They say “There will be no hares left if coursing isn’t banned.”
It’s a lie: Research by the Game Conservancy, a government sponsored body, has shown that hare numbers are increasing on estates where coursing takes place. The farming and keepering is sympathetically directed towards high hare numbers. The numbers of hares killed in coursing are negligible compared with those shot or run over, or those killed by natural predators. Six families of foxes kill more hares in a year than all the coursing meetings run in England, Wales and Scotland put together.
They say “The hare is always killed.”
It’s a lie: In the vast majority of courses the hare escapes unharmed. At several coursing grounds, special refuges called “soughs” are installed which aid the escape of hares. If an unacceptable percentage of deaths began to occur at a coursing meeting, the Coursing Inspector, appointed by the National Coursing Club, would stop the meeting.
They say “The object of coursing is to kill the hare.”
It’s a lie: Courses are a match to test the merit of two dogs. Only two dogs are slipped at a time. The hare is given a start of at least one hundred yards and often further before the dogs are released. The courses are judged according to a time- honoured code of scoring first set down in the time of Elizabeth I. The judge follows the courses on horseback awarding points for speed and agility. The decision does not depend on the death of the hare which in seven courses out of eight escapes unharmed.
They say “The hares are torn apart by the dogs.”
It’s a lie: The greyhound, evolved over centuries of careful breeding, can kill a hare instantly. National Coursing Club Rules also provide for four pickers-up strategically placed on the coursing field whose specific duty is to despatch the hare in the very few cases where the dogs fail to kill instantaneously.
They say “The hares are let out of boxes.”
It’s a lie: All hares coursed in England, Wales, and Scotland are coursed on their own ground where they are aware of all the natural refuges and escapes. The hares are either driven onto the coursing ground by beaters or are “walked-up” as in rough shooting.
They say “The hares are coursed in wired-in fields.”
It’s a lie: By the Rules of the National Coursing Club a coursing ground must not be enclosed.
They say “The hares are terrified.”
It’s a lie: Being pursued is as natural to a hare as breathing to a human being. Their speed, agility and extraordinary circle of vision have evolved as surely to avoid capture as their pursuers have evolved in the opposite direction. Research has shown that coursed hares, when they have escaped, return immediately to the activity in which they were engaged when disturbed; sleeping, feeding etc.
They say “coursing is a sport for the privileged few.”
It’s a lie: Apart from coarse fishing no country sport is more truly “popular” than coursing. Huge crowds attend the Waterloo Cup, coursing’s premier event, and the dogs are owned by a real cross- section of the population.
They say “coursing is a shameful sport which takes place in the shadows.”
It’s a lie: Coursing is a public sport with nothing to hide. Meetings are publicised in the national racing paper the “Racing Post”. Of all country sports coursing enjoys the most sophisticated national administration, and the National Coursing Club has strictly regulated the sport for over 150 years.
They say “Banning coursing would stop illegal coursing .”
It’s a lie: People who take no notice of the laws of trespass will hardly bother very much with a law banning coursing. In fact land owners may respond, if legal coursing were abolished, by shooting hares to discourage trespass on their land. As the House of Lords Committee concluded when rejecting the 1976 Bill to abolish Coursing. “The Bill is not a suitable instrument for reducing the suffering of hares.”
The above was written before the Ban of Hunting in the UK was enforced. Now there is no legal coursing and much of the above has been proved all too correct – hares are far less abundant, even in areas where previously they were in no danger, because they have been targeted more than before. In the last year of legal coursing, 180 hares were killed in 1,462 courses on 71 days on 10 purely coursing estates. The following year 8,000 hares were shot on those same estates. The ‘illegal coursing’, or ‘poaching’ has not stopped – as we said it would not.