FARMERS ARE calling for action to counter the problem of illegal hare coursers on East Anglian farms after a survey showed there were more than 1500 incidents in one year.

More than half of those questioned for the National Farmers Union survey (53%) said they had been threatened or attacked by illegal coursing gangs.

The most serious incidents included a farmer‘s son who needed hospital treatment after being beaten up and an arson attack on farm buildings.

Another farmer narrowly escaped injury when coursers tried to run him over in a car, while a fourth had his jaw broken in an attack by coursers.

Farmers also reported crop damage caused by coursers‘ vehicles, as well as damage to hedges and gates.

In all, 102 farmers took part in the survey. Between them they had experienced just over 1500 cases of illegal hare coursing in the last 12 months.

“Until now, I don‘t believe hare coursing has been taken seriously. It‘s not just the hares they kill or the damage they do,” said one farmer.

“The farmers I speak to feel unbelievable anger and frustration.”

The survey results are summarised in a new report, Game for crime, the scale of illegal hare coursing in East Anglia.

The report calls for concerted action by everyone involved – farmers, the police, prosecutors and magistrates – to crack down on this problem across the region.

The NFU is calling for amendments to existing legislation to make it easier for the police to act.

It also wants greater co-operation and co-ordination between neighbouring police forces, increased support for farm watch schemes, and improved police resources in rural areas.

It believes the slaughter of hares by illegal coursers is hampering efforts to increase the pre-breeding population of brown hares from 800,000 to 2 million by 2010.