Hare Coursing 2019: What You Need to Know

Now harvest is complete, long stretches of stubble ground on farmland are unfortunately likely destinations for illegal hare coursing. Here’s what you need to know on the subject, and how you could endeavour to hare-courser proof your farmland.

What is Hare Coursing?

Hare Coursing in the UK was banned under the Hunting Act of 2004, but the illegal blood sport is still a problem in many areas of the countryside. Gangs will encroach and trespass on private farmland, often damaging fences and property to set hounds on hares. Hare Coursing typically involves two dogs chasing, catching and killing a hare, with large cash bets (up to £10,000) placed on the first hound to succeed. These cruel events are often filmed and shared. For participants, the hare coursing ban pales into insignificance compared with the large sums of money exchanged in the sport. Hare coursing season tends to begin after harvest, typically August/September/October, when large amounts of land is left with no standing crops. Hare Coursing generally takes place late in the evening or early in the morning. Characters involved in the sport are usually very unpleasant and frequently vandalise property to gain entrance to farmland, damaging gates, hedges and other obstacles. Farmers often face threatening behaviour and intimidation, also citing ensuing strings of thefts of farm valuables which those involved are bound to have sighted when hare coursing. Hare coursing in Lincolnshire and Hare coursing on the fens and elsewhere in the East of England has become particularly prevalent due to large stretches of flat land, with participants travelling in from around the country. ‘Operation Galileo’ has endeavoured to set about tackling the problem in this area, with Wildlife Crime Officers set on patrol in rural communities.

 

What consequences do convicted Hare Coursers face?

Since the ban, suspects convicted of hare coursing in the UK can be fined up to £5,000 by a magistrate’s court. However, many argue that in most cases, fines to do not amount to such a figure, and often sums exchanged by those involved in hare coursing can reach up to far higher amounts. Many farmers and interested groups, such as the CLA (Country Land and Business Association) call for the dogs and vehicles involved to be seized, which disables hare coursers. However, being able to catch and convict hare coursers in action with sufficient evidence is not so easy. What can I do to prevent my farm from being targeted? To prevent this activity on your farmland, it is advisable to put in place field fencing, as well as investing in padlocked field gates. Another recommendation would be to consider fortifying field boundaries and hedges, besides digging strategic ditches and dykes between fields as a blockade to stop criminals gaining entrance. Robust defences such as these should deter criminals from attempting to hare course on your land. Less costly measures farmers could take include joining a Rural Crime Watch scheme, to keep alerted of any suspicious activity in the area.

 

What can I do if my farm is targeted?

If you see hare coursing taking place on your farm, do not approach the participants, these people are unpleasant criminals and vandals. If the event is happening live, dial 999. Otherwise, call 101 and ask to speak to wildlife crime officer. To report a crime anonymously, call the rural Crimestoppers hotline on 0800 783 0137. Always report any suspicious incident. Always try to obtain vehicle registration plate numbers, besides getting details such as appearance of participants, time of day etc. It’s also advisable to join a Rural Crime Watch scheme, or something of a similar nature, where suspicious activity can be reported and shared between farmers. Alternatively, start a WhatsApp Chat with neighbouring farmers to exchange information.

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