"Disturbing" report shows farmers are being repeatedly targeted by illegal hare coursers

Farmers are being repeatedly targeted by illegal hare coursers, the results of a survey have shown.

More than 80 percent of respondents had been targeted more than three times this year.

More than 300 people responded to the Yorkshire Agriculture Society research into the impact and prevalence of hare coursing.

According to the report most cases of hare coursing – using dogs to illegally pursue and destroy wild hares – were reported from farmers in North and East Yorkshire but there was shared evidence from as far afield as Aberdeenshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Northern Ireland. It also showed in most cases (82 per cent), the same farm had been targeted at least three times since the start of last year.

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Great Yorkshire Show director Charles Mills has experienced hare coursing on his farm near York for at least 35 years.

He said: “The findings of our survey are disturbing but sadly, they do not surprise me.

“Hare coursing clearly continues to be a reoccurring problem on many farms, and farming families are paying a heavy price, both in terms of their sense of safety and wellbeing being compromised, and the costs of repairing damage and installing deterrents.”

The survey also showed a lack of confidence in the police with more than one in four hare coursing cases (29 per cent) going unreported.

The findings have been shared with rural organisations including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and National Farmers Union (NFU) to help support national efforts by a coalition of countryside groups to secure legislative change.

CLA North adviser Libby Bateman said: “We regularly hear anecdotal evidence of the problems associated with hare coursing, and it is incredibly useful to now have some empirical data to spotlight the scale of the problems.”

Last month, the Government included a commitment to introducing new laws to crack down on illegal hare coursing as part of its new Action Plan for Animal Welfare which NFU regional director Adam Bedford described as “encouraging”.

“For many years the NFU has highlighted to government how farming families suffer emotionally, mentally and financially from increasing levels of hare coursing and its associated criminal and anti-social behaviour.”