RURAL organisations have united to call on the government to enact "urgent reform" on hare coursing legislation.

A group of organisations has penned a letter to the Secretary of State for Defra and the Home Office, in which they call upon the government to amend the 1831 Game Act.

They ask that greater powers be given to the police and criminal justice system, including full seizure and forfeiture powers for dogs and vehicles, removal of the current limits on penalties and allowing police to recover kennelling costs from offenders.

Hare coursing is a type of illegal hunting - it involves dogs chasing after a hare.

In a combined statement, the group said: "There is no doubt that hare coursing is as prevalent as ever and having huge impacts on rural communities. Whether it is farmers being intimidated and threatened by coursers, the damage their vehicles cause to our iconic landscape or the cruelty this inflicts on our native wildlife, the impacts on the British countryside from illegal hare coursing are huge.

"Despite success in some parts of the country, we are still seeing increased incidents of hare coursing overall.

"It is clear to us, our members and the police that relying on legislation that is nearly 200 years old is simply inadequate and in need of urgent reform. That’s why we are asking the Government to support simple changes to the Game Act that would give police the powers they need to properly tackle this crime and deter criminals with a sentence that fits the crime.

"As a coalition, we will continue to raise this issue with Government at the highest level and ensure they recognise the importance of tackling rural crimes to rural communities up and down the country."

The coalition includes the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), the Countryside Alliance, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), the Kennel Club, the NFU, the National Rural Crime Network, the RSPCA and Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).