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Independent charity Crimestoppers is urging people across rural Essex to speak up anonymously about the illegal act of hare coursing.
In the eight-week campaign that launched today, people are encouraged to report suspicious behaviour and those who are involved, rather than to confront it.
In 2020, there were almost 500 reported hare coursing incidents in Essex, which is a 46per cent increase from the year before. Overall illegal animal hunting or ‘poaching’ rose by 74per cent in the county last year.*
Hare coursing is where dogs – often greyhounds or lurchers – are used to chase, catch and kill hares. The illegal events can be lucrative for criminal gangs who often live stream the event. It takes place on areas of flat, open land, accessed by trespassing, where the dogs can easily and visibly pursue the hare for sport.
We are now in hare coursing season as many crops have been felled, which leaves clear open fields. Hare coursing normally takes place either at dusk or dawn and is typically carried out by large groups of people or gangs, who travel long distances in convoy.
Anyone with information about those involved in hare coursing is asked to speak up anonymously by passing on what they know using the charity’s simple and secure anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org or by calling our UK Contact Centre on freephone 0800 555 111.
There are many negative impacts of hare coursing beyond the cruelty. It leaves fences and gates damaged by vehicles as they forcibly gain access to private land. And once in a field, it is common practise to film the chase from a moving vehicle, which can cause further significant damage to the field and crops.
Fear, intimidation and violence are real concerns inflicted by coursers on land owners, farmers and anyone who may question the activity of those who are taking part.
This new campaign will use social media to promote Crimestoppers’ unique service of being independent from the police with a cast-iron guarantee of anonymity to the thousands of people who make contact each and every day.
You can help to fight hare coursing by making Crimestoppers or the Police aware if you see any of the following activity:
- Groups of vehicles parked in a rural area, perhaps near a gateway to farmland, on a grass verge, on a farm track or bridle path. This is often the most obvious sign
- A cluster of estate cars, four-wheel drives or vans with evidence of dogs inside
- Vehicles travelling in convoy, with vans at the front and rear containing minders
- You see a gathering of people using binoculars to spot hares
- You see coursers walking along the edge of a field to frighten a hare into the open.
If possible, when you report information about hare coursing that looks to be in progress or potentially due to take place, make a note of the date, time and location of the activity, along with a description of any vehicles, people, dogs and direction of travel. A vehicle description should include the make, model and colour along with any unique features, along with the registration number (which could be fake). Never confront hare coursers yourself.
Phil Breckon, Eastern Regional Manager at the charity Crimestoppers, said: “You can receive a fine of up to £5,000 for hare coursing and those taking part may also have their vehicles and dogs seized. The act itself is also extremely damaging to farmers and landowners, who are often powerless to stop it.
“We are appealing for information about it and through this campaign highlighting the signs to spot and what you can do to keep your community safe from the criminal gangs involved.
“If you have any concerns about someone who may be involved in hare coursing, contact Crimestoppers on freephone 0800 555 111 or use our anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org. You’ll remain anonymous. Alternatively, you can contact Essex Police, especially if you feel in danger.”