Trail hunting, in which fox and hare hunts claim to follow a trail rather than chase animals, could be ‘effectively banned’ in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty following a public consultation.

At a time when the National Trust is holding a vote on whether or not to ban trail hunting, the Malvern Hills Trust, which protects and manages the iconic landscape to the south west of Worcester, has produced a set of guidelines which will restrict the activities of trail hunts.

This includes requiring the hunts to provide details of where their ‘trails’ will be laid in advance, to keep trails away from thickets and other areas where foxes are likely to be, and, most importantly, only allowing trail hunts in which the huntsman, who controls the hounds, knows where the trails have been laid, so he can stop the hounds if they deviate from it.


Jordi Casamitjana, Head of Policy and Research at the League Against Cruel Sports, which contributed to the consultation, said:

"It is refreshing to see that the Malvern Hills Trust understands that ‘trail hunting’ is often a sham. Hunts claim to lay animal-based scent trails, though most don’t really bother, and then the hounds ‘accidentally’ catch an animal as the huntsman claims he did not know they were following a live animal scent instead of the artificial one.

"These new guidelines could effectively have the same effect as a ban on trail hunting in the Malvern Hills as hunts will no longer be able to claim ‘ignorance’ if they kill an animal, meaning they may decide not to use that land anymore.

"This is embarrassing for the National Trust, who changed their own regulations on trail hunting recently but, either by accident or design, left far too many gaps which the hunts will exploit.”

Trail hunting was ‘invented’ by hunts following the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004, but increasing evidence including footage of ‘kills’ and approximately 4,000 hunt monitoring reports stating that no trail was seen to be laid, has led many to believe that trail hunting is nothing but a cover for illegal hunting.

Trail hunting should not be confused with ‘drag hunting’, which already existed as a sport, and genuinely uses non-animal based artificial trails in areas without foxes or hares with the full knowledge of the huntsman, meaning 'accidental kills' are practically unheard of.

"There was no genuine reason to invent a new version of drag hunting unless there was an ulterior motive – to carry on killing foxes, deer and hares, and get away with it,” said Jordi Casamitjana.

"This deception is finally being recognised by the public, MPs, and now landowners.

"As practiced today, trail hunting should be banned completely – starting with the National Trust, but then across the whole country. Killing for fun must no longer be tolerated, but at the moment we’re letting them get away with it.”

National Trust members can vote to support a motion which will ban trail hunting, ‘exempt’ hunting and exercising the hounds on National Trust land. Online and postal voting closes on October 13th or members can vote at the National Trust AGM on October 21st. For more information go to www.league.org.uk/nationaltrust

Ends

Notes to Editors

The Malvern Hills hunting policy was updated in September 2017; it is available on request from the League press office. Summary details of the regulations issued by the Malvern Hills Trust (MHT) on hunting:

  1. It bans any type of exempt hunting (all activities in the Schedule 1 of the Hunting Act are banned).
  2. If the hunts are hunting in adjacent land and the hounds enter their land by accident, only the huntsman, whipper-in and master are allowed to follow, and only to retrieve the hounds immediately.
  3. Details of where the trails will be laid must be sent in advance to MHT 10 days before the event, and the information about where and when the trail hunts will take place can be made public.
  4. Each hunt can only undertake four trail hunts per year, and only from October to January (only four of the seven months of the hunting season), and they must request permission in writing a month in advance.
  5. Hunting will only be permitted in three areas of the MHT land and hunting in the main spine of the hills will not be permitted.
  6. The Master and/or huntsman must have full knowledge about where the trails have been laid.
  7. Scent trails cannot be laid through areas of cover.
  8. Hunts must be kept to the path of the scent trail and the pack is to be encouraged to keep moving and not permitted to loiter in any area of undergrowth, scrub, gorse, thicket or covert.
  • For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]
  • The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).