Protests were held outside 20 National Trust properties on Sunday to highlight that hunts are still illegally chasing and killing British wildlife on the organisation's lands. Anger at the charity has grown over the last few months with many furious that hunts with a history of killing animals are still being allowed on Trust land.

The nationwide protests were arranged by campaigning group National Dis-Trust and backed by the League Against Cruel Sports, and took place at 20 different sites.

A spokesperson for National Dis-Trust, said: "Today we joined 20 other wildlife protection organisations to protest the continuation of so-called 'trail hunting' licences being issued to fox hunts on National Trust land as part of a wider, and rapidly growing, campaign against criminal bloodsports.

"The protests are just one of many actions planned to raise public awareness of illegal hunting on Trust land. The hunting season is now drawing to a close, and the Trust needs to take stock of their untenable situation; the hunts they have licensed have repeatedly been exposed in the national press for illegally hunting foxes. It is well past time that they recognise what is obvious to so many people and stop issuing these farcical licences."

Supporters outside the National Trust AGM

National Trust's Broken Promises

A campaign to ban 'trail' hunting on National Trust land was narrowly defeated at the organisation's AGM last autumn after its bosses disappointingly gave discretionary votes to back the continuation of the activity. It is now widely believed that 'trail' hunting is a fraudulent cover for illegal hunting activity and the chasing and ripping apart of foxes, hare and deer by packs of hounds.

Conditions laid down by the Trust, in an attempt to win the vote and to address concerns around the activities of the hunts, are now being reneged on. These include:

  • Banning the use of animal-based scents as a trail for hounds or beagles to follow. All 'trail' hunting hounds are trained to follow animal-based scents, which leads to alleged 'accidental' kills. The Trust have not done anything to check if the hunts they have licensed have re-trained their hounds.
  • Prohibit the presence of terrier men, who have no practical purpose on a trail 'hunt', Terrier men - traditionally used to send their dogs underground to find and kill foxes - have been witnessed accompanying hunts licensed by the Trust. The presence of a terrier man is a pretty much a guarantee that the hunt is hunting illegally.
  • We will post on our website the agreed days and locations of licensed hunts, in advance, for our members and supporters to view. They have reneged on this and said that they decided not to post this information because of potential risk, claiming they did this on the advice of police forces. The League obtained information via FOIs from every police force in England and Wales, revealing that the claim that they made the decision based on police advice in September is not the case. The FOI requests show only one police force gave such advice - Cumbria Police - but not until November 2017
  • Probing the track record of each applicant and establishing a consistent charging regime across Trust land. We'd be very surprised if this is being done given the number of hunts which have been in trouble previously yet have still been given a licence.

We are exploring how we can work more closely with the Police's independent National Wildlife Crime Unit. The League raised at the time that the NWCU wasn't the right body to work with on this; but we've discovered through an FOI that the Trust haven't pursued this anyway.

Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The National Trust is turning a blind eye to illegal activity on its land and allowing the hunts to literally rip to pieces foxes and hares and chase deer to their deaths. Trail hunting is a lie and a deception and the National Trust support for it is shameful.

"Conditions laid down at their AGM in autumn, which they used to block a vote to end trail hunting, are now being abandoned. The National Trust has let down its members by failing to regulate or monitor the hunts themselves and their decision to not publish the dates and locations where hunts are meeting makes it more difficult for independent monitors to track their activities to ensure any illegal hunting activity is reported to the police and punished."

Hunts trespassing on National Trust land

In addition to those hunts which have been licensed to hunt on National Trust land, there have been 17 incidents where hunts have been seen trespassing on National Trust land without a licence since the AGM. The Warwickshire Hunt was witnessed trespassing at the National Trust Farnborough Hall in November, yet was recently issued a licence to hunt on the very same land. Footage of a fox being chased by hounds belonging to the same hunt was in the media only very recently.

The same hunt has also been filmed with terrier men, who accompany hunts and encourage their dogs to find, fight and flush out foxes that have gone underground. The involvement of terrier men with 'trail' hunts raises questions about their activities and was prohibited by the National Trust in the new conditions it introduced.


A petition has been launched called 'Stop the Killing of Animals by Hunts' by the League Against Cruel Sports. It calls for the strengthening of hunting legislation and for landowners, including the National Trust, to no longer allow the hunts access to their land to kill British wildlife:

National Trust protests

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Notes to Editors

  • 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 Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).