More than 100,000 emails. Five major landowners suspending ‘trail’ hunt licences. Three major news broadcasts. Two hunting webinars and one bad week for fox hunters.

Last week, ITV broadcast a groundbreaking exposé into the inner workings of the hunting lobby. Obtained by the Hunt Saboteurs Association the footage had to be seen to be believed. In it senior figures within the fox hunting lobby seemed to admit that ‘trail’ hunting is a “smokescreen” for the chasing and killing of foxes.
The use of the term smokescreen was used by hunt figures twice in the training meeting.

Phil Davies, the Countryside Alliance police liaison officer, said:
“Now you know more about hunting than the saboteurs or courts will know but what it will do is create that smokescreen or that element of doubt that we haven’t deliberately hunted a fox, so if nothing else you need to record that and it will help us provide a defence to huntsman.”

Mark Hankinson, MFHA director, said:
“It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating, and that is what it’s all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business.”
These webinars are now part of an ongoing police investigation.


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Since these explosive statements were broadcast on ITV, it has not gone very well for the hunters. That same afternoon the League Against Cruel Sports launched an action calling for major landowners to ban ‘trail’ hunting, and all other hunting activities from their land. Since then, League supporters have sent more than 100,000 emails to the National Trust, Forestry England, Ministry of Defence (MoD), United Utilities, Defra, The Crown Estate, Church of England, Duchy of Cornwall, Duke of Beaufort, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and Lake District National Park.

Within days, Forestry England, United Utilities, Lake District National Park had all suspended trail licences pending the result of the police investigation. The National Trust has “pause[d] trail hunting on National Trust land and will not be granting any new licences for the remainder of the season.” It also said: “We do not currently have a date when this will be reviewed”.

For this much land to be taken away from the hunts is unprecedented.

But not all landowners seem to be taking this as seriously as they should. Exmoor National Park has stated, “we don’t feel it’s appropriate to stop trail hunting on our land”, while the MoD has fallen back on the age old excuse of “those found guilty under the act are subject to the full force of the law.” Do they not understand that these webinars are designed so that hunts do not have to face the full force of the law. Any landowner who allows so-called trail hunting to take place after these “smokescreen” revelations could be making themselves complicit in illegal hunting.

And how have the hunters responded? Deafening silence. The most we have heard from the Countryside Alliance is Tim Bonner saying, “this is not a crisis”. Well he would say that given that the CA’s police liaison officer is recorded on a training call saying: “I hope the police aren’t listening.

So what next?

We keep pushing. Five suspensions do not a ban make. For years the evidence has been piling up against trail hunting. Foxes are still being hunted, foxes are still being torn to pieces, foxes are still being brutally killed.
Please do all you can to lobby your local landowners, MPs, councillors and lawmakers. This story cannot be allowed to die until hunting with dogs is relegated to the past.


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