What is hare coursing?
Hare coursing is the pursuit of hares with dogs, often for the purposes of betting. It takes place on areas of flat, open land where the dogs can easily and visibly pursue the hare. It is typically carried out by large groups of people who travel long distances in often stolen or unregistered cars to gain access to suitable land. The season begins as soon as the crops are harvested and trails off as the new crop emerges in the spring.
Hare coursing has been illegal throughout the UK since 2005 when the Hunting Act 2004 made it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs. In recent years there has been a significant increase in incidences and the activity has become notably more organised with increasingly violent escalations. A recent survey in Yorkshire found that in 82% of cases reported to the researchers, the same farm had been targeted at least three times in the previous year or so.
Aside from being a breach of the Hunting Act, hare coursing has many other impacts, several of which are criminal. Field boundaries such as fences and gates can be damaged by motor vehicles forcibly trying to gain access to land. Once in a field it is common practice to film the chase from a moving vehicle which can cause significant damage to the field and any crops.
Farmers who have approached hare coursers have faced threatening behaviour, and occasionally assaults. Farmers are being intimidated on their own land yet many fail to report incidents out of a fear of violent reprisals. Our partners the NFU has received reports of farms in the Cambridgeshire area who have suffered arson attacks. While difficult to prove the perpetrators' identities, farmers in the locality do not believe it is coincidental that these are occurring in an area where hare coursing is prevalent.
Furthermore, this intimidation hampers everyday life and farm activities. One Cambridgeshire farmer will no longer allow his children out on the farm alone during coursing season and says that farming is becoming increasingly inefficient as activity is now being carried out around the measures put in place to prevent hare coursers from gaining access to land.
Reacting to a hare coursing incident
• If it is a ‘live’ incident always dial 999, otherwise dial 101.
• Make sure you clearly state ‘hare coursing’ to ensure that the incident is recorded correctly.
• Provide grid references with descriptions of specific landmarks for where you are located.
• If possible provide a description of the person including notable features, and also descriptions of any vehicles including number plates and any distinguishing features.
• Be discreet when collecting evidence. Approaching hare coursers whilst holding a camera may be inflammatory.
• Ensure that you receive and make note of your crime reference number.