Poaching - A farmers story
This week is the National Rural Crime Network’s Rural Crime Week of Action. Throughout the week I have shared information about the work going on towards the Fight Rural Crime priority within my Police and Crime Plan, been out with Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team and supported a new CrimeStoppers campaign to encourage the reporting of rural crime.
I think that it is important to ensure we amplify victims’ voices throughout weeks of action like this to highlight the impact rural crime has on our communities. Earlier in the week I shared a video telling the story of two Dorset farmers and the impact rural crime has had on their lives and businesses.
I’d like to continue to share victims’ stories by handing over my newsletter this week to one of these farmers so they can tell us more about how poaching has affected their life.
“‘Poaching’ is nothing new, it has been something that has taken place in the countryside for generations, initially it could be linked to those struggling taking game to feed their families, it was literally an occupation of survival.
My first real experience of witnessing poaching was as a child. I was young, but I recall the event like it was yesterday, watching from my home as a father and his two sons were walking across farmland in front of my house. I recall seeing two dogs chasing a deer and just as the deer was about to jump a barbed wire fence the dogs caught the back end of it and brought it down. I don’t remember what happened after that, but I do recall being at the scene. Police dogs tracked the individuals back to their home as they were locals, a family who are still committing the same crimes today as they were back then in the 80s.
Today, the situation is very much different here in Dorset. Often the animal is left in the field where its life was finally taken, having been traumatised by the individuals who make it their business to carry out such acts. A few years ago, I witnessed what I believed to be the poaching of a magnificent stag, it was October, and the stag had its full set of antlers but would have been tired as it was towards the end of the rutting season, making it easier to catch.
This was in the same field as I had witnessed poaching as a child but now the new generation of poachers chooses a motor vehicle as part of its armoury rather than being on foot. This animal was taken for its antlers, a prize, something to show off, possibly as part of a bet taking place that evening amongst a group of poachers who communicate through WhatsApp or other social media. A bet possibly to see who can get the largest set of antlers that night, or who can poach the first deer is commonplace.
Since that event, I have witnessed the dead animals and the destruction the poachers leave behind on many occasions. I’ve seen deer rammed into hedges and left to die, one incident where I found a deer that had its head crushed by someone smashing it with a large stone, without doubt held down and tormented before the final blow. Deer which have been dragged around fields whilst tied to 4 x 4s after being brought down by dogs, and, at its worst, deer which have had their eyes cut out, genitals cut off – all whilst alive, all in the name of ‘fun’.
The impact poaching has on us as farmers is massive. Financially, poachers do a lot of damage as they drive through fields, do donuts and tear up crops. They also often drive through gates and hedges which can cause livestock to get out which has further financial implications. But it’s not just the financial impact, there is also an emotional impact. If you are a lover of wildlife, you don’t want to see these things going on. There’s a constant worry about what they are going to do next.
In the past it has been difficult to deal with the magnitude of the issue. Now, collectively with farmers coming together and a large input from the restructured Dorset Police Rural Crime Team, as well as some really good backing from the Police and Crime Commissioner, it’s starting to feel like we can get on top of it. Together we have a passion to stop these crimes and I do think we can reduce and eliminate them.”
This farmer is exactly right, it is only by working together as partners we can truly start to tackle the issue of rural crime. That’s why, last year, I established the Dorset Partnership Against Rural Crime (DPARC) to bring together partner agencies such as Dorset Council, Dorset Police, and The Environment Agency, amongst others, to share knowledge and best practice to better support Dorset’s rural communities.
I am pleased to be able to say it’s working and the impact of the DPARC and Dorset Police’s award-winning Rural Crime Team is being felt by rural communities across the county. A recent report from NFU Mutual showed a 28% drop in the cost of crime for Dorset compared to an increase of 22.1% nationally.
I am committed to continuing to work with partner agencies through DPARC and with rural communities as we endeavour to fight rural crime and make Dorset the safest county.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner