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Great Yorkshire Show Director "disturbed" by hare coursing survey

The Director of the Great Yorkshire Show has been left 'disturbed but not surprised' by the results of a recent hare coursing survey.

The Director of the Great Yorkshire Show has been left 'disturbed but not surprised' by the results of a recent hare coursing survey.

More than 300 people from farming families took part in the Yorkshire Agricultural Society's survey to discover the impact of hare coursing. And results show that the crime, which involves using dogs to illegally pursue and destroy wild hares, is particularly prevalent in North Yorkshire.

Charles Mills, a farmer near York and Show Director of the Great Yorkshire Show, has experienced hare coursing on his farm for 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. This is a hugely frustrating situation.

"The survey results tell me that hare coursing is not being driven out of the countryside anywhere near effectively enough. This needs to change. Farmers also need more consistent communication from police forces to reassure them that this crime is being taken seriously and to ensure that this crime does not go underreported."

[caption id="attachment_11514" align="aligncenter" width="759"] Hare coursing involves using dogs to illegally pursue and destroy wild hares[/caption]

In most cases the crime is a reoccurring problem on the same farms. The survey found that in 82% of cases the same farm had been targeted at least three times since the start of last year.

Overwhelmingly, hare coursing results in criminal damage (86% of cases). Crop damage was the most widely reported (45%), followed by damaged fences and hedges (11%). There were also reports of sheep being killed and livestock being left to escape onto highways.

Some 81% of farmers said they had taken action, such as installing extra gates and security cameras, and creating earth banks and ditches to keep criminals out of fields.

One in five farmers said they had spent at least £5,000 on repairing damage or taking preventative action in the last three years. For 7% of farmers, this bill has exceeded £10,000.

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is sharing the survey findings to add to calls for a more robust response to hare coursing. YAS has written to Yorkshire’s MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Home Office, The National Police Chiefs Council, the National Rural Crime Network and National Wildlife Crime Unit.

The findings have also been shared with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) to help inform 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.

"The Yorkshire Agricultural Society should be highly commended for the effort that has been put into developing and delivering this survey and the presentation of its finding."

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.

NFU Regional Director Adam Bedford said:

"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.

"We are encouraged by the government’s announcement in the Queen’s Speech that they will introduce laws to crack down on this shameful crime, but we are eager to see the detail of their plans and understand how we can continue to work with them and the police to secure the best possible outcome."

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