Rural campaigners are calling for action after footage emerged on social media of what is being described as an illegal hare-coursing event.
A statement released by Countryside Alliance said that the Twitter video "shows several vehicles frantically zig-zagging over a farmer’s field, while passengers lean out of car windows filming two lurcher-type dogs chasing a hare".
According to the statement, there were about 100 attendees at the event, which took place on November 10 near Bedford, it is believed.
The local National Farmers Union (NFU) said Bedfordshire Police were out using body cameras to record the incidents during the day but, due to the volume of people in attendance, found it difficult to intervene.
The incident has led to calls from the Countryside Alliance for urgent action from the government to clamp down on this activity.
Proposals to give police and the courts more powers to disrupt hare coursing were recently rejected in parliament.
The suggested amendments to a new crime bill under consideration by the government, tabled by the Lord Bishop of St Albans, sought to:
- Increase penalties for hare coursing;
- Allow the courts to disqualify offenders from owning or keeping dogs;
- Allow the police to recover kennelling costs for dogs that have been seized.
Countryside Alliance’s chief executive, Tim Bonner, said:
This shocking footage shows what many farmers have to put up with on a regular basis. Poachers in powerful four-wheel drive vehicles, smash down gates, drive through crops and hedges to run their dogs on hares in competition with one another.”
“The government say they want to clamp down on this scourge, but nothing appears to have changed. A recent attempt in the House of Lords to amend the Police Bill would have meant tougher penalties for those committing this crime. Sadly, the government did not accept this amendment and the issue has once again been put on the back burner.
This footage reinforces the scale of the problem we are dealing with in the countryside. The time for robust action is now."
The Countryside Alliance has long campaigned, alongside other rural organisations, for reforms to the law to strengthen the powers of the police and courts.