means stealing wild creatures - birds, animals or fish - from
those who own the land or water they live in.)
There were tough punishments for poaching during this period.
A key part of the Act of 1671 is included in these documents.
In 1723 the "Black Act" made poaching with a blackened
face a capital offence (those caught could be hanged). Possessing
poaching equipment could mean a year in prison or transportation
(see Gallery Punishment
before 1450). This reflects the determination of the landowners,
who made up most of the rulers of the country, to keep the
animals they regarded as theirs out of the hands of poachers.
Other people, however, hated the poaching laws. Who owned wild
birds and animals after all? It meant that farmers couldn't
kill rabbits or deer who ate their corn. It meant that poorly-paid
farmworkers couldn't help out their family meals with a rabbit
However, not all poachers were just poaching to eat. Some made
a good business of it, supplying food merchants in the towns
who didn't ask too many questions about where their supplier
got them from. So should we feel sorry for poachers?