusiasm holding sway.
After visiting a hare-coursing event, at which he sees hares being ripped to pieces in front of a cheering crowd, he joins an animal protection group. He begins writing letters to newspapers about the subject and picketing coursing fixtures.
But he soon finds himself up against the might of Ireland’s blood sport fraternity. He learns to his personal cost that politicians, wealthy business people, and high-ranking members of Ireland’s police force, are among the most ardent hare coursing fans.
John Fitzgerald is bullied in the workplace, in the streets of his hometown, and assaulted by coursing fans at work. Then the campaign costs him his livelihood.
But more direful challenges lie ahead: The anti-coursing campaign takes an unexpected turn with the “exporting” of the British-based Animal Liberation Front to Ireland. The ALF is blamed for a nationwide wave of incidents in which hares are released from coursing compounds and baiting venues sabotaged.
Tensions between pro and anti coursing factions erupt into fighting on the picket lines. Police swoop on the homes of known anti-coursing campaigners, believing that these might be implicated in the sabotage. John Fitzgerald is among those targeted. His home is ransacked. He is subjected to lengthy interrogations.
The militant activism then escalates into what has all the hallmarks of a terror campaign when hay barns owned by coursing officials are torched.
As a high profile anti-coursing campaigner, the author is accused, wrongly, of involvement in “terrorism”…though it turns out that the barn burning spree has been the work, not of the “ALF”, but of coursing fans embroiled in bitter infighting over ownership of captured hares and other grievances.
The author then has to fight to clear his name…while still battling blood sports.
Against a background of ferocious bullying and intimidation, tension-racked court hearings, further sabotage of coursing fields and blazing hay barns, John Fitzgerald treads a bitter and lonely path that leads to justice.
In a book that grips your attention the whole way through, the author describes in a compelling, highly readable style his sometimes frightening…and occasionally humorous…battle of wits with the power of the State, and his struggle to end hare coursing in Ireland.
Anyone with the remotest interest in subjects ranging from animal rights, animal welfare, blood sports, activism generally, environmental politics, the rights and wrongs of policing, or the psychology of bullying, will find this book an exhilarating read.
It’s published by Olympia Publishers (olympiapublishers.com) and though I’m not sure exactly which stores have it in stock I know it can be obtained via the Internet. I guarantee you’ll be hooked like I was!
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