Farming groups have urged the government to revise “inadequate” laws to tackle illegal hare coursing, which they say is having a devastating impact on the British countryside.
The coalition, which includes the NFU, Countryside Alliance and rural police and crime commissioners, wants enhanced powers for the police and the courts.
It said despite success in some parts of the country, there are increased incidents of illegal hare coursing overall.
Farmers face threats and intimidation, damage to their land, and witness cruelty to wildlife.
In a letter to Defra secretary George Eustice and home secretary Priti Patel, the coalition said the police and courts should have full seizure and forfeiture powers for dogs and vehicles, be able to recover kennelling costs from offenders and see a removal of the existing limits on the penalties that can be imposed.
Under the 1831 Game Act, which the coalition wants amended, the maximum fine is £1000.
In a statement, the coalition said: “There is no doubt that hare coursing is as prevalent as ever and having huge impacts on rural communities.
“Whether it is farmers being intimidated and threatened by coursers, the damage their vehicles cause to our iconic landscape, or the cruelty this inflicts on our native wildlife, the impacts on the British countryside from illegal hare coursing are huge.”
The coalition urged the government to reform legislation that is nearly 200 years old. It said the “simple changes to the Game Act would give police the powers they need to properly tackle this crime and deter criminals with a sentence that fits the crime”.
Hare coursing coalition
Alongside rural police and crime commissioners, nine organisations are involved:
- British Association for Shooting and Conservation
- Countryside Alliance
- Country Land and Business Association
- Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
- The Kennel Club
- National Farmers’ Union
- National Rural Crime Network
- Tenant Farmers Association