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National Trust joins Natural Resources Wales in banning trail hunting on its land

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The National Trust’s board of trustees has announced the charity will no longer issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.

This activity has been suspended on Trust land since November 2020 following a police investigation into webinars involving huntspeople discussing the practice. 

In October, the then director of the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) was found guilty of encouraging the use of legal trail hunting as a screen to carry out the unlawful chasing and killing of animals. 

At the charity’s Annual General Meeting in October 2021, members voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on National Trust land.  

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature 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.”   

Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004. Following the National Trust’s 2017 AGM, the conservation charity introduced a dedicated Trail Hunting Management Team, which oversaw the licensing process and monitored trail hunting activity against the terms of the new licences.  

Since then, the Trust has seen both compliant and legitimate activity, but also multiple reported breaches.  

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The move by National Trust follows that of Welsh environment body Natural Resources Wales who also banned the practice earlier this month.

Dominic Driver, Head of Land Stewardship for NRW, said: “We have carefully considered the court ruling and our role before coming to a decision at the Board meeting, which we held in public session. The Board has decided not to renew our agreement with the Master Fox Hounds Association.

“The outcome of the court case against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organisation’s ability to ensure its activities are carried out within the law and terms of its agreement.

“In order to assure ourselves properly that trail hunting on our estate wasn’t being used as a cover for illegal activity, we would have to invest in skills and resources that we currently don’t have, to police it properly. Given what has historically been a minor use of the land we manage, this does not represent good use of our limited resources.

“As all trail hunting was managed under the same agreement, all trail hunting activity on the NRW-managed estate will end with immediate effect.”

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The move by Natural Resources Wales was welcomed by the RSPCA.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “This is a very welcome move from Natural Resources Wales, and marks a major step towards curtailing illegal hunting.

“The use of the scent of dead animals such as foxes as used by trail hunts is totally unnecessary as it can result in the hounds chasing live foxes rather than following the scent trail. There are other alternatives, such as drag hunting, in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent which is not derived from animals, so does not pose a threat to wildlife.

“We are concerned that legal trail hunting is being used to create a smoke screen to allow illegal hunting with dogs to continue, as a recent successful prosecution showed where hunters were encouraged to use trail hunting as a cover for illegal fox hunting – so this move to ban is wholly welcome, and we urge other landowners to follow suit in the interests of animal welfare.”

(Lead image: National Trust)

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