Born Free Supports Calls For A Ban On Trail Hunting And Tighter Enforcement Of The Hunting Act 2004, Not Least On National Trust Land.
The hunting of foxes, hares and deer using dogs is illegal in England and Wales under the Hunting Act 2004 and the Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 in Scotland. Drag Hunting was created in the 1800s using foxhounds to search for a non-animal scent laid by a drag pulled on a string without the pursuit or killing of wild animals, and remains a legal activity.
Once the chasing and killing of wild animals was banned under the Hunting Act in 2004, hunters could have converted to drag hunting only. However, many hunts chose not to do this and instead invented a new activity called ‘trail hunting’.
What is trail hunting?
Trail hunting purports to mimic traditional hunting by following an animal-based scent (using fox urine according to the hunters), which has been laid where foxes or hares are likely to be. Crucially, those laying the trail are not meant to tell those controlling the hounds where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds end up following a live scent and killing a wild animal, they can claim they did not know.
In drag hunting the trail does not contain an animal-based scent, is never laid in areas likely to have foxes and those controlling the hounds always know where the trail has been laid.
This explains why in drag hunting the chasing of live animals is very rare, whilst in trail hunting, this is a common occurrence. A significant number of hunts who have found themselves facing police investigation under the Hunting Act, have claimed to be engaged in trail hunting.
Trail hunts are always accompanied by terrier men – contractors who typically follow the hunt on quadbikes with terrier dogs. In traditional hunting these dogs are sent underground to find a fox if it escapes the hunt. Terrier men also regularly fill in badger setts, which is illegal under the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.
In November 2020, an explosive expose was aired on ITV News at Ten which showed senior figures within the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) caught on camera admitting that trail hunting is a ‘smokescreen’ for the chasing and killing of foxes.
In November 2020, an explosive expose was aired on ITV News at Ten which showed senior figures within the Master of Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) caught on camera admitting that trail hunting is a ‘smokescreen’ for the chasing and killing of foxes. Following an investigation by the Devon and Cornwall Police, the Director of the Master of Fox Hounds Association will appear in court in September charged with encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act 2004.
Pending the outcome of this court case, Born Free has joined a wildlife protection coalition led by the League Against Cruel Sports, which includes RSPCA, Humane Society International, IFAW UK and Badger Trust, and is calling on the Government to ban trail hunting and the use of terrier men on hunts.
The coalition met with the Defra Secretary of State George Eustice in March and has put forward a working paper for Defra Officials on the need for tighter enforcement of the Hunting Act.
National Trust and Trail Hunting
The National Trust is the second largest landowner in Britain and currently licences trail hunting on its land. A motion calling for a ban on trail hunting was put before the National Trust AGM in October 2017 and was narrowly defeated using proxy votes authorised by the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
The National Trust has currently suspended trail hunting on its land pending the outcome of the Court Case involving the Director of Master of the Fox Hounds Association. National Trust members have now put forward a further motion for a total ban on trail hunting at the National Trust AGM in October 2021.
In the run up the AGM, the League Against Cruel Sports is taking its campaign calling for a ban on trail hunting on National Trust Land to towns and cities across England and Wales.
Born Free’s British Wildlife Advocate Dominic Dyer, who joined the League Against Cruel Sports Campaign Team in Cambridge on 10 July, said: “One in ten people are members of the National Trust and this charity does incredibly important work protecting our national heritage, wildlife and landscapes across Britain. However, the licensing of trail hunting is leading to wild animals being killed by hunts across wide areas of National Trust land, and we must bring this illegal cruelty to an end.
“National Trust members will have the chance to use their vote at the AGM in October to end trail hunting for good, which will protect foxes, hares, and deer from being illegally killed with hounds on National Trust land. A ban on trail hunting by the National Trust will also put greater pressure on the Government and other major landowners to end this activity on all publicly owned and private land across England and Wales.”
HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THE CAMPAIGN?
If you are a National Trust Member look out for voting forms on the trail hunting issue which you will receive in the post prior to the AGM in October. Please vote in favour of a ban on trail hunting on National Trust Land.
If you have friends or family who are members of the National Trust, inform them of your concerns on the trail hunting issue and encourage them to vote in favour of a ban on trail hunting on National Trust land to protect wildlife.
You can also join the National Trust to vote on the trail hunting issue at the AGM.
More information is available on the League Against Cruel Sports’ National Trust campaign.