Protection for hares in England during their breeding season

George Eustice MP leads a Ten Minute Rule Bill for a close season for hares

Former Farming Minister George Eustice MP will lead a Ten Minute Rule Bill for a close season for hares in the House of Commons on 14 May.

England is fortunate to have two species of hare that call it home. Sadly, numbers of both brown and mountain hares have suffered drastic declines over the past century, a fact recognized by their inclusion in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan, and by the introduction of a Species Action Plan for brown hares in 1995 which aimed to double spring numbers by 2010. This target has not been achieved.

We call for legislation to introduce a close season for hares.

In our opinion, a close season will:

  • bring England into line with Scotland, Northern Ireland, and most other parts of Europe;
  • help meet government objectives and targets to increase hare populations towards historic levels;
  • stop the killing of many thousands of pregnant and nursing females and therefore prevent the suffering and eventual death endured by their dependent leverets, recognised by DEFRA as a huge animal welfare issue; and
  • facilitate law enforcement efforts in terms of reducing illegal poaching and coursing.

On 19th June 2012, our co-founders organised a Parliamentary Event  with HSIUK at Westminster hosted by MPs Neil Parish (Cons), Angela Smith (Lab), and Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem), to highlight the need for a close season, an event which attracted the interest and support of a number of MPs from across parties.

Voluntary schemes are extremely hard to police or monitor, and they offer no opportunity to use punitive measures in order to encourage compliance. In addition, we do not believe that a voluntary scheme would act as a deterrent to those who poach or course hares illegally.

While we welcome any initiative that reduces the level of persecution suffered by hares, we are strongly of the opinion that only a legally binding close season can offer real protection for hares during their breeding season, and achieve the benefits listed above.

As regards the timing of close seasons,  the Hare Preservation Act from 1892 covers the sale (but crucially not the killing) of hares from 1st March to 31st July. This legislation is clearly inadequate and in need of urgent modernisation. The recently introduced close seasons operating in Scotland identify the main breeding season for brown hares as being 1st February to 30th September (and for mountain hares 1st March to 31st July).

To see a video on this issue please visit

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