National Trust bans trail hunting from its land after senior huntsman was caught telling people to use sport as a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal fox hunting
- The charity said it had ‘carefully considered the issue’ before taking drastic step
- It said recent conviction of senior huntsman and a vote at AGM were also factors
- But rural groups blasted the move for stopping legal activity lasting generations
The National Trust has banned trail hunting on its land because bosses fear ‘the reputational risk’ of allowing packs to continue.
The charity, which has been blasted for going ‘woke’ in recent months, said the board of trustees had ‘carefully considered the issue’ before taking the drastic step.
It said a recent conviction of a senior huntsman and a vote at its annual general meeting – involving just two per cent of members – were among other factors.
Hunting and rural groups slammed the trust for ‘breaking its fundamental principle’ of ‘for everyone, for ever’.
They pointed to an ‘engineered’ bullying campaign from opponents of legal hunting to harass landowners into stopping the sport.
The charity, which has been blasted for going ‘woke’ in recent months, said the board of trustees had ‘carefully considered the issue’ before taking the drastic step (file photo)
National Trust director of land and nature Harry Bowell said: ‘The board of trustees has carefully considered this issue.
‘Its decision to issue no further licences for trail hunting is based on a wide range of considerations.
‘These include – but are not limited to – a loss of trust and confidence in the MFHA, which governs trail hunting, the vote by National Trust members at our recent AGM, the considerable resources needed to facilitate trail hunting, and the reputational risk of this activity continuing on our land.’
Trail hunting is legal and sees hounds follow a scent laid down by huntsmen to follow through the countryside.
It replicates a traditional fox hunt without an animal actually being chased, injured or killed.
There is occasionally a risk a hound may accidentally pick up on a real fox scent, but they are then stopped by their masters.
The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting foxes with hounds, but there have been reports of breaches since.
Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner blasted the Trust’s decision for going against its motto.
Mr Bonner told MailOnline: ‘The National Trust’s decision breaks a fundamental principle.
‘The charity claims to be ‘for everyone, for ever’, but by prohibiting a legal activity it has decided it is actually just for those who its board approves of.
‘The inability of trustees to differentiate between the legal use of hounds and the governance of hunting is extremely regrettable and breaks the basic principle of access to National Trust land for legitimate activities.’
Hunting and rural groups slammed the trust for ‘breaking its fundamental principle’ of ‘for everyone, for ever’ (file photo)
A spokesman from the Hunting Office said: ‘Today the National Trust board has informed us of their decision not to issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.
‘This decision is hugely disappointing, considering 98 per cent of the Trust members did not participate in the vote to ban trail hunting at the AGM earlier this year.
‘The board’s decision to prevent a lawful and legitimate activity comes as a result of an engineered campaign by opponents of trail hunting to bully landowners into stopping a lawful activity carried out by the rural community.
‘Hunts have had access to National Trust land for generations and the decision goes completely against the core mantra of the National Trust ‘for everyone, for ever’.
‘We hope that we can maintain an open dialogue with the Trust and have further consultation following the review which we are currently conducting.’
The Trust’s ban comes after a senior huntsman was convicted of telling people to use the sport as a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal fox hunting.
Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mark Hankinson was in October found guilty of telling huntsmen to use trail hunting as ‘a sham and a fiction’ for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals
The sport was suspended on trust land from November 2020 after a police probe into webinars by huntsmen discussing the practice.
Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mark Hankinson was in October found guilty of telling huntsmen to use trail hunting as ‘a sham and a fiction’ for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals.
Following the conviction, National Trust members at the charity’s annual general meeting voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on its land.
The National Trust has just under six million members who would have been eligible to vote.
Those who proposed the motion on the ban stated ‘overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that ‘trail hunting’ is a cover for hunting with dogs’.
The Countryside Alliance campaigned against the motion to ban trail hunting on National Trust land.
Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting, said: ‘Today’s vote involved a tiny proportion of the Trust’s membership and is absolutely no mandate for prohibition of a legal activity which has been carried out on National Trust land for generations.
‘Adopting the motion would totally undermine the Trust’s own motto: ‘for everyone, for ever.
‘The principle the Trust follows should be simple – legal activity should be allowed on National Trust land as long as it is not impacting on other users.
‘We remain ready to work with the Trust to ensure that everyone can have confidence that trail hunting activity is open, transparent and legitimate.’
‘Hunts who use National Trust land for these lawful activities are required to comply with a strict licensing policy.
‘The Trust’s Board of Trustees have stated they are satisfied with the implementation of, and the compliance with, the licensing conditions.’
Following the AGM in 2017, when a previous bid to ban trail hunting was voted down, the charity introduced a management team to oversee the licensing process.
The trust said it had seen both compliant and legitimate activity since then, but also claimed there were multiple reported breaches.
The National Trust looks after hundreds of thousands of acres of countryside across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The move to ban trail hunting applies to land in England and Wales. No hunting is allowed on Northern Irish trust land.
When the Trust suspended licences a year ago, there was just one trail hunting licence.
The previous year, 2019/20, there had been 14 licences, and eight the year before that.
Last week, Welsh Government nature agency Natural Resources Wales, which looks after swathes of countryside and forests, banned trail hunting on its land.
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