Oxfordshire PCs Darren James and Marc Lester are just two of the officers whose time is now spent on this animal crime as part of "Operation Migrate" and "Operation Countrywatch". Both PC James and PC Lester patrol the Downs near Wantage in one of several long-wheelbase Landrover Defenders.
Anne Kasica of the SHG said:
"We now have far too many demands on the time and resources of the police. One of their biggest problems is that highly funded animal rights campaign groups such as the RSPCA put intense pressure on the police to concentrate on more minor offences instead of dealing with burglaries and assaults."
"We need to know how police priorities are decided. Surely the main priority must be community safety, not assisting the RSPCA."
The issues raised over the Oxford situation are being repeated all over the country.
Chris Newman of the Federation of Companion Animal Societies (FOCAS) wrote to the Chief Constable of Hampshire Constabulary last year when his 15 year old son was assaulted and needed hospital treatment and the police were too busy to interview him until some six weeks later.
In the letter Mr. Newman contrasted this with the police presence at an animal welfare incident only two and a half weeks after his son was assaulted, in which, in addition to other attendees, two police officers and three Police Support Officers were present for approximately four hours.
Council appointed Animal Welfare inspector Paula Davies was present throughout and led the investigation into whether the comfort of some pet rabbits had been met.
Mr. Newman asked the Chief Constable whether it was police policy to give priority to animal welfare over human welfare, under what remit civilians such as the RSPCA are permitted to use police facilities to pursue private prosecutions, and whether costs of the use of those facilites are recovered from the RSPCA.
Ernest Vine commented:
"This isn't anyone's idea of keeping the community safe."
"When police initiatives are announced, hare coursing isn't the first crime which leaps to mind - unless, of course, you are an animal rights extremist or you work for MORI."
Mr. Vine concluded:
"It is vital that there is a full and open debate on how police time should be prioritised and whether the police should be at the beck and call of the RSPCA in future."