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Written Question
Hares: Animal Welfare
Thursday 2nd May 2024

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government what plans they have for introducing legislation to introduce a closed season for hares in England, following the publication of DEFRA’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021; and what consultations they have had with stakeholders in that regard.

Answered by Lord Benyon

The Government has no current plans to legislate to introduce a close season for hares in England. The Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021 made a commitment to consider such legislation and it remains an option. An industry-led, non-statutory code of practice to protect hares in England is already in place which states that lethal control to prevent damage to crops should only be carried out in the winter months of January and February when vegetation is low and hares are easily visible. These months avoid the main breeding season and thereby reduce risks to dependent young.

The Government has had no formal consultations with stakeholders on this issue since the publication of the Action Plan for Animal Welfare but we have heard representations from interested parties, both in support of and opposed to a close season for hares.


Written Question
Hares: Conservation
Thursday 4th April 2024

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Benyon on 12 July 2023 (HL9069), which stated that “Introducing a close season for brown hares remains an option”, what indicators they are using to assess the necessity of this option, and how frequently they review it.

Answered by Lord Benyon

The proposal to introduce a close season for the brown hare, referred to in HL9069, was set out in the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare. In terms of the necessity of a close season from a wildlife conservation perspective, the brown hare is one of the indicator species for our legally binding targets in England to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and then reverse declines by 2042. We know that in order to meet these targets we will need large-scale habitat creation and restoration and improved connectivity but this will be supplemented where appropriate by intelligence on individual species. While there are no immediate plans to undertake a national mammal population review as was conducted in 2018, we should get an idea of trends in our brown hare population from published surveys, for example from the British Trust for Ornithology’s mammal recording, which it has been conducting since 1995 with a view to helping improve our knowledge of the distribution and population trends of some of our commoner mammals.


Written Question
Hare Coursing: Organised Crime
Thursday 4th April 2024

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the links between hare coursing and organised crime, and what assessment they have made of the economic impact of hare coursing and poaching.

Answered by Lord Benyon

The Government recognises the impact which hare coursing has on rural communities. The Government has considered evidence from a wide range of stakeholders and the police on the problems caused by hare coursing, including with organised crime.

That is why we have introduced new measures to strengthen law enforcement and increase the powers of the courts through the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act. They have been widely welcomed. The new offences and higher penalties introduced by the Act are all being used and imposed by the courts.


Written Question
Hares: Conservation
Wednesday 12th July 2023

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the introduction of a closed season for hunting activities to coincide with the breeding and rearing of brown hares; if so, what progress they have made in this work; and if not, what alternative measures or strategies they assess would be needed to address the impact of hunting practices on dependent young hares.

Answered by Lord Benyon

In May 2021, a commitment was included within the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to consider legislation to introduce a close season for brown hares in England. It was considered that a close season, prohibiting the killing of hares during their breeding season, would be likely to reduce the number of leverets (young hares) left motherless, giving them a better chance of survival. This is consistent with Natural England’s advice on wildlife management, which is to avoid controlling species in their peak breeding season unless genuinely essential and unavoidable. Introducing a close season for brown hares remains an option. An industry-led, non-statutory code of practice to protect hares in England is already in place which states that lethal control to prevent damage to crops should only be carried out in the winter months of January and February when vegetation is low and hares are easily visible. These months avoid the main breeding season and thereby reduce risks to dependent young.

In the absence of a close season, the Government has taken other forms of action which should have beneficial effects for our brown hares. Last year we introduced new measures to strengthen law enforcement and increase the powers of the courts through the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act to clamp down on the scourge of hare coursing. They have been widely welcomed. The new offences and higher penalties introduced by the Act are all being used and imposed by the courts. Further to this, brown hare is one of the indicator species for our legally binding targets in England to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and then reverse declines by 2042. We know that in order to meet these targets we will need large-scale habitat creation, restoration and improved connectivity. Our legally binding target to restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat is already driving action on this front, including for habitat on which hares rely to flourish, such as open grassland.


Written Question
Hares: Conservation
Wednesday 12th July 2023

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government what assessments they have undertaken in the last 20 years of the impact of hunting practices on the orphaning of brown hare leverets in England and Wales.

Answered by Lord Benyon

In May 2021, a commitment was included within the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to consider legislation to introduce a close season for brown hares in England. It was considered that a close season, prohibiting the killing of hares during their breeding season, would be likely to reduce the number of leverets (young hares) left motherless, giving them a better chance of survival. This is consistent with Natural England’s advice on wildlife management, which is to avoid controlling species in their peak breeding season unless genuinely essential and unavoidable. Introducing a close season for brown hares remains an option. An industry-led, non-statutory code of practice to protect hares in England is already in place which states that lethal control to prevent damage to crops should only be carried out in the winter months of January and February when vegetation is low and hares are easily visible. These months avoid the main breeding season and thereby reduce risks to dependent young.

In the absence of a close season, the Government has taken other forms of action which should have beneficial effects for our brown hares. Last year we introduced new measures to strengthen law enforcement and increase the powers of the courts through the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act to clamp down on the scourge of hare coursing. They have been widely welcomed. The new offences and higher penalties introduced by the Act are all being used and imposed by the courts. Further to this, brown hare is one of the indicator species for our legally binding targets in England to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and then reverse declines by 2042. We know that in order to meet these targets we will need large-scale habitat creation, restoration and improved connectivity. Our legally binding target to restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat is already driving action on this front, including for habitat on which hares rely to flourish, such as open grassland.


Written Question
Hares: Conservation
Wednesday 12th July 2023

Asked by: Baroness Helic (Conservative - Life peer)

Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to (1) address the issue of orphaning in the brown hare population, and (2) protect dependent young hares.

Answered by Lord Benyon

In May 2021, a commitment was included within the Government’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare to consider legislation to introduce a close season for brown hares in England. It was considered that a close season, prohibiting the killing of hares during their breeding season, would be likely to reduce the number of leverets (young hares) left motherless, giving them a better chance of survival. This is consistent with Natural England’s advice on wildlife management, which is to avoid controlling species in their peak breeding season unless genuinely essential and unavoidable. Introducing a close season for brown hares remains an option. An industry-led, non-statutory code of practice to protect hares in England is already in place which states that lethal control to prevent damage to crops should only be carried out in the winter months of January and February when vegetation is low and hares are easily visible. These months avoid the main breeding season and thereby reduce risks to dependent young.

In the absence of a close season, the Government has taken other forms of action which should have beneficial effects for our brown hares. Last year we introduced new measures to strengthen law enforcement and increase the powers of the courts through the Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Act to clamp down on the scourge of hare coursing. They have been widely welcomed. The new offences and higher penalties introduced by the Act are all being used and imposed by the courts. Further to this, brown hare is one of the indicator species for our legally binding targets in England to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030 and then reverse declines by 2042. We know that in order to meet these targets we will need large-scale habitat creation, restoration and improved connectivity. Our legally binding target to restore or create more than 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat is already driving action on this front, including for habitat on which hares rely to flourish, such as open grassland.