National Trust members have voted to ban trail hunting on the charity's grounds, and the board will reconsider its stance on the activity.
At the charity's annual general meeting (AGM) this weekend a landslide majority, 76,816 members voted in favour of a trail hunting ban on National Trust grounds, with 38,184 against it.
Since hunting wild animals was banned in England and Wales in the Hunting Act of 2004, trail hunting has become a popular substitute. This is where hunts chase a synthetic scent made to mimic an animal, so no foxes or mammals are harmed in the process.
However, many claim that trail hunting can and has been used to disguise real hunting.
Five members, with the support of 50 others, proposed a resolution calling for a ban on trail hunting “to prevent potential illegal activity” and “prevent damage to other flora and fauna”.
In response the trustees said: “We note the resolution and are keen to hear the views of the membership on this subject.”
Previously trustees have opposed resolutions to ban trail hunting. In 2017, National Trust members called a vote on a motion against trail hunting. Yet, with a difference of 299 votes (1% of the voting populous) the charity narrowly avoided a ban on the sport.
A cover for the real thing?
Campaigners argue that trail hunting simply acts as a cover for the real thing.
This October, Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, was found guilty of assisting and encouraging hunters to evade the rules of the Hunting Act of 2004.
Recordings of Hankinson speaking to senior hunters in private webinars were leaked online, where he said: “It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating.”
Trail hunting paused on National Trust land
Last year, the National Trust paused licensing of trail hunting on all of their 620,000 acres of land. Then in light of the verdict the charity said it would “digest all the information that has arisen as a result of this investigation before making a decision on whether to resume the trail hunting licence application process”.
Following the AGM, the trust said the board would “reflect on the outcomes and we will be back in touch with members through our usual communications materials”.
But at the time of writing, the organisation is yet to comment specifically on trail hunting. Civil Society News contacted National Trust to comment on the members vote, but did not receive a response.
Keep the Ban, a campaign group which has lobbied the National Trust since 2017 to ban the licensing of trail hunts on its grounds, has commented on the charity’s silence.
While members of the @nationaltrust voted massively in favour to end hunting this isn't to say the decision is binding.— Keep The Ban (@Keeptheban_) November 1, 2021
The board of trustees still have to decide whether to end the hunting licences. It would of course be very shocking if they went against the vote.
'Nothing but a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting'
The League Against Cruel Sports, an animal charity that focuses on stopping animals being abused and killed for sport, has rejoiced at the National Trust members vote.
Andy Knott, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Enough is enough. Now the membership has voted to permanently end it, we must insist the National Trust’s trustees listen and act. The trust must ban ‘trail’ hunting on its land for good. Other landowners should take note and immediately follow suit.”
Knott added: “Trail hunting is nothing but a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting. We know and have been saying this for years, the National Trust members know it, and now the courts know it too.”