Hare coursing and hare hunting are two different ‘blood sports’, not as well-known as fox hunting or deer hunting, but just as rife. Hare hunting involves a similar set-up to fox hunting with the pursuing of hares by a pack of harriers, beagles, or bassets with followers either on foot or on horseback.

Hare coursing is an entirely different ‘sport’ from the rest of them and doesn’t involve pursuit by humans. Hare coursing is more like a gambling game; two hounds will chase a hare and bets are placed on which hound will kill the hare quicker, often leading to a ‘tug of war’. This results in the hare experiencing a terrible amount of pain and suffering being ripped apart.

Hare coursing is widespread in the countryside, and has arguably been increasing rapidly, despite having been banned under the Hunting Act 2004.  

We have heard of organised crime gangs in rural communities across the country live streaming hare coursing to betting syndicates in China. The Mirror reported that one police force had received ‘1,000 reports’ of illegal chases in just three months. Nationwide there were at least 10,000 hare coursing reports in 2020. This doesn’t reflect the law that was put in place in 2004 and is really concerning for the hare population, similarly to fox-hunting which also continues to take place.

Hare populations are declining vastly; ‘there was once as many as 4 million hares in Britain. Today this number stands at around 700,000, a decline of more than 80 percent during the last 100 years’.

At the start of May nine dead hares were left in a line on a country road ‘in a sickening message of defiance from gangsters raking in millions from a cruel and bloody sport’.  

The hares were apparently left there to ‘taunt locals’ who have been opposing illegal hare coursing activity in the area.  

Image from The Mirror

Hare coursers are generally known to be involved in other crime, being ‘career criminals’ and coursing is said to bring in millions as an industry.

Because of this, the people who are operating it think they’re untouchable (and often are); a measly fine that they can pay from their fortune isn’t a big enough deterrent. The people involved in this industry are violent and they are scaring residents in areas they operate in, the dead hares in a line being a clear-cut reflection of this. One farmer is said to have been run off the road and shot at for attempting to stand up to hare coursers.  

This makes it paramount that tougher sentences are introduced and more funding and time is put into wildlife crime investigation. If a law is being so overtly broken consistently, and organised criminals are becoming a danger to communities, there is clearly a desperate need for increased involvement from law enforcement. We recently saw the Animal Welfare Sentencing Bill introduced, which brought in tougher sentences for crime against domestic and farm animals, but not wild animals. This was an important step, but it’s clear that wild animals are the ones in need of protecting and this isn’t happening.  

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media