A farmer has been left fearing for his safety after a brutal attack by a gang of hare coursers.
South Cambridgeshire arable farmer Will Wombwell said he was lucky to escape the criminals during the ordeal and warned the industry it must shake off its ‘soft target’ reputation to prevent the activity getting worse.
He said East Anglia and the surrounding areas were particularly affected and the farm had to up its evidence-taking to help the police tackle lines of enquiry.
Mr Wombwell said: “We just about managed six weeks of grace before they came back with a serious agenda.
“These are people who absolutely do not care. We jumped in our pick-up trucks and managed to lock them in the field and there was a brief moment of ‘brilliant, the police will turn up, arrest them and it will be a plus one to the farmer’.
“But instead the guys left four dogs running around and as I got out to shut the gate again they set about me, punching me and one had a hold of me.
“The next thing I knew, one of them picked up a metal bar and swung it at me. It pretty much took the end of my nose off.”
Mr Wombwell praised the Cambridgeshire Rural Crime Action Team for their work but said more needed to be done to prevent hare coursing becoming ‘another thing to add to the endless list’ of rural crime.
“Unfortunately we are seen as a soft target and nine out of ten times the perpetrators – particularly hare coursers – are getting away with it,” he added.
“I cannot hook my farm onto the back of a transit and disappear; I am a sitting target and it is scary.
“These are harder criminals we are dealing with. Their first port of call was to wallop me with a metal bar- whilst on my farm defending my private property.
“Quite why they think they have the right to run across a farmers private land baffles me.”
NFU chief land management adviser Sam Durham added: “NFU members experienced massive increases in hare coursing after harvest 2016 and many are fearful that the coursers will be back once this year’s harvest has finished.
“These criminals often arrive in large groups and farmers who have approached them have faced threatening behaviour which, like this incident, occasionally led to assaults.
“The NFU report ‘Combatting Rural Crime’ calls on Government and police forces to work together to stamp out rural crimes such as hare coursing.”