This petition was submitted during the 2017–2019 Conservative government

Petition Grant the brown hare protection under S5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

The brown hare had a Species Action Plan under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan but no action was taken. In parts of the country they are nearly extinct due to farming practices or hunting.

To save this much loved animal becoming yet another species on the verge of extinction. We need to act now!

More details

Hares have minimal legal protection because they are considered a game species and can be shot throughout the year, including through their breeding season.

If Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) or Myxomatosis spreads to non-resistant hares the species could be virtually eradicated in a couple of years.

This petition is closed This petition ran for 6 months

12,398 signatures

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Government responded

This response was given on 2 May 2019

The hare population in the UK is stable. As brown hares are already protected by legislation and industry-led initiatives, we do not see a need for additional legal protection.

Read the response in full

The law already protects brown hares. Legislation has helped ensure that the overall hare population remains stable, with an estimated 579,000 animals.

Under the Hunting Act 2004, it is an offence to participate in, attend or facilitate a hare coursing event and an individual can receive an unlimited fine if found guilty of doing so. Anyone who wants to report an offence under the Hunting Act 2004 should contact the police. In common with all wild animals, brown hares in England are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from certain methods of killing and taking. The Government has no plans to change these protections.

With regard to the protection of hares more generally, there has been an industry-led initiative to consider voluntary measures to ensure appropriate levels of welfare in brown hare management. As a result a code of practice to protect hares in England has been published, which says that control should only be carried out in the winter months of January and February when crops and vegetation are low and hares are easily visible. This, in effect, provides for a voluntary close season covering the main breeding season while allowing farmers to protect their crops from serious damage by hares.

The primary pressure on brown hare populations arose from habitat changes due to past farming practices. This continues to be addressed through habitat/landscape restoration and agri-environment schemes. Disease and the increase in the number of predators, such as buzzards, continue to impact upon the brown hare population in England. It should also be noted that seasonal mortality in hares in the autumn months is normal, particularly following the breeding season.

A total of five hares have been detected with RHDV2 (a variant of Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease), and no cases of myxomatosis have been diagnosed. Other causes of death among hares include coccidiosis, traumatic injury and European brown hare syndrome (EBHS). The results so far suggest that mortalities are due to several reasons, with no single disease predominating.
More detail on Animal and Plant Health Agency investigations into brown hare deaths since October 2018 is available at

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.