While the hunting fraternity claim that ‘trail hunting’ is legal, apparently following an artificially laid scent, the League believes it to be a cover for illegal hunting as either no trail is laid despite the hunts claiming that it is, or it is done in a way that encourages hounds to ignore it and chase wild animals instead. So, it will come as no surprise to know that we were very disappointed that the National Trust is to continue the licensing of ‘trail hunting’ on its land.

But on the surface, all was not lost. Prior to the 2017 AGM vote on this issue, the National Trust updated the terms of its ‘trail hunting’ licenses. The new rules include not allowing the scent in the trail being animal-based, not allowing terrier men to accompany the hunts, and the National Trust publishing the days the hunts will be trail hunting in their land (although it seems that now they may have changed their mind about this one). The Trust believes that these rules would prevent illegal hunting from taking place, and while the League disagrees (read here to find out why), these new rules could be a step in the right direction if they are properly implemented.

However, rules are only as strong as their enforcement, and so far the National Trust has not made it clear as to how it will enforce these new rules, and penalise those that breach them. And with the recent spate of reports of hunts trespassing onto National Trust land, what will be done with those who no longer have a licence but continue to use Trust land for their nefarious activity?

With this is mind, it is vital that the National Trust makes clear the answers to the following questions:

  1. How often will the Trust be checking for the use of a non-animal based scent, how will it prove that it is genuine and how will it verify that the hunts are not also laying an animal-based scent as they claim to have done previously?
  2. How is the Trust going to ensure that the hunts licensed do not train their hounds to follow animal-based scents prior to use on National Trust land?
  3. If the so-called planned routes are no longer being made public, will they still be submitted to the Trust prior to any hunting events in order for the Trust to monitor hunts or to later check them against the hunt’s post-hunt report?
  4. How will the National Trust be monitoring the absence/ presence of terrier men?
  5. How will the Trust verify the reports submitted by the hunts? It is not in the hunts’ interest to announce that they have broken the law, so how would the Trust check a hunt’s versions of events?
  6. What will the disciplinary process be? Will it only take one breach of the licence for it to be revoked? If a hunt then continues to use National Trust land without permission, what will be done to prevent them?
  7. How will allegations of hunts trespassing on Natural Trust land without a licence be dealt with and how will trespass be prevented?
  8. What safeguards will be put in place keep the potential environmental damage caused by both ‘trail hunting’ and the exercising of hounds from occurring?

With answers to these questions we might finally start to gain an understanding of how seriously the National Trust is taking this issue. Given that these rules were updated in August, and the hunting season (officially) started in November, it has had plenty of time to iron this out.

But without answers to these questions, the National Trust risks people misinterpreting these new regulations as a smokescreen (if they haven’t already), and that it really has no interest in preventing illegal hunting from taking place on the land its members are paying for the National Trust to protect.

Find out what you can do to help at www.league.org.uk/nationaltrust