Despite overwhelming opposition, trail hunts will continue on National Trust land

We were disappointed on Saturday to see the National Trust miss the opportunity to take a strong stance to protect British wildlife, when it failed to sufficiently back a motion to ban trail hunting on its properties.

Last month, we let you know about a group of animal-loving members of the National Trust who proposed a motion to ban trail hunting on land owned by the organisation. We encouraged other National Trust members to use their vote to support this motion.

The vote took place at the Trust’s AGM over the weekend, where the member who proposed the motion, Helen Beynon, spoke powerfully about her first-hand observations of trail hunting, highlighting not just the damage to hares, deer and foxes but also to the hounds involved.

The vote attracted far more attention than usual, with over 61,000 members having their say. To put this into context, this is more votes than were cast in the previous two years combined!  The vote was exceptionally close, but, unfortunately, the motion was voted down by just 299 votes. In fact, a majority of people who actively cast their vote supported a ban on trail hunting – but so-called ‘discretionary’ votes, many of them cast by the chair on behalf of people who couldn’t be at the meeting, led to the motion being rejected.

Sadly it looks like the National Trust board’s refusal to support this motion, despite the general will of the membership, means that foxes will almost certainly continue to be killed on National Trust land.

As our Trail of Lies report revealed, trail hunting is frequently used as a disguise and an alibi for illegal hunting. When fox urine is used as an artificial scent for dogs to track in areas with known wildlife populations, it’s inevitable that foxes will be killed ‘accidentally’ when dogs end up picking up the scent of a live animal. That said, there’s not even evidence that tracks are always being laid in the first place. Supporters of trail hunting argue that it should continue on National Trust land in order to preserve British tradition – yet trail hunting has only existed for 12 years! It was invented after the introduction of the Hunting Act in 2015, so clearly does not qualify as a heritage pursuit.

The silver lining here is that the National Trust has already committed to implement some changes to the way trail hunts can operate on its land. For example, the Trust will now publish the details of planned hunts in advance, and animal-based scents can no longer be used to lay a trail, amongst other measures. Although this doesn’t go as far as an outright ban, we’re pleased to see the Trust has made some concessions to the concerns of its members.

Thank you to everyone who voted, and who helped spread the word about the campaign. You helped bring much-needed attention to this issue, and put huge pressure on the National Trust to change its policies.

We won’t let this setback discourage us. With your support, we’ll keep on campaigning to end cruel, illegal hunts in the UK.

--RH

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