And so it begins. 

In spite of the valiant efforts of so many dedicated people campaigning in defence of our vulnerable wildlife, another year of hunting on National Trust land has begun. The first licences of the season have been published, with hunting days taking place as early as last week. 

Some of these licences have even been granted for ‘hound exercise’. This is known to be a euphemism for the horrific activity of cub hunting, where young hounds gain a taste for blood by being trained to kill foxes. 

So much progress has been made in the campaign to highlight the plight of animals who should be safe to lead their lives free from persecution in the name of ‘sport’. Sadly, that will be cold comfort for animals which are again at risk of being targeted by hunts who would have us believe that chasing and killing is all just a tragic accident. 

Last October, fellow members of the National Trust came so close to ending the horror of hunting on its land – conducted under the guise of so-called ‘trail’ hunting – with a majority voting at its 2017 Annual General Meeting to stop licensing this cover for cruelty. 

‘Trail’ hunting was invented after the hunting ban and mimics illegal hunting so closely that there is little real difference other than labelling frequent kills as mere ‘accidents’. It is this that the Trust continues to actively license on its land. 

When I stood up at the AGM last year to give voice to thousands of League supporters who are also National Trust members, it was in the knowledge of the suffering still taking place at the hands of hunts. Clear in my mind was also the conservation damage that hunts and their hounds can do as they disturb wildlife and risk spreading contamination and disease. Also at its fore were the many members who feel unable to safely access the countryside the Trust should be protecting in their name while hunting continues. 

When the Chair of the Trust used a stack of discretionary votes to narrowly block a ban, the Trust brought in a series of new licence conditions purportedly to ensure no illegal hunting takes place. Despite the weakness of these conditions, some dared to hope that the Trust would make a meaningful attempt to enforce the conditions, not least by effectively monitoring the activities of hunts. They were sorely disappointed however, as monitoring failed to materialise, hunts with dubious track records were licensed, and the season was characterised by trespass by unlicensed hunts with no reason to be on Trust land if genuinely following artificial trails. 

The ensuing outrage by despairing members who feel betrayed by the weakness of the Trust’s response, and its backtracking on commitments made at the AGM, has forced it to do more to shore up its licensing regime, including setting up a new monitoring system. However, as hunting begins on Trust land for another season, it looks like these new measures will be typically half-baked and may do little more than help hunts in their charade of so-called ‘trail’ hunting. Farcically, the Trust has said that it intends to pre-warn hunts ahead of all of its planned monitoring checks. 

The last thing our precious wildlife needs is yet another season living in danger of being chased and killed by hunts marauding over the precious landscape that should be protected forever, for everyone, not for a cruel minority. 

So, with hunts now out on National Trust land, we will continue to highlight the horrors of hunting and urge the National Trust to stop licensing this cruelty.

Help us stop the killing of animals by hunting in the UK by signing our petition now! Thanks!

Can you help us campaign against trail hunting on National Trust land? Please contact us to ask for campaign materials or to find out how to support us!