I’m sure I speak for many people when I say that I’m shocked to learn that National Trust land has been the setting for cruel and illegal fox hunts in recent times. So I’m supporting The League Against Cruel Sports’ campaign to support a motion asking the National Trust to end hunting on their land once and for all.
As the school summer holidays begin get underway, many of us will be looking for fun days out with the family, and a chance to enjoy the warmer weather (if we are to be so lucky) — and it’s likely that many of us will be heading to land owned by the National Trust to enjoy a picnic outdoors or a tour of one of their 300 or so historic properties in the UK.
However, one unfortunate blot in their copybook is that since the 2005 Hunting Act was passed, the National Trust have continued to allow hunts on their land for ‘trail’ hunting — a pastime which was invented after the hunting ban, as a cover for chasing and killing animals.
National Trust land has been used for trail hunting
I spoke to Nick Weston, Head of Campaigns at The League Against Cruel Sports — who have been campaigning to see an end to hunting on National Trust land since 2017. You can watch my conversation with Nick — in which we discuss this issue in detail — in the video below.
The National Trust issues licences to hunts at various locations around the country. In 2020, following revelations from leaked Zoom webinars that trail hunting is nothing but a ‘smokescreen’, the Trust temporarily suspended all licences pending the ongoing police investigation and court case. This suspension remains in place — but now is the time to see it turned into a permanent ban; and you can help.
In 2017, The League supported a motion at the National Trust’s AGM to ask them to permanently ban hunting on their land. In total 60,000 votes were cast by National Trust members, but the motion was defeated by just 299 votes.
Motions like the one The League supported in 2017 can only be placed once every three years, meaning this year’s AGM is the first opportunity to support a motion such as this in four years.
What is trail hunting?
Hunting wildlife with dogs was banned in 2005 under the Hunting Act, but loopholes exist that the hunts exploit to carry on their activities. One of these is so-called ‘trail’ hunting, in which hunts allegedly follow a pre-laid animal scent trail.
However, trail hunting has been exposed as nothing more than a ‘smokescreen’ used to allow hunts to continue to chase, terrify and kill foxes, and to avoid prosecution.
While hunts are often caught on film chasing foxes, they often claim that they did not set out to do so; that the hounds deviated from the pre-laid trail onto the scent of a real fox. They say it was ‘accidental’.
But given the continued presence of terrier men, badger sett blocking, and the reports of hunts trespassing on private land and causing havoc on public roads and railways, it seems that this is a convenient excuse.
Because of the way the law is written and interpreted, claims of ‘accidental’ illegal hunting makes prosecution difficult. Like The League Against Cruel Sports, I believe the law should be strengthened to prevent ‘trail’ hunting being used as a cover for illegal hunting.
What YOU can do to help stop these hunts from happening on National Trust land
Until recently, hunting was still permitted on National Trust land. However, in the light of the “webinars” scandal, in which senior members of the hunting lobby appear to be describing trail hunting as a “smokescreen”, the National Trust have indefinitely suspended the licences with no review date set. I would love for this to lead to a definitive, permanent ban.
Right now, there are three ways you can join me in helping to create a permanent ban on any kind of hunting on National Trust land…
1. Vote at the National Trust’s AGM in October
If you are a National Trust member, you can use your membership status to a vote at the upcoming AGM against hunts being allowed.
If you love foxes like I do, you can support a motion put forward by a member of the Trust which asks the National Trust to end hunting on its land once and for all.
This motion will be tabled at the National Trust’s AGM in October. All members of the National Trust that have been members for at least 70 days before the closing date for voting will be able to vote on the motion.
According to National Trust by-laws, a motion can only be tabled on the same issue every three years. The previous motion was tabled in 2017, meaning October’s vote is the first chance the public have had to demand a stop to trail-hunting taking place on National Trust land since then. With the delay due to Covid-19, the next time the motion can be raised is 2024. It is vital that this issue is tackled right now.
How to vote: The National Trust will publish the details of the motion and how to vote in the September edition of its membership magazine and on their website. You won’t need to attend the AGM in person, simply vote by post.
Also look out for updates from the League Against Cruel Sports, who will be sharing more information as soon as its available.
2. Remind others to use their vote too
In these times of consumer-led marketing, we all know the power of word-of-mouth.
More than 5.6 million people are members of the National Trust; that’s more than the population of Finland. The chances are — some of your friends and family are members, and may not know about this motion (or that trailing hunting is even taking place). You can help by spreading the word.
Often, a knee-jerk reaction to cases such as this, is to cancel membership — as animal lovers often don’t want to support an organisation that allows hunting on their land. However, in this case, it’s incredibly important to remain a member.
Only members of the Trust will be eligible to vote to end hunting at their AGM in October. For this motion to pass, as many members as possible are needed to vote in support of the motion.
Please remind people you know that details of how to vote will be published in the September issue of the Trust’s magazine.
3. Contact the Director General of the National Trust
If you’re not a member of the National Trust (or if you are, but would like to go even further than voting) you can also make your voice heard by contacting the Director General of the National Trust to share your views. The League Against Cruel Sports have provided a letter for you to personalise on their website; which can be accessed here.
Not a member? If you want to make a difference, now is the time to join the National Trust so that you have the power to make a difference at the voting stage at the AGM in October 2021. Only members of the National Trust that have been members for at least 70 days before the closing date for voting will be able to vote on the motion.
Please support me in helping to end this cruel practice by heading to: bit.ly/national-trust-hunting-ban
Want to know more about foxes?
- Fox hunting ban: Holding on to hope
- How to care for your local foxes
- Bringing British wildlife to schoolchildren: badgers, foxes and 30 Days Wild