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June 21, 2012

Hare Persecution and Wildlife Crime

Humane Society International/UK

In Scotland, the Wildlife and Natural Environment Act of 2011, effective from 2012, makes it an offence to “intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take brown hares [during their breeding season] from 1 February to 30 September (and mountain hares from 1 March to 31 July). Much of mainland Europe and Northern Ireland has similar legislation.

By contrast, in England only a small amount of legal protection is provided during that sensitive time for hares: through fragmented 19th century legislation giving some respite from shooting on moorland and unenclosed land from 1 April to 31 August, and through the banning of the sale of hares and leverets from 1 March to 31 July. Such outdated pieces of legislation are clearly in need of modernisation.

Speaking about wildlife crime related to hares and the 19th century legislation that is currently in place for the animals, Detective Inspector Nevin Hunter, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, said:

“There are two key issues for us, one is around the actual conservation issues to do with hares and the illegal kllling through poaching methods but also the fact that hares are used as a commodity in hare coursing and the associated anti-social issues that come out of that, not only with large numbers of people being involved, but potentially other illegal activity.

“The challenge we've got with hares currently is that they're covered by several different pieces of archaic legislation which were introduced in the 1880s and have not been updated since, the Ground Game Act 1880,  Hares Preservation Act 1892 and the Ground Game (Amendment) Act 1906.

“Any sort of consolidation of legislation would help us focus in on issues of hare conservation and we in the Unit can play a part in that working with our wildlife crime officers around the country to address any illegal activity. ”

Hare coursing, in which pairs of dogs are encouraged to chase hares in order to win points, and hare hunting, which sees packs of dogs driven to chase and kill a hare, are now illegal in Scotland (since 2002), England and Wales (since 2004), and hare coursing was banned in Northern Ireland in 2011.

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