Bringing the hare hunts to book

The Brown Hare is one of the UK’s most iconic and best loved species, having inhabited these islands since ancient times. Numbers of Brown Hare have declined in Britain by more than 80% in the past 100 years. It is the only species in England and Wales not protected by a closed hunting season.

The hare has been traditionally hunted on foot with packs of dogs since the early fifteenth century. Despite the Hunting Act 2004 which makes this so-called “sport” illegal, the practice still goes on to this day.

The hare spends its life above ground, often in open fields and relies on camouflage and superior speed to evade predators. When frightened it will press itself to the ground and if the threat comes too near it will run at up to 45mph, twisting and turning as it does so to evade capture.

There are currently listed about sixty Beagle packs in the UK, including packs associated with the military and public schools and universities. What are these packs doing since the Hunting Act? Despite their claim to be following a trail or hunting rabbits, in the experience of League investigators they are hunting the hare in the same way as they were doing pre-ban.

This season, we decided to look at several hare hunts across England. Investigators armed with high quality digital video recorders have been out gathering evidence to show the cruelty inflicted on hares. Did we see trails being laid? No. Did we see rabbits being chased? No.

What we did witness was the huntsman in fields of low-lying crops searching for hares. Supporters waving and pointing when a hare was disturbed to show the huntsman where it had run. Packs of beagle dogs in full cry a short distance behind the terrified hare with no attempt on the part of the huntsman to call them off. So despite the fact that 90% of the population are against hare hunting and coursing, as with fox hunting, it is business as usual.

As a result of our investigations, case files have been prepared against two hare hunts where we have clear evidence that hares were hunted illegally. These files of evidence will be passed to the police and will hopefully result in prosecution.

What plans do we have to further investigate hare hunts? For obvious reasons I cannot be specific as we do not want to alert the hunts to the fact that we may be watching, though I am happy for them to spend sleepless nights worrying about us and their hunting days looking over their shoulders. What I can say is that in the next season we fully intend to be out on the ground to capture further evidence of cruel, illegal activity.

The monitoring of hare hunts by investigators is actually the easy part; they have fewer supporters than fox hunts, they move slower as they are on foot and they cover less ground. The difficult part is actually finding where they are going to meet and this is where we need your help.

Hare hunts traditionally produced meet cards to inform their supporters where the hunts would take place. This now happens only rarely. Investigators need to have advance notice of hunts so we can best prepare to monitor them. I would ask our supporters to keep your ears and eyes open, and inform the League through our Animal Crimewatch if you hear of any hare hunts that are taking place. We will then do our utmost to bring the hare hunts to book.

Our precious wildlife deserves the right to live without the fear of being hunted. Please sign our petition to stop the killing of hares and other wild animals by hunts.


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