The repeal of the Hunting Act 2004 would further threaten the survival of our inoffensive brown hare, listed in a 2011 zoology report as being one of our iconic native species most at risk of extinction by 2050.
Around one third of the dog hunts (89 in total) in England and Wales are hare hunts, not fox hunts.
The brown hare population has declined by over 80 per cent in the last century or so and the Mammal Society is the latest organisation to voice concern over diminishing numbers.
Only in East Anglia is the population currently at a level to avoid the possibility of extinction by 2050 becoming a reality.
Repeated polls by Ipsos Mori show a public opposition of at least 85 per cent or more (both town and country) to hare hunting and coursing.
The 2004 Act also separately outlaws the barbaric and senseless spectator activity of “official” hare coursing by around 30 clubs and this fact is not always understood by the majority of the media.
Police forces in many counties also still face an ongoing battle against the “unofficial” type of coursing by disreputable individuals with fast dogs on farmers’ fields, damaging crops and fences in the process.
Without the potential penalties contained within the 2004 Act the police would have an even more difficult time in controlling this unwelcome illegal activity which is a blight on the landscape.
We know from reports which we get that the public at large find these incidents of wildlife abuse repugnant.
Even if a hunted/coursed hare manages to evade pursuing dogs there is still a very real prospect of the hare subsequently dying from stress myopathy, caused by a build up of lactic acid in the bloodstream which damages internal organs and leads to a painful and often lingering death within hours or days of the initial traumatic pursuit.
Rather than use wildlife as a source of destructive human entertainment it is a far more intelligent and emotionally mature attitude to realise the detrimental effect which such introvert activity has on the ecology of the countryside.
Just because an activity was acceptable centuries ago does not mean that it should persist in a more enlightened and less primitive age.
John Rimington BSc
technical liaison officer
Hare Preservation Trust
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