Too often rural businesses are being hit by poachers travelling from urban areas to the countryside to poach birds, deer, rabbits and hare.
I recently went out with the East Dorset Neighbourhood Policing Team to better understand the issue of poaching. It is a huge issue in Dorset, and if you read one of my later blogs, you will see that I consider drones as a future way to tackle this endemic issue.
Those involved in the poaching consider it to be a hobby; breeding dogs for coursing and using their vehicles to kill deer. Alternatively, they come with the intent to poach pheasant or partridge, using catapults to bring the birds down which does not always kill the bird but can leave it injured.
The cost of poaching includes damage to fences, gates, crops and breeding stock. In a single night thousands of pounds worth of damage can be done and years of work destroyed. Mr Underhill was also told by a local gamekeeper how he and his family had suffered intimidation and threats after he had challenged groups of men on their land.
In my view, it should be realised that the losses incurred impact significantly on the rural economy, this means it affects not only the landowners but also those employed in the countryside. Some losses can be so severe that the viability of the business is threatened. These are honest hardworking people providing much needed jobs and bringing visitors to the area, with the knock on benefits this has to tourism. Maintaining our rural estates is so important to the economy of Dorset.
The rural neighbourhood team in East Dorset recognised that there is under reporting of crime across the rural area despite a lot having been done to improve communication and relationships. The rural neighbourhood team, which includes a team of Special Constables, has been working with the gamekeepers and farmers, together with Police Officers from both Wilshire and Hampshire to identify and target a number of offenders travelling into Dorset from outside the area.
They spoke of the need to revise the legislation in respect of poaching to increase penalties and to make it easier for police to seize dogs from repeat offenders.
I am discussing the Poaching Act with our MP’s to see if changes need to be made to support the farming community.