Landowner 'threatened' by illegal hare coursers during annual spike in post-harvest incidents
PUBLISHED: 14:30 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 21 August 2019
Police and countryside workers are on high alert as illegal hare coursing incidents spread across Suffolk, Essex and the rest of East Anglia following harvest.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is urging police to take the toughest stance possible against illegal hare coursing and called for anyone visiting or working in the countryside to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
As fields are cleared of crops, concerns over hare coursing is on the rise, with police forces across the region investigating suspected incidents.
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The crime involves using dogs to chase, catch and kill hares, with gambling on the outcome common practice. The crime becomes more prevalent following harvest when large areas of arable land are cleared of crops, making it easier to travel across fields.
In one recent incident a member has reported being threatened when discovering people hare coursing on farmland, said the CLA, which is calling for tougher sentencing.
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.
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"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."
Police need evidence to catch perpetrators and bring them to justice, he said, and the CLA is encouraging 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 wished 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.
"We have met with the police who are doing the best they can but they are limited in their resource to tackle this crime. However, we must keep reporting incidents of illegal coursing and any damage so that we can keep the issue well up the police's agenda."
Those reporting an incident should call police from a safe location and be prepared to give an accurate description of what is happening. This could include descriptions of the people, their vehicles and dogs, especially if it is lurcher type dogs which are commonly used to chase down hares.