A special message to National Trust supporters from Chris Packham

The world is waking up to the fact that so-called ‘sports’ like hunting will no longer be tolerated, but unfortunately some of the good people at the National Trust are still dozing.

Thanks to an inspiring group of National Trust members, there is a chance that hunting could be banned on National Trust land following the charity’s AGM this month. The decision is in the hands of the Trust’s five million members, each of whom has the chance to vote, so if done properly, this could be peaceful democracy at work.

The issue here is that the Trust gives licences to hunts to go ‘trail hunting’ on their land. What is ‘trail hunting’? According to the hunts, the hunt and hounds ‘follow a trail’ for their day’s sport. There is actually already a sport where this is done – it’s called ‘drag hunting’, and has been around for centuries. So what’s the difference between the two?

The difference is that drag hunting involves hounds which are trained to follow an artificial scent, and reports of the dogs actually catching a wild mammal are very rare. When trail hunting was invented – after hunting was made illegal – it was declared that their hounds would still be trained to follow animal scents. Because of this, the number of times ‘trail’ hunts catch foxes, deer and hares has been too many to count. The hunts claim these are ‘accidents’, but how many accidents does it take before it becomes suspicious? Back in 2011, Judge Michael Pert QC accused the Fernie Hunt of using the cover of trail hunting “as a cynical subterfuge”.

The evidence has stacked up. Since the ban on hunting came in, hunt monitors reported on over 4000 alleged trail hunts over the course of 10 years, and believe they may have witnessed a genuine ‘trail hunting’ event, rather than a fake one, on only an average of around 0.04% of those occasions.

This is why so many people, including myself, believe that trail hunting equals the chasing and killing of wild animals.

The National Trust has now changed some of the details of the licences they give to hunts, but the changes don’t go far enough. Hunts would still be able to find a way to kill animals on NT land – the only way to be sure is to ban them completely.

And if that happens, and I sorely hope it does, the National Trust must then step up and make sure they protect their land by monitoring the hunts properly – and punishing any trespass onto their land. Unfortunately at present the NT don’t have a great record on this – footage from the League Against Cruel Sports shows a stag hunt repeatedly trespassing on NT land, without a licence, but the Trust have done nothing about it.

I’m not a politician, I’m a conservationist. My opposition to unsustainable bird shooting and the illegal persecution of raptors has led to a lot of personal attacks on me. I’ve been called an ‘extremist’ – but that’s a tactic designed to put me in a bad light. I’m not an extremist – 84% of the public share my view that fox hunting should remain banned. Are we all extremists in the eyes of the hunters?

The idea that in the 21st century it's appropriate to charge around the countryside tearing animals to pieces with dogs is wrong, pure and simple.

It’s up to us, the government, and organisations like the National Trust, to protect our animals, for now and future generations. National Trust members can start that process right now by voting for the ban on hunting. Your grandchildren will thank you for it.

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