Crime Minister Victoria Atkins and cross-party MPs showed their support for the CLA’s campaign to stamp out hare coursing at an event in Westminster on October 16.

The Home Office Minister heard first-hand from CLA members about the impact hare coursing has on rural businesses and communities.

Hare coursing is where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares with betting on the outcome. It was was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act but takes place illegally without the permission of the landowner.

The CLA, whose members own or manage more than 10 million acres of rural land across England and Wales, highlighted the seriousness of this rural crime to MPs, calling for sentencing guidelines specifically related to the crime.

CLA President Tim Breitmeyer said: “Hare coursing is illegal and an abhorrent crime that causes damage to land and property and those who seek to intervene are often threatened, intimidated or attacked.

“Hare coursers are hardened criminals who make large sums of money as a result of black market gambling and tough action is needed to stop them.

“Introducing specific sentences for hare coursing and helping police reclaim kennelling costs for dogs seized from offenders would help to deter the crime and make rural communities feel safer.”

Among those MPs lending their support to stamp out hare coursing were Shadow Farming and Rural Affairs Minister David Drew and Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, who hosted the event. He said: “Raising awareness of and supporting this campaign is extremely important as it affects so many people and communities across the UK and is not exclusive to any particular region or area, we must all work towards ultimately eradicating this criminal act from our society.

“For too long have our rural communities and farmers been terrorised by groups of people doing this vulgar so-called ‘sport’. It is right that we make more policy makers aware of the crime and advise them on what they can do to help support the campaign.

“It is my hope that along with the CLA, other MPs and support from people across the UK we can work together to put an end to hare coursing".

Jonathan Davis, a gamekeeper in Nottinghamshire, said: “Gamekeepers are very much on the frontline. Organised gangs of criminals are using high powered 4x4 vehicles, dogs specifically bred to kill and often carry firearms. Tens of thousands of pounds can change hands in a single night. We need more support and better legislation to deter hare coursing and associated wildlife crimes such as poaching.”