FARMING lobbyists have welcomed the news the Government will get tougher to tackle the ‘barbaric practice’ of hare coursing.

Government proposals to get tougher on illegal hare coursing is the light at the end of the tunnel for thousands of farmers who have suffered first-hand the devastating impacts of this activity, largely practised by organised criminal gangs.

After sustained lobbying by the National Farmers Union (NFU) and other rural organisations demonstrating the violence and intimidation that hare coursing has inflicted on farmers and rural communities, as well as the impact it has on wild hare populations, the Government has now tabled its own amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

They enable police forces to seize more dogs, courts to ban convicted offenders from keeping dogs and to strengthen penalties by lifting the existing limit on fines.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “The NFU welcomes Government plans to table amendments which would strengthen the law and finally give rural police forces and the courts the necessary powers to tackle hare coursing and the wider problem of organised crime.”

Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, welcomed the proposal saying: “Hare coursing is a violent and cruel crime and those who take part in it should be prosecuted accordingly. I have been working with colleagues in Parliament to fight for stronger action on this awful practice. It is great to see these commitments, that were made in the Government’s ‘Action Plan on Animal Welfare’, now being actioned as it is a problem that urgently needs addressing. Farmers and local residents should not feel threatened by those willing to flout the law and it is great to see the National Farmers’ Union and the RSCPA support these proposals.”