Monday 18 November 2019 / 10:30 PM Sue Hayman

Labour sets out £4.5m funding boost to fight hare coursing, fox hunting and other wildlife crimes in support of ambitious animal welfare manifesto

Tomorrow (Tuesday), Labour will announce additional police resources to support plans laid out in the most radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world.

The plans will double the number of police officers tasked to prosecute wildlife crimes from the current 88 to 170, increasing the capability of rural crime units to prosecute wildlife crime. The new wildlife crime officers will not reduce allocations to frontline policing.

Wildlife offences include hare coursing, which has emerged as a significant problem across farmlands, and acts outlawed by Labour’s 2004 Hunting Act, like fox hunting and stag hunting. Other wildlife crime offences include badger and raptor baiting. Prosecutions in England and Wales for crimes like baiting, poaching and hunting have plummeted by a third since 2016.

Working in partnership with regional organised crime units, the additional officers will also act as the eyes and ears of other crimes including animal welfare crimes taking place in rural areas, like livestock theft and dog fighting, which are often linked to serious organised crime.

Labour’s commitment to increase wildlife crime policing will enable more effective actions against existing crime and will ensure police forces are ready to enforce planned new offences and stricter rules.

Labour’s animal welfare manifesto includes additional plans to:

· Close loopholes in the 2004 Hunting Act that allow in practice the continuation of illegal hunting of foxes, deer and hares.

· Introduce a ‘recklessness’ clause to the Act, to prevent trail hunts being used as cover for the illegal hunting of wild mammals.

· Remove the exemption for ‘research and observation’ hunting.

· Remove the exemption for ‘use of dogs below ground to protect birds for shooting’.

· Review the penalties available under the Hunting Act 2004.

· Consult on the introduction of custodial sentences for illegal hunting, bringing it in line with the penalties for other wildlife crimes.

Sue Hayman, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, said:

“Labour’s animal welfare manifesto is the most radical animal welfare plan anywhere in the world.

“While the Tories continue with their mass slaughter of badgers and flip flop on bringing back fox hunting, Labour is determined to bring animal welfare policy into the 21st Century, based on the latest science and understanding.

“We are calling time on those who have been allowed to get away with illegally hunting, maiming and killing wild animals such as deer, hen harriers, foxes and hares.

“By increasing the number of wildlife and rural police forces across the country we will help protect both wild animals and property in rural communities, and ensure a crackdown on the types of crimes against animals that this Tory government has turned a blind eye to.

“Labour is the true party of real change when it comes to animal welfare.”