North East Bedfordshire MP, Richard Fuller (Conservative) has joined rural campaigners to call for action after shocking footage emerged of a large illegal hare coursing event in a field in Bedfordshire.
Hare coursing involves the pursuit of wild hares by trained greyhounds or lurchers across bare fields, often carried out by organised criminal gangs. Large sums of money are gambled online on which dogs will catch the hare first.
The footage captured in Bedfordshire has led to further calls for the Government to urgently clamp down on the activity.
A video, which appeared on twitter, shows several vehicles zig-zagging over a farmer’s field, while passengers lean out of car windows filming two lurcher-type dogs chasing a hare.
Some shocking footage has emerged of illegal hare-coursing in Bedfordshire this week pic.twitter.com/MCFkQPMdAw
— Johann Tasker (@johanntasker) November 12, 2021
About 100 men were allegedly in attendance, with footage showing attendees cheering and trampling over an emerging cereal crop.
Dozens of people travelled to Bedfordshire to take part in the illegal events on Wednesday 10 November.
Another video on social media shows Transit vans and 4x4s being driven through Bedford town centre. Occupants allegedly sat on the roofs, hanging out of windows brandishing dead hares.
The local National Farmers Union (NFU) said Bedfordshire Police were out using body cameras to record the incidents during the day, but due to sheer volume of people in attendance found it difficult to intervene.
In June 2021, Mr Fuller, proposed a Private Members Bill in the House of Commons seeking to increase penalties for hare coursing.
The Bill, to be debated in the House of Commons in the New Year, also includes measures that can effectively deter hare coursing, potentially including stronger guidance on sentencing, a higher limit for certain penalties and giving the police the tools to combat the crime.
The new legislation cannot come soon enough for countryside campaigners.
Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “This shocking footage shows what many farmers have to put up with on a regular basis.
“Poachers in powerful four-wheel drive vehicles, smash down gates, drive through crops and hedges to run their dogs on hares in competition with one another.
“The Government have said they want to clamp down on this scourge, but nothing appears to have changed.
“A recent attempt in the House of Lords to amend the Police Bill would have meant tougher penalties for those committing this crime.
“Sadly, the government did not accept this amendment and the issue has once again been put on the back burner.
“This footage reinforces the scale of the problem we are dealing with in the countryside. The time for robust action is now.”
In a statement to the Bedford Independent, Richard Fuller, said: “People will have rightly been appalled at the sickening and cruel hare coursing over the past week and the parading of dead hares through parts of Bedfordshire.
“Sadly hare coursing is an habitual blight on people who live in rural Bedfordshire and is often associated with acts of intimidation.
“This crime continues in part because of the difficulties for our police in securing prosecutions and a level of penalties that do not even amount to a slap on the wrist.
“My Hare Coursing Bill which will empower more effective action against this criminal behaviour will be debated in Parliament early in the New Year.”