Hare Coursing – barricading the English countryside

Farmers given free soil to barricade the countryside against hare coursers.

Despite the ban on hunting of hares under the Hunting Act 2004, the “sport” of coursing is on the increase and in practical terms virtually impossible to stop. It takes huge resources to police and even when offenders are caught there is little in the way of punishment or deterrent. Although banned throughout the United Kingdom it is a regulated competitive national sport in the Republic of Ireland and also popular in western USA.

Hare coursing is as far removed from sport as you can possibly get. It is nothing more or less than the cruel use of live hares to train dogs to hunt them down and kill them just to make money”.

Gordon Henderson, Conservative MP, House of Commons, December 2020

The number of reports of illegal coursing is on the increase. In the English county of Lincolnshire, one of the hotspots for coursing, there were 1,048 reports between September 2019 and March 2020 up from 873 the year before.

September to March are the peak periods for hare coursing when the crops in the fields are harvested, the hares are easily visible and groups of mainly young men with lurcher type dogs are commonly spotted driving into the open fields. Police rural crime units then brace themselves to be inundated with reports of illegal hare coursing.

Farmers under attack.

Farmers are being threatened with physical assault if they try and intervene and suffering damaged to their land. It has reached the point where they are being asked to barricade their fields as a detterent and the police are using drones to catch offenders. Farmers are worried that someone will soon be seriously hurt and that the Hunting Act 2004 needs to be tightened and punishments increased.

“Hare coursing can cause significant disturbance in the countryside”, as well as causing a lot of concern to people living in the wider rural community where the activity takes place.”

The Crown Prosecution Service

Farmers view hare coursers as hardened criminals and are asking for tailored sentencing guidelines with such things as mandatory seizure of vehicles and dogs and payment for kennelling by offenders, compensation paid to landowners for any damage caused, more powers to the police and courts including much higher fines that can be imposed for poaching offences. Antiquated laws dating back to 1828 and 1831 are still being used to prosecute and the Government have been asked to review and update these laws by removing the cap on the low fines allowed.

Police do not have the resources, powers or the legislation to stop this barbaric destructive and illegal “sport”.

The police report that offenders will do “all they can to get away” firing catapults at officers and farmers alike. They use threats, violence and intimidation to prevent members of the public from reporting them. Police advise any walkers or passersby who spot hare coursing to take great care and keep themselves discreetly hidden while making the call for their own safety.

Incentive to build barricades

In the English county of Suffolk, where hares are plentiful, free soil is available for farmers under a Country Land and Business Association incentive scheme to build large earth barriers or bunds along their field lines and entrances into their fields. Farmers are also asked to block entrances with tree trunks and other obstacles and make ditches deep.

It is basically an impossible situation for the police who find it difficult to control urban areas let alone great swathes of dark open countryside. But updating and strengthening laws which are not fit for purpose at the moment would be a help to them. It is a sad state of affairs when we cannot protect and prevent suffering to one of the iconic animals of the English countryside which is already under pressure from their unnecessary status as pests.

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Whales injure tourists. Why can’t we leave wild animals in peace.

The fact that these gentle whales were using “classic defensive actions” is proof that they were upset and stressed.

Recently on Ningaloo reef off the north west coast of Australia there have been three incidents in just one week involving tourists being seriously injured while swimming with whales on new organised tours. A 27 year old woman suffered broken ribs and internal bleeding when hit by a humpback whale and had to be flown by Flying Doctor to Perth for treatment. A week later another woman suffered the same fate and there have been other incidents to tourists causing minor injuries. All this because entrepreneurs want to add another extreme tourist attraction to visiting the reef. As if disturbing them by shadowing them with boats is not intrusive enough.

In all these incidents there was no malice on the part of the whales just humans getting in their way and upsetting them and posing a perceived threat to their calves. As one tour operator put it:

The whale immediately swam straight at the group [of tourists] to place herself between her group and her calf and she then engaged in a number of really classic defensive actions right next to the group including slapping her pectoral fins onto the water and slapping her tail down into the water. Unfortunately when she was doing that one of the swimmers was hit by her tail and another was hit by her pectoral fin less seriously. .

Nine News, Perth

These new swimming encounters are being monitored by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in the Ningaloo Marine Park and will undoubtedly be a great success. They are scheduled to become a permanent licensed industry in 2021 at the completion of a five-year trial and all kinds of regulations, codes of practice and safety procedures are being trialed just so someone can make money out of it, when in fact for the safety and wellbeing of all concerned it would be sensible to ban such ventures. The big question is whether a Government conservation department should be encouraging such ventures.

Child swimming with humpback whale
A young snorkeller swimming with a Humpback and calf. Sensible or irresponsible.

We all want to be a David Attenborough.

It regrettably seems that there are no limits to the lengths we will go to disturb and stress wild animals in their natural habit in our pursuit of getting up close and personal with them. It is a compulsion that appears to be fueled by social media and wanting to emulate the exploits of icons like David Attenborough Steve Irwin and other wildlife presenters, adventurers and celebrities we see on TV. We have this belief that animals only exist to entertain us and have no interests in a life of their own. Everybody wants to get a piece of animals.

Whether it be be swimming with dolphins, aggravating sharks from the safety of cages, disturbing egg laying turtles, damaging coral, having selfies with drugged up tigers, monkeys or snakes, visiting gorillas or riding on elephants, everybody wants a piece of the action. It is on everyone’s bucket list to get up close and personal with an exotic animal and to have a selfie or photograph taken to put on social media despite the stress, suffering and disturbance caused to the animals.

The problem now is that there are too many people wanting to do it and this just encourages more such wildlife encounters to make it easy for us and we selfishly give little thought to the stress or suffering we may be causing. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to be in the presence of animals but there has to be a compromise and it should be done from a discreet distance and the right reasons. It should be a respectful and personal experience and not to just to get a selfie photograph or to touch the animal. Unfortunately we are reaching a point where we cannot all be a David Attenborough. We can already view marine animals from a boat we do not need to get in the water with them.

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