Hunting with the Permission of Landowners

Hunting could not realistically take place without the permission of landowners. All land in the UK is owned by someone, and it is these landowners who enable hunting to take place.

The League Against Cruel Sports believes that many of these landowners are allowing hunting to take place on their land without fully understanding what is actually taking place. We believe the illegal chasing and killing of animals is taking place on a mass scale – but this could be stopped if landowners prevented the hunts from gaining access to their property.

A relatively small number of landowners own a large proportion of land in this country. We believe they have a responsibility to ensure the law is enforced on their property, by understanding what takes place on a ‘hunt’, and refusing to give them access.


Sign our petition to stop the killing of animals by hunts


Hunting on National Trust land

Many people have been shocked to learn that illegal hunting is taking place on National Trust land.

Although the National Trust does not directly license illegal hunting, it does offer licences for 'trail' hunting, a form of hunting with hounds that was invented after the passing of the Hunting Act 2004, which the League believes to be a cover for illegal hunting.


Read the list of incidents
of trespass and licences breaches on National Trust land


The National Trust remains one of the only, if not the only, non-government conservation bodies to allow hunting on its land, with peers including English Heritage, Woodland Trust, Canal & River Trust, and even its own sister-organisation, National Trust Scotland, refusing permission.

The League believes the evidence clearly shows that hunting activities on National Trust land are cruel, illegal, unauthorised and dangerous to the public, as well as damaging to Sites of Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


Why have the National Trust licensed hunting?

Hunting wild animals like deer, hares and foxes with dogs for sport is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies. When the ban came in, hunts created the activity of 'trail' hunting, which they claimed involved following a scent-based trail (for example fox urine).

Evidence suggests that 'trail' hunting (not to be confused with drag hunting) is not a genuine sport, but in fact a cover for illegal hunting. Our analysis was done looking at over 4,000 hunt monitoring reports from different organisations (covering the majority of hunts in England and Wales). We’ve found that since 2005, only on an average of around 0.04% of occasions did monitors believe they may have witnessed a genuine 'trail' hunting event, rather than a fake one.

We therefore believe that illegal hunting is taking place on National Trust land on a regular basis.


Other ways hunts kill animals on National Trust land

'Trail' hunting is not the only excuse that hunts use to access National Trust land. Other ways include:


'Exempt stag hunting'

Hunts can claim various ‘exemption’ excuses that the law allows as their purpose for being on National Trust land – and it’s stags that are feeling the effects the most. The defiant attitude of stag hunts combined with the existence of weak exemptions in the Hunting Act 2004 has created an effective loophole which desperately needs closing. Too many opportunities to falsely claim an exempt hunt is undoubtedly causing suffering to hundreds of deer every year.

Published in 2017, ‘Observed’ to death is the first ever report to look at how stag hunts are breaking the law, 12 years after the hunting ban was enacted. League investigators regularly witness stags being chased on National Trust land adjacent to the charity’s wildlife sanctuary in Somerset.


‘Exercising the hounds'

Citing that hounds need exercise, hunts often let full packs of hounds loose in the countryside which can cause all kinds of disturbance to the local wildlife as well as damage to natural ecosystems. The League regularly receives reports of unsupervised hounds entering protected natural reserves – endangering the habitats of foxes, hares and other animals. We’ve also received reports of hunts interfering with badger setts - which is illegal because badgers are a protected species.

Two reports were published in 2017 highlighting the negative impacts hunting with dogs has on conservation. The conservation problems of hunting with dogs was published by the League, and The impact of hunting with dogs on wildlife and conservation by Prof. Stephen Harris.


Unopposed trespassing

The Quantock Hills in Somerset is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), with parts owned and managed by the National Trust. The Quantock Staghounds Hunt, like all the other stag hunts, was banned from hunting with dogs on National Trust land in 1997, so is not permitted to carry out actual stag hunting on its land.

The League Against Cruel Sports has evidence that the Quantock Staghounds Hunt has repeatedly engaged in stag hunting, trespassing onto National Trust land without a licence, driving hunt quad bikes and other vehicles on a restricted byway and footpaths used regularly by the public (including children) and across protected moorland, and has discharged firearms to kill deer on National Trust land, which is open to the public.

On one occasion, a National Trust vehicle passed along a restricted byway as hunt vehicles were being driven illegally in the opposite direction but there was no intervention. The evidence shows that National Trust estate staff may be aware of what is going on but take no action to stop it.

Hunt supporters vehicles in National Trust land


National Trust AGM

In 2017 a group of National Trust members, supported by the League, submitted a motion calling for the ‘cessation of trail hunting, exempt hunting and exercising of hounds’. Over 61,000 members voted on the motion.  The number of people voting against the motion to ban Trail hunting was 30,985. Those for the motion was 30,686. This means that the motion failed by 299 votes. It is worth noting that the National Trust was given discretionary votes by some members, meaning that those votes were used by the National Trust to vote against the motion. Without those discretionary votes, the number of people who voted for the motion was greater than those who voted against. So the decision was swung against the motion by the National Trust board.

The Debate was streamed live online and is available to watch here.

Supporters outside the National Trust AGM


What Now?

Since 2017, the National Trust has updated its rules on 'Trail' Hunting. While the League does not believe these rules are strong enough to prevent illegal hunting from taking place, we are still keen to see them properly enforced, and to know how the National Trust plans to deal with Hunts that trespass without a licence.

Listed below are the reported incidents of hunts trespassing onto National Trust land during the 2018/19 hunting season.

●      The Horton Court Estate, Gloucestershire, has granted a license to the Beaufort Hunt, which was filmed hunting a fox through a churchyard in the nearest village to the estate on 17 March, showing the hunt is operating unlawfully in its daily activities. It is clear unlawful hunting was taking place on that day as the full pack of hounds were ‘in cry’, the huntsman was giving short horn and voice calls - something done to ‘egg the hounds on’ to follow the scent of a hunted animal. A number of badger setts were also found blocked up — a common tactic used by hunts to prevent a pursued fox from ‘going to ground’ — in a wood which was surrounded by terriermen after the animal took refuge. It is notable that nearby Tetbury Town Council has refused permission for the Beaufort Hunt to meet in the town centre on New Year’s Day on 10/12/2018.

●      The Kingston Lacy Estate, Dorset, has granted a license to the Portman Hunt, which was witnessed by wildlife monitors chasing a fox over National Trust land in March 2017. The hunt has since been witnessed chasing a fox at a meet in Manston on 27/10/2018, where a badger sett was found blocked up nearby. Terriermen – people on quadbikes whose purpose is to dig out foxes which have taken refuge underground during a hunt – were filmed when the hunt met on the estate on 21/11/2018. This is in direct breach of the National Trust’s licence, which expressly prohibits terriermen and their vehicles from operating on its land during the course of any hunt meet. The National Trust is clear that “terrier men have no place in a trail hunt”.

●      The Farnborough Hall Estate, Warwickshire, has granted a license to the Warwickshire Hunt, which was filmed trespassing on the estate on 11 November 2017, when no license was issued. It is clear unlawful hunting was taking place on that day as the full pack of hounds were ‘in cry’ and the huntsman was giving short horn and voice calls - something done to ‘egg the hounds on’ to follow the scent of a hunted animal. Had a trail been laid the hunt would not have gone near, let alone onto, the grounds of Farnborough Hall. A number of recent incidents also show the hunt is operating unlawfully in its daily activities: the hunt was seen chasing a fox in Hunningham on 01/11/2018 and the hunt was again seen chasing a fox, which went to ground in a badger sett in Admington on 03/11/2018.

●      The Buscot and Coleshill Estate, Oxfordshire, has granted a license to the Old Berkshire Hunt, which was then witnessed chasing and killing a fox on the estate on 17/11/2018. The National Trust launched an investigation, however no outcome has been announced. The same hunt was witnessed by monitors chasing a fox in Alvescot, 10 miles north of the estate, on 07/11/2018, showing that the hunt is operating unlawfully in its daily activities. This was on the same date the hunt was scheduled to meet on the estate, but switched hunt meets for unknown reasons. It is understood the incident has been reported to Thames Valley Police.

●      The Penrose Estate, Cornwall, has granted a licence allowing access to Porkellis Moor by the Four Burrow Hunt, which had on 24/11/2018 six of its hunting dogs becoming trapped for four days down a mine shaft - resulting in one of the animals dying.

●      The Woolbeding Countryside Estate, West Sussex, granted a licence to the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt. Terriermen – people on quadbikes whose purpose is to dig out foxes which have taken refuge underground during a hunt – were filmed when the hunt met on the estate on 24th November 2018. This is in direct breach of the National Trust’s licence, which expressly prohibits terriermen and their vehicles from operating on its land during the course of any hunt meet. The National Trust is clear that “terrier men have no place in a trail hunt”.

●      The Hanbury Hall Estate, Worcestershire, granted a licence to the Worcestershire Hunt. This hunt was photographed chasing a fox at Goosehill Green, two and a half miles from the estate, on 7th November 2018.

●        The Shropshire Hills Estate, Shropshire, has granted a licence for two hunts to access its Long Mynd Estate. On 10 December a fox was seen fleeing the South Shropshire Hunt, one of those licensed, alongside terriermen being present, during a meet on the estate. On 11 December, terriermen were filmed accompanying the United Pack, the other licensed hunt, on the estate as well as the hunt conducting activities on areas outside of the licensed area.


So far, the Trust has failed to give a satisfactory answer as to how they will prevent this from taking place, and what the repercussions of these offences will be.


What else can I do?

Whether you’re a member or not, there’s still plenty you can do:

  • Share this page with your family and friends – spread the word!
  • Write a letter/email to your local paper(s) – you’ll find their contact details easily online. The letter doesn’t need to be long, but if you can include these key points:
    • National Trust members weren’t given all the facts.
    • The motion wasn’t to ban non-lethal ‘drag’ hunting. It was to ban ‘trail’ hunting which is actually real hunting in disguise.
    • The National Trust need to step up and ensure illegal hunting doesn’t happen on their land
  • Do you live near a National Trust property? Have you seen a hunt take place? They may be in breach of the National Trust licence, or even trespassing. If you suspect any illegal activity, please report it to our Crimewatch team.
  • Read our 'trail' hunting leaflet and see what a 'trail' hunt looks like.


Your actions can stop hunting being allowed on National Trust land.