We have been made aware of John Hayes’ recent comments made at Springfields House, Spalding, during a meeting with NFU members.
According to a report, he remarked: “Before it was made illegal, hare coursing was a very disciplined sport.”
Obviously Mr Hayes was referring to the 2004 Hunting Act, wherein there is a separate section outlawing this ancient activity, a ban with which nearly 90 per cent of the public concur, according to Ipsos Mori polls.
The significant point, which Mr Hayes may not appreciate, judging by his words, is that the intrusive targeting of hares on farmland by criminal individuals has always existed, regardless of the 2004 act.
The introduction of this legislation has had no major impact in preventing this activity initially taking place, although the police now have more powers and the penalties imposed on convicted offenders are in themselves more prohibitive.
We support the police and the NFU in trying to achieve their objectives to combat this unwelcome rural crime.
What the act has effectively stopped is the organised coursing dog clubs that considered the primitive persecution, and even killing, of vulnerable hares by dogs to be an entertaining spectator event, such as the infamous annual Waterloo Cup near Liverpool.
The people from those clubs are not, in reality, the same ones as the rogue elements who were a discussion subject at the Spalding meeting.
A zoology report in 2011 listed the brown hare as one of our native species most at risk of extinction by the year 2050.
Members of Parliament have a responsibility to this iconic but at-risk animal by supporting legislation designed to protect it and reverse the long-term decline in numbers, which is a current sustainability objective of Defra.