BOXING DAY HUNTS: Charity calls for government to ban hunting on public land

Animal welfare charity calls for an end to old fashioned hunting on public land

As Boxing Day meets are due to be held across the UK tomorrow [December 27] leading national animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports has renewed its calls for hunting to be stopped on public land.

The charity’s calls have been echoed by Labour, who today [December 26] is also urging government departments such as the Ministry of Defence to end ‘trail’ hunting licences on their land.

Hunts claim to follow animal-based scent rather than chase foxes and other wild animals, but the conviction of Mark Hankinson, a senior hunting official, for ‘encouraging or assisting others to break the Hunting Act 2004’ showed very publicly that trail hunting is a “smokescreen” for old fashioned illegal hunting.

Chris Luffingham, director of external affairs at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “We know, and it has been found in court, that hunters use the excuse of so-called trail hunting to carry on as they always have.

“Their breathtaking arrogance in thinking the rules simply don’t apply to them cannot be tolerated by the general public any longer, who are getting very adept at seeing through the pathetic smokescreen of half truths and lies. 

“Enough is enough. We have been told that specific government departments are responsible for how they manage their land, and therefore we call upon the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to end the issuing of trail hunting licences on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

“Similarly, we urge Forestry England to make their suspension of licences permanent, following the likes of the National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, national parks and local councils who have all seen past the smokescreen and understand trail hunting is simply old-fashioned illegal hunting by another name.”

A number of other major landowners, such as United Utilities, suspended trail hunting licences following the arrest of Mark Hankinson, then a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association. Despite his conviction at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in October, those suspensions have not yet been made permanent.

Chris added: “It’s time all major landowners permanently banned trail hunting on their land and that the government strengthens the Hunting Act to ensure its loopholes can no longer be exploited.”

Their breathtaking arrogance in thinking the rules simply don’t apply to them cannot be tolerated by the general public any longer"

Chris Luffingham, the League's director of External Affairs


Notes to editors

  • Hunts traditionally don’t meet on a Sunday, therefore this year the Boxing Day meet is on Monday December 27
  • The MoD has licensed 21 hunts have been licensed (that’s leaving out the one drag hunt) as of 13 December 2021, amounting to 243 days hunting granted for MoD land so far this season.
  • Many landowners suspended trail hunting in the wake of two training webinars being leaked online. These webinars were organised by the Hunting Office, hunting’s governing body, and included presentations from members of the Countryside Alliance as well as other hunting groups. Hankinson was sentenced at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on October 15 under the Serious Crimes Act 2007.
  • Hunting is still allowed on Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks.
  • National Trust Annual General Meeting in October 2021, following a high-profile campaign by the League, members voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on National Trust land

For media enquiries or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 or email

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 2004 and the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021.

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).

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