North Durham MP is warned that lifting hunting ban could wipe out brown hare population

Lifting the ban on dog hunts could wipe out the entire British Hare population, a Durham MP is being warned.

Following news that the hunting ban could be repealed within months, an urgent letter has been sent by the Hare Preservation Trust to North Durham MP Kevan Jones.

In it John Rimington warns that the native “inoffensive brown hare”, which has already seen its numbers plummet by 80%, could be effectively killed off if the current ban is overturned.

An early Commons vote is expected on the Hunting With Dogs Act, which also outlaws hare coursing, following pressure on David Cameron from Conservative MPs to honour the election manifesto pledge.

Hunting supporters are confident the free vote will successfully overthrow the act which came into force 10 years ago.

But in the letter to the Labour MP, Mr Rimington urges an enlightened approach to prevail over “destructive human entertainment”.

He said:

“The repeal of the legislation would further threaten the survival of our inoffensive brown hare.

“Around one third of the dog hunts in England and Wales are hare hunts, nothing to do with foxes.

“Even if a hunted or coursed hare manages to evade pursuing dogs there is still a very real prospect of the hare subsequently dying from stress myopathy, caused by a build up of lactic acid in the bloodstream which damages internal organs and leads to a painful and often lingering death within hours or days of the initial traumatic pursuit.”

He said the brown hare was highlighted in 2011 as a iconic native species most at risk of extinction by 2050, with its population having declined by more than 80% in the last century.

Brown hares are the fastest mammal in Britain and have been here since the Iron Age, but they have little legal protection.

 

The Mammal Society has also noted how numbers have declined substantially in certain areas.

Mr Rimington, the Hare Preservation Trust’s technical liaison officer, said:

“Only in East Anglia is the population currently at a level to avoid the possibility of extinction by 2050 becoming a reality.”

Polls show 85% of the public is opposed to hare hunting and coursing and he said without the protection of the ban police will face even greater difficulties in controlling illegal coursing.

The Natural History Society of Northumbria which records numbers of brown hares across Durham and Northumberland says they are still coursed illegally using greyhounds, whippets and lurchers across the region despite the hunting ban.

Mr Jones is understood to have never voted on the hunting ban, having been absent during three crucial votes on hunting in 2002, 2003 and 2004.

Mr Rimington’s letter to him ends:

“Rather than use wildlife as a source of destructive human entertainment, it is a far more intelligent and emotionally mature attitude to realise the detrimental effect which such introvert activity has on the ecology of the countryside.

“Just because an activity was acceptable centuries ago does not mean that it should persist in a more enlightened and less primitive age.”

Former Newcastle councillor Mr Jones, who first joined the House of Commons in June 2001, was unavailable for comment.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 19 May 2015

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