Get tough on illegal bloodsports in the countryside, police are urged
Tough action needs to be taken to counter criminals engaged in illegal bloodsports, police have been told, now that illegal hare coursing is likely to kick off after harvesting.
Concerns about the activity across the West Norfolk countryside are increasing as fields are cleared of crops after harvest making access to land easier.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in the East of England is urging police to take the toughest stance possible against the activity.
It is appealing for anyone visiting or working in the countryside to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.
Police forces across the East of England region are investigating incidents of suspected coursing.
Hare coursing is a rural crime where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares, with gambling on the outcome common practice.
The CLA represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses and its members are regularly victims of hare coursing on their land. One member has reported being threatened when discovering people hare coursing on farmland.
To ensure there is a greater deterrent against hare coursing the CLA has called for tougher sentencing for perpetrators.
CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said: “Following harvest we always see a spike in hare coursing and sadly the problem is once again prevalent in the countryside.
“Those involved in this crime are hardened criminals who will not think twice about threatening and intimidating anyone who attempts to stop them from pursuing this illegal activity.
“Our members regularly tell us how they have had crops damaged and fences, gates and hedges vandalised as hare coursers gain access to fields. The animal welfare concerns of this activity are also extremely worrying.
“We urge the police to take the toughest possible action against illegal hare coursing – but they need evidence to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice. This is why we encourage people to record and report any suspicious activity to the police. This can be done by dialling 101 or if a crime is actually in progress dial 999."
One CLA member in the East of England, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “We are extremely concerned about the level of hare coursing that is taking place on our land.
"We are dealing with very violent people who are gaining access to our fields, damaging crops and breaking gates without a single care for the crime they are committing."
Advice issued by the CLA to anyone who sees hare coursing taking place is not to approach hare coursers, report it to police on 101, call 999 from a safe location if the crime is taking place and give an accurate description of people, vehicles and dogs.
More by this authorJulie Graham, Business Editor