As the act of hare coursing continues to plague rural communities, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society has said “enough is enough” on behalf of farming families.

Hare coursing, which is the pursuit of hares with greyhounds and other sighthounds, saw 157 incidents in the Hambleton District alone during December 2020 – averaging around five incidents per day.

However, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) believes this is merely a snapshot of the true scale of the crime which spikes on farmland during the winter months.

To highlight the problem, farming charity YAS is today launching a survey of its membership and the wider agricultural community to confidentially gather much-needed evidence of the real prevalence of the crime, gain a greater understanding of its impacts on farming families and gauge confidence in police responses. 

Charles Mills, a farmer near York and YAS Show Director, has experienced hare coursing on his farm for at least 35 years. He urged YAS members to have their say on hare coursing by filling in the online survey. Findings from the survey will be shared with a coalition of countryside organisations who are lobbying for legislative change.

Charles said:

“Hare coursing is an awful menace and I know my family is not alone in seeing our farm and our home targeted by criminals whose barbaric acts decimate wildlife – wildlife that we create vital habitats for as part of our approach to managing the landscape. We want to show our support for other farming families who find themselves in similar situations and add our voice to calls for change.

“What is so important is that when farmers report a live incident to police, they respond with due urgency. It would be of great reassurance if call handlers communicate consistently, providing clear information when officers are being dispatched so the farmer knows when they can expect police to arrive.

“This crime isn’t going away, which is why the Yorkshire Agricultural Society is urging members to help us build up evidence about hare coursing to strengthen our case for this offence to be taken more seriously.”

YAS endorses the calls for legislative change being made by a host of countryside groups. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), National Farmers Union (NFU), the Countryside Alliance and other wildlife organisations have been working to bring forward amendments to the Game Act 1831 which will provide the judiciary with greater prosecution and sentencing powers.

This includes an amendment to enable police forces to recover the cost of kennelling dogs which have been seized and held pending prosecution.

Julia Mulligan, Chair of the National Rural Crime Network and North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said:

“Too many senior police officers and government ministers do not take hare coursing seriously because they do not understand its impact. As well as the offence itself, landowners and their families end up living in fear with repeated threats and violence.

“There is also an understandable lack of confidence that anything will be done to address the crime or ensure those caught will receive the strong sentences that would deter them from reoffending.

“This has to change, but one of the challenges those of us making this case face is showing the extent of the problem through evidence and not just anecdote. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s survey will support those efforts and I would encourage all members to take part, have their say and I assure them that they will be listened to.

“I am confident that new police leadership on this issue will make a difference in the future, and anything we can do to make our case as compelling as possible will be important to help them help us tackle the scourge of hare coursing.”

YAS members are being emailed a link to the hare coursing survey which closes on 31st March 2021. The survey will also be promoted via YAS social media and can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/hare_coursing

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