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What is

Lamping?

Lamping is a loose term that covers a number of different activities. However, they all take place at night and they all result in the deaths of wildlife in the British countryside.

Lamping is so-called because participants use lamps or spotlights to light up areas of the countryside at night to reveal or highlight live quarry such as rabbits and foxes. With the animal caught in the spotlight, the lamper will then use either a gun or hound(s) to make the kill.

Advocates of lamping describe the activity as a form of ‘pest control’. In some cases farmers or landowners will employ lampers to kill animals they view as pests, such as rabbits eating crops or foxes taking chickens. But, as with any other bloodsport, many will go out lamping for the enjoyment of killing whether they have landowner permission or not.

A ShootingUK article described one type of lamping. It said lampers go into fields on foot and shine their lights across the ground until catching a “rabbit that is far enough out to give a dog a chance of catch”. The lamper then slips a lurcher, who will creep or run down the beam of light until the hound catches the rabbit or starts chasing it. But this is not the only form lamping takes.

Brian Calver from Suffolk Police’s Rural Crime Team explained to the East Anglian Daily Times how some lampers go out highly equipped. The sergeant described “gangs” of lampers using 4x4s with light arrays that are “wired into vehicles”. They will drive across fields looking for quarry before setting ‘especially bred’ dogs such as lurcher-bull terrier crosses on the prey. And these lampers will travel across the country to fulfil their desires, much like hare coursers.

As well as 4x4s, guns, dogs and spotlights, lampers may also use night vision or thermal imaging equipment to help spot animals in fields.

ShootingUK recommends “dark and windy” nights as providing the best conditions for successful lamping. And the season begins in late summer once crops are harvested, much like hunting with hounds.

IS LAMPING LEGAL?

Lamping is a legal activity. Farmers or landowners may lamp in order to control what they view as pests on their property, or they may bring in others to lamp for them. As there are no legal restrictions on the killing of rabbits, hares, and foxes, lampers are free to pursue their cruelty so long as they have landowner permission. But lampers will also target badgers, a protected species, and this is illegal.

Over the years there have been scattered news reports of lampers targetting badgers. In 2004, the Independent reported on increasing numbers of badgers apparently killed by lampers. And in the same year the Wirral Globe reported on a man that was jailed for lamping badgers. In 2008, there was a news report of a suspected lamped badger in Norton, North Yorkshire. And the Lancashire Telegraph reported in 2012 that badger lamping was increasing in East Lancashire.

Lampers will also fall foul of the law if they don’t have landowners permission. While trespassing itself isn’t a criminal offence, police may treat lamping without permission as ‘night poaching’. The use of 4x4s may also cause damage to crops or other property, which is illegal in many circumstances. In this respect, there is a thin line between lamping and coursing.

SICK JOY

Like the rest of the hunting industry, lamping straddles both sides of the line of legality. But whether criminal or not, the act of lamping is no less cruel than hunting, shooting, coursing or baiting. And lampers take as much pride in showing off their cruelty as any other wildlife persecutor.

A search for lamping videos on social media app TikTok returns huge numbers of accounts with videos of both legal and illegal lamping (content warning for the second video, it shows hounds attacking various animals including badgers). And the videos are often framed with a sense of joy and revelry in the chasing and killing. This is not simple ‘pest control’.

If you spot lamps in a field at night, either on foot or on a vehicle, it may be lampers. It may also be coursers or badger baiters. Whatever the situation, it is worth reporting the sighting to the police and to your local hunt saboteurs group.