CLA South East is urging farmers, landowners and members of the public to be on alert as we enter the peak hare coursing season.
Hare coursing involves using dogs to chase, catch and kill hares, often with gambling on the outcome. The Fir Cup, an illegal hare coursing event, is said to have prize money of £6,000 and is organised secretly on WhatsApp, according to Thames Valley Police.
Incidents normally spike at this time of year, following harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared of crops, making it easier to travel across fields.
The CLA is now urging the police to do everything possible to stop the sinister tactics, threats and intimidation used by hare coursers and arrest those caught in the act. We are also running a drop-in session with MPs in London on 16 October raising awareness of the crime.
CLA South East represents thousands of landowners, farmers and rural businesses in Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and the Isle of Wight. Regional Director Robin Edwards said: “We traditionally see a spike in hare coursing incidents at this time of year, following harvest.
“We appreciate that police have a range of significant pressures in terms of resources and budgeting, but we want to ensure that tackling hare coursing remains a priority.
“This is not a minor crime. Those involved in hare coursing are hardened criminals – often using threats, intimidation and in some cases violence against anyone who questions or challenges their actions.
“These criminals don’t think twice about trespassing on land, damaging crops and property and give no consideration to the animal welfare of the hares involved.”
The CLA has drawn up an action plan to tackle the crime. This includes:
- The introduction of specific sentencing guidelines for hare coursing – currently sentences for hare coursing are issued using guidelines that are not specifically linked to hare coursing.
- The National Wildlife Crime Unit to be given sufficient resources to be able to treat hare coursing as a priority.
- Police to be able to reclaim kennelling costs of dogs from offenders – seizing the dogs involved is an effective way to prevent hare coursing.
- Additional training for police 101 call handlers so they better understand the crime – ensuring those tasked with recording incidents fully understand the crime will help police prioritise investigations.
The CLA recommends that any suspicious activity in the countryside should be reported to the police on 101, but people should not be reticent about calling 999 if they suspect a crime is actually taking place.