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Calls for tougher animal rights law

Campaigners against "barbaric" blood sports such as fox hunting are planning a mass rally in Dublin to call for tougher laws.

The government is preparing the Animal Health and Welfare Bill, and animal rights activists are urging politicians to impose heavy penalties for those partaking in blood sports.

Current laws governing hunting, hare coursing and other rural activities deemed cruel to animals, date back to 1911, and are viewed as "outdated" by those demanding real change.

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John Carmody, director of Animal Rights Action Network (Aran), said: "As a nation we should be hanging our heads in shame that we've turned our backs and a blind eye to the immense amount of animal abuse taking place in Irish society.

"Irish politicians are certainly to blame for much of what is happening to animals simply because they have ignored the plight of their suffering for so long and stuck us with a law that dates back to 1911.

"It is time politicians recognized that there are voters out there who care about animals and that their lack of support for animal welfare will not be ignored next time these politicians come knocking on our doors."

Campaigners are also seeking to outlaw "sulky road racing," popular with members of the traveling community and in which horses pull makeshift "chariots" along rough terrain, and can end up with horrific injuries.

Chairperson of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Barbara Bent said: "So many of them get injuries and end up very badly cut. We get quite a few of them injured with a variety of things and a lot of them never really recover."