SIR – Irish hares and rabbits are facing their own Covid-19.
Since RHD (Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease) was first identified in an angora rabbit in Jiangsu Province of the People’s Republic of China this virus has spread around the world.
In 2010, a new virus variant called rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHD-2) emerged in France. Ireland is the next stop on the viral tour of RHD-2, a disease fatal to rabbits and hares, but of no risk to humans.
Death occurs within a few days of infection with sick animals having swollen eyelids, partial paralysis and bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Most distressingly, in the latter states close to death, animals exhibit unusual behaviour emerging from cover into the open and convulsing or fitting before dying.
RHD-2 should be the catalyst for a conservation based long-term approach to protecting the hare and the rabbit in the countryside. A first step would be a ban on hare coursing, live shooting, beagling, and harrying. These anti-wildlife activities generate zero knowledge within the realm of wildlife conservation.
It is time a permanent socially distanced regime was imposed that would keep Ireland’s wildlife killers away from spreading their lethal animal-killing germs in the Irish countryside. Efforts to confront RHD-2 can then be focussed without the distraction of recreational animal killing impeding efforts to curtail the impact of this disease on our wildlife.
The Irish hare and the rabbit are facing a rural version of blue light surgery. The outcome is not certain. To lose the presence of these members of the Leporidae family from our countryside would be a grievous loss inflicted on future generations.
Association of Hunt Saboteurs,
PO Box 4734, Dublin 1.