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Wildlife Crime Enforcement

Volume 657: debated on Thursday 28 March 2019

I have discussed certain issues with Home Office Ministers; I am thinking particularly of recent discussions about hare coursing. The hon. Gentleman will recognise that it is for chief constables to determine how offences are enforced, but I welcome the move by police and crime commissioners to increasingly make that a priority for their local constabularies.

Foxhunting is illegal in this country, yet it is allowed and even encouraged by some landowners. This is not trail hunting; it involves the pain and suffering of animals before they are killed. Will the Minister confirm that she supports the prosecution of those involved in this cruel activity, including landowners—even if they are Members of this House?

I think the hon. Gentleman was about to make an allegation against somebody. It is important that evidence be provided to the police, and it is for them to make a recommendation to the Crown Prosecution Service. If anybody is breaking the law on this sort of activity, I fully welcome prosecutions being made.

What investigations is the Minister making on what drives rural and wildlife crime, so that the police can understand it and respond appropriately?

Both DEFRA and the Home Office fund the national wildlife crime unit and support its work in investigating crimes. They undertake analysis and share intelligence with police forces. There are six wildlife crime priorities—badgers, bat and raptor persecution, illegal trade in species covered by the convention on international trade in endangered species, poaching and freshwater mussels, but more can be done locally, and I am aware that hare coursing in particular concerns many Members of Parliament.

The Minister will be aware of the devastating impact that dog attacks on livestock can have for farmers. What discussions are the Government having with colleagues about possible amendment to the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 to better enable police forces to address the matter?

Strictly speaking, livestock is not wildlife, but there are protections and it will really be a case of local communities working together. A lot more could probably be done to educate people about how they control their dogs when they are out on a country walk.