Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Hare Removal – Battle for hares hots up as shooting lobby ignores calls for a closed season

The 1,000 hares shot a day need protection, claim animal welfare groups
March 2013. A new plan to manage hare populations in England has been condemned by animal welfare groups after it ignored calls for a ‘closed season'. A draft code of practice for brown hare management has been drawn up for DEFRA by the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC), but a coalition of animal welfare groups claim that it ignores vital concerns.

350,000 hares shot every year
Care for the Wild, the Humane Society International, Blue Hare, and the Hare Preservation Trust are concerned that the current tally of around 350,000 hares hunted each year out of a national population of 750,000 is simply unsustainable.
Photo: Wikipedia

Philip Mansbridge, CEO of Care for the Wild, said "Letting the shooting lobby manage wildlife protection sounds like a bad joke but that is what is happening. The argument for a closed season to protect pregnant mothers and their young in February is scientifically sound, common sense and would put England in line with Scotland. At the moment, hares are suffering from a postcode lottery which is threatening the future of the entire population," he said.

Research from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust states that shooting hares during February can remove up to 60% of breeding hares. The hare coalition is seeking a meeting with wildlife minister Richard Benyon, requesting that DEFRA take control of the process. Initially the object would be to give Natural England the responsibility of drawing up a draft voluntary code for a closed season, but with the ultimate aim of getting a closed season written in law.

The process would involve working closely not only with shooting, farming and landowning organisations, but also with all key animal welfare and wildlife protection groups in the UK.

80% decline in hare populations
A century ago there were around 4 million hares but the population has been reduced by about 80%, mainly because of farming practices that have reduced their habitat, and the annual kill. Previous government plans to double the hare population by 2010 failed.

"Hares are one of the forgotten victims of English wildlife. I think people would be shocked to know that on average around 1000 are killed every day. That's a deplorable statistic, so asking for a closed season to  protect mothers and their babies is frankly not much to ask," said Mr Mansbridge.

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