The Coronavirus brought an early end to the hunting season, and though none of us know for sure what the coming months will bring, by autumn life for a lot of us will perhaps return to ‘normal’.

For Forestry England, part of Defra, this means continuing to licence ‘trail’ hunting as its current agreement with the Master of Fox Hounds Association runs from 2019-2021.

In the season that’s just finished, Forestry England granted 34 licences to so-called ‘trail’ hunts and three licences to legitimate drag hunts.

The behaviour of the ‘trail’ hunts licensed by Forestry England - trespass, aggression and violence, being banned from land by a council, hunting and killing foxes - resulted in 70 media and blog articles being published during the season.

There are a few incidents worth noting that Forestry England appear to have overlooked that disprove or cast doubt on any claims of ‘trail’ hunting by licensed hunts.

The first is that evidence from League Against Cruel Sports investigators led to two convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 for members of the Meynell & South Staffordshire Hunt in November last year.

Forestry England’s website was subsequently updated to announce a ‘trail’ hunting licence for this hunt for 11th, 18th and 22nd February, and the hounds belonging to this hunt were also reported to have pursued a fox through the residential gardens of Fairbourne Drive, Mickleover in Derbyshire on 4th February. Derbyshire Live published articles about this on 4th and 6th February.

Other ‘trail’ hunts licensed by Forestry England continued to show this behaviour whilst hounds were pursuing foxes. The Barlow Hunt was licensed to hunt on 1st November, 3rd December 2019 and 27th February 2020. A witness saw their hounds pursuing a fox across Handley Wood Golf Driving Range on 4th February, the same day that the Meynell hounds were doing the same thing through people’s gardens elsewhere.

Derbyshire Times reported on this incident.

Prior to this, the Four Burrow Hunt in Cornwall pursued a fox through a wildlife sanctuary on 1st February 2020, with sanctuary owner Adam Hawker stating to the press that he feared the hounds later killed the fox. Cornwall Live reported on this trespass.

These incidents are just a snapshot of the behaviour of the hunts that Forestry England has given hunting licences to.

When considering them, it’s worth keeping in mind that what appears on social media and in the media regarding the reality of criminal fox hunting today is often just the tip of the iceberg.

To challenge this, I’ve started a petition calling on Forestry England to stop giving out hunting licences and effectively ban fox [and hare!] hunting. This petition expires on 16th September; at 10,000 signatures it will prompt a response from Defra and if it gathers 100,000 signatures the issue will be considered for parliamentary debate.


Sign the petition