Shooting Close Season for Hares

An Early Day Motion in Parliament in 2012 attracted 146 MP signatures but the EDM was not taken up for potential legislation, much to our disappointment. In 2013 Environment Minister Richard Benyon has rejected the joint demand from ourselves and our other hare welfare allies for a close season. He maintains that the new voluntary code for shooting practice is adequate to allay our concerns over hare welfare, something we absolutely reject and we shall continue to seek support for a close season, which has already been achieved in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Hare with blossom
Credit: Russell Miles

As in our previous campaign for a shooting close season we remain willing to accommodate the legitimate needs of farmers for crop protection, but those needs would have to be proven and non-lethal measures such as deterrents shown to have failed. All culling would be done under licence on a case-by-case basis and licences would only be issued during the main breeding season from February to September inclusive under very exceptional circumstances. This would minimise the number of orphaned leverets dying of starvation which has been described as: “one of the country’s last great wildlife scandals.” In practice, the need for culling should be minimal, since hares are not significant agricultural pests. Otherwise the Species Action Plan of 1995 to double their national population by the year 2010 would have been absurd.

Our total opposition to all persecution and killing of hares for so-called “sport” remains unchanged.

Our proposals for hare protection are surely reasonable and consistent with the values of a modern, civilised society.

Ban on Snares

The Hare Preservation Trust is working alongside a number of other organisations such as OneKind for a ban on the manufacture, sale and use of all types of snare. These appalling devices cause unimaginable suffering to target and non-target animals including protected species and domestic pets. Supporters of snares propose measures which they say will reduce the cruelty of snares, such as crimped stops which limit the tightening of the noose. But we say the frequency of inspection of snares to prevent undue suffering alone renders them untenable. The maximum time for an animal to be subjected to the terror of inhibition of its “flight or fight” response, perhaps in extreme weather conditions is one hour. Some would argue for even less. It is totally unrealistic to expect gamekeepers to inspect their snares that frequently.

Download snare ban petition (PDF 70kb).

Tightening up the Hunting Act 2004

We are greatly concerned that the Hunting Act is being widely flouted and even one master of foxhounds said recently “95% of hunts are breaking the law big time.” This anarchy in the countryside is clearly unacceptable. The law is in urgent need of tightening up and better enforcement. Some police forces are excellent at combatting hare coursing which was banned by the Act and a prime example is Cambridgeshire with their “Operation Dornier.” The performance of some forces remains unsatisfactory, not only with hare coursing, but also other types of hunting with dogs.

We expect an “indicative” vote in Parliament before 2015 where MPs will be asked to say whether they wish to have a free vote on a repeal of the Hunting Act. So it is crucial that MPs are reminded that the vast majority of the British public to not wish to see the re-legalisation of barbarity in our countryside. MPs also need reminding that this is not just about foxhunting, but also hare hunting, hare coursing and deer hunting.

Enforcement of the Hares Preservation Act 1892

Brown hare
Credit: Robert McEwen

In the absence of a shooting close season this is the only legislation which provides hares with a measure of protection during their breeding season. It is illegal to sell any hare or leveret from 1 March to 31 July, but imported hares are exempt. During the past years we have been successful in stopping the sale of hares during the prohibited period. In another case involving a supermarket chain, although the hare was imported and therefore on sale legally it was withdrawn, probably to avoid adverse publicity. We would like to see the legislation to be amended to include imported hares since they are also in decline in Europe and this would make prosecutions easier. The prohibited period also needs to be extended since hares are now known to breed throughout the year – probably as a result of global warming.