25 October 2001
MPs to debate illegal coursing

By Isabel Davies

AN Oxfordshire MP worried about the increasing incidence of illegal hare-coursing in southern England has secured a House Of Commons debate.

Wantage MP Robert Jackson has managed to timetable a debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Monday (29 October).

The move was welcomed by farmers in south-east England, who claim that gangs of aggressive men regularly trespass on their fields with dogs.

Dogs chase their hares to death – not the object in the legal sport of hare-coursing – and intruders often threaten anyone who challenges them.

Chris Passmore, a farmer near Lancing in West Sussex, said he had had problems with illegal hare-coursers over more than 20 years.

“We have them on the farm most weeks and, if you went up on the Downs on a normal Sunday, there would be a fair chance that youd see them.

“They decimate the hares, especially when they have their leverets [young] because they then starve to death.”

Mr Passmore said the local police did not consider it safe to approach the coursers because they could become very aggressive.

The National Farmers Union said farmers feared for their own property and safety when coursers trespassed on their land.

NFU regional director Shaun Leavey said: “Police resources are over-stretched and it is often difficult to catch the intruders in the act.”

A major information campaign could help tackle the lack of awareness among magistrates of the penalties for illegal coursing, he suggested.

The government should also reinforce to the courts that the coursers are not “likeable rogues poaching for the pot”, said Mr Leavey.

Legal hare-coursing can take place under licence between 16 September and 13 March. The sport is governed by the National Coursing Club.

Farmers who allow coursing on their land tend to encourage brown hares.

The object is not to kill the quarry but to test the speed and stamina of the dogs.

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