Illegally catching birds, animals and fish on another person’s land.
Only landowners with land worth £100 or more were allowed to
hunt. To challenge their rights by poaching was seen as an attack
on their property.
POACHING WAS A MIXTURE OF NEED AND GREED.
It was recognised at the time as partly the result of poverty. The 18th
century enclosure movement meant many small farmers lost their
land and became labourers, with no food supply of their own. They
saw poaching as a remedy to which they were entitled.
The majority of people living in the C18th were poor – especially
when bad harvests increased food prices or a fall in trade meant
they lost their job.
Poorly paid farm-labourers relied on pheasant or rabbit to feed their
Some poachers were in it for profit, working with organised gangs
and supplying food not for themselves but for the black market.
WAS POACHING REALLY A CRIME?
Poaching was a ‘social’ crime, which most people did not regard as
a crime at all. E.g. like music and video downloads today.
Poaching laws meant farmers couldn’t kill rabbits or deer that ate
Critics of poaching laws believed they just protected the rights of
the landowners - Who owned wild birds and animals after all?
HOW WAS POACHING
In 1723 the "Black Act" made poaching with a
blackened face a capital offence (those caught could
be hanged). Possessing poaching equipment e.g. dogs
or snares could mean a year in prison or transportation.
Gamekeepers watched out for poachers day and night,
and set man traps and spring-guns for those who eluded