After sustained petitioning by the NFU and other rural organisations, the government is getting tough on illegal hare coursing.
We've been lobbying the government on hare coursing for many years, and the work has now paid off. The inclusion of amendments on hare coursing in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a testament to efforts right across the NFU and from our members.
These amendments could deliver crucial changes that would help deter criminals from taking part in illegal hare coursing. They enable police forces to seize more dogs, and courts to ban convicted offenders from keeping dogs and to strengthen penalties by lifting the existing limit on fines.
Countless NFU members hosted farm visits to help demonstrate to MPs the impact of hare coursing in their constituencies, resulting in MPs taking up the case for us with ministers. This secured a commitment from government in the Queen’s Speech in May 2021 that new legislation on hare coursing would be introduced.
Following extensive NFU lobbying over many years with MPs in constituencies, via the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare and the Livestock Offences Priority Group, the government announced changes to its livestock worrying legislation in the 2021 Queen’s Speech.
Livestock worrying is said to have been experienced by 95% of respondents to an NSA survey, with the average cost being £1,134. The legislation will form part of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill. The NFU is supportive of the suggested legislation changes but is concerned about gaps in the current proposals, particularly around keeping dogs on leads around livestock and the level of fine as a deterrent.
The NFU has been working with Virginia Crosbie MP (Ynys Mon) on a Ten Minute Rule Bill that could strengthen Defra’s proposals. (Ten-Minute Rule Bills are a good way of drawing attention to an issue that requires a change in the law). NFU President Minette Batters gave evidence to the Bill Committee in November, quoting that more than 15,000 sheep had been killed and emphasising the necessity of addressing these crimes, and changing the terminology from ‘worrying’ to ‘attacking’.
In line with the increase in reports of unauthorised encampments on agricultural land and the damage, destruction and distress that ensues (vandalism, flytipping, etc.) the NFU is working with government consultations on improving police powers for dealing with unauthorised encampments.
We welcome new proposed powers for police to target trespassers who reside on land and cause disruption to local communities, included in the Police Crime Sentencing & Courts Bill introduced in March 2021.
This Bill currently in the committee stage in the House of Lords and aims to ‘create new offences and amend existing powers in relation to unauthorised encampments.’ The NFU also believes it is vital there are sufficient authorised sites available across the country to ensure the issue of illegal encampments is not simply pushing onto another patch of public or private land. The NFU is working with the National Police Chiefs Council lead on Gypsy, Roma & Travellers, to ensure effect removal of unauthorised encampments.