The National Trust will no longer issue licenses for trail hunting on its grounds, the charity's trustees announced last week.
Hunting wild animals was banned in England and Wales in 2004, and trail hunting acts as a substitute. Hunts chase a synthetic scent made to mimic an animal so no animals are harmed.
After the charity’s members voted to ban trail hunting on the National Trust grounds last month, the board of trustees have agreed with their vote and motioned it from 25 November.
Many people fear that trail hunting can mask real hunting. Earlier this year, former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), Mark Hankinson, was found guilty of assisting and encouraging hunters to evade hunting rules.
The National Trust said it has now lost confidence in the MFHA.
Harry Bowell, director of land and nature at the National Trust, 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.”
In a landslide majority, 76,816 members voted in favour of banning trail hunting against 38,184 at the charity’s latest annual general meeting.
Trail hunting was paused on National Trust lands in November 2020 following the investigation into MFHA.
The Trust said that trail hunting became licensed on its lands in 2017. Since then, the charity has reported “both compliant and legitimate activity, but also multiple reported breaches”.
Animal welfare groups rejoice
Campaign group Keep the Ban has lobbied National Trust to ban trail hunting on its land for a long time, and said it was pleased with the outcome.
Rob Pownall, founder of Keep The Ban commented: “We have been tirelessly campaigning for this outcome for years. Finally the National Trust have made the decision they should have made years ago and banned the hunts from their land.”
League Against Cruel Sports also welcomed the National Trust’s decision, but was more cautious of the National Trust’s language and urged the charity to go further.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns, said: “The board has recognised the strength of feeling in its membership and the public in general, who are more aware than ever that so-called trail-hunting is used as an excuse – a smokescreen – for illegal hunting.
“However, the recent Hankinson verdict has shown that the hunting community cannot be trusted from the top down, and not having a definitive ban could lead to foxes being chased and killed by hunts.”
Dominic Dyer, policy advisor at animal welfare group Born Free, has called on others to follow in National Trust's footsteps and ban trail hunting too.
He said: “The public is now more aware than ever that trail hunting is little more than a smokescreen for illegal hunting with hounds.
“Its now time that other major public and private landowners including Forestry England, Church of England, Ministry of Defence and United Utilities followed the lead of the National Trust and National Resources Wales by also banning trail hunting on their land.”