NEW insights into the prevalence and impacts of hare coursing in the countryside have surfaced in response to a survey carried out by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

More than 300 people took part in the survey and the findings demonstrate that the illegal activity should be tackled far more effectively.

The data shows farmers are often targeted repeatedly, face a barrage of abuse from brazen criminals and spend thousands of pounds to repair the damage caused.

The highest number of hare coursing incidents were reported from farmers in North and East Yorkshire as well as far afield as Aberdeenshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Northern Ireland.

In most cases the crime is a reoccurring problem on the same farms.

The survey also touches on the confidence farmers have in the police. In more than one in four cases the farmer did not call the police. The most common reason was the farmer did not think the police would respond in a timely fashion.

When police were called, their response was rated as satisfactory by just 18 per cent of farmers. Farmers reported inconsistent responses when reporting the crime was taking place. Most of the time (87 per cent), the police call handler confirmed that officers were being dispatched to the scene but 88 per cent failed to offer their estimated time of arrival. When an ETA was given, officers rarely attended within the given timeframe (28 per cent).

Farmers said they are doing what they can to deter hare coursing. Some 81 per cent said they had taken action, such as installing extra gates and security cameras, and creating earth banks and ditches to keep criminals out of fields, and all this has come at great cost.

One in five farmers said they had spent at least £5,000 on repairing damage or taking preventative action in the last three years. For 7 per cent of farmers, this bill has exceeded £10,000.

More than half (54 per cent) of farmers said they had raised the issue with the police or their MP.

The Yorkshire Agricultural Society is sharing the survey findings to add to calls for a more robust response to hare coursing. YAS has written to Yorkshire’s MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Home Office, The National Police Chiefs Council, the National Rural Crime Network and National Wildlife Crime Unit.

The findings have also been shared with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU) to help inform national efforts by a coalition of countryside groups to secure legislative change.

CLA North Adviser Libby Bateman said: “We regularly hear anecdotal evidence of the problems associated with hare coursing, and it is incredibly useful to now have some empirical data to spotlight the scale of the problems. The Yorkshire Agricultural Society should be highly commended for the effort that has been put into developing and delivering this survey and the presentation of its finding.”

Last month, the Government included a commitment to introducing new laws to crack down on illegal hare coursing as part of its new Action Plan for Animal Welfare.

NFU Regional Director Adam Bedford said: “For many years the NFU has highlighted to government how farming families suffer emotionally, mentally and financially from increasing levels of hare coursing and its associated criminal and anti-social behaviour.

“We are encouraged by the government’s announcement in the Queen’s Speech that they will introduce laws to crack down on this shameful crime, but we are eager to see the detail of their plans and understand how we can continue to work with them and the police to secure the best possible outcome.”