Charity challenges National Trust ‘nature’ policy after witnessing deer hunt on Trust land

The hunting was witnessed the day before new National Trust Director General Hilary McGrady did a series of high profile radio interviews in which she stated that ‘I’m really interested in the National Trust doing a huge amount more for nature’.

Professional investigators from the League Against Cruel Sports witnessed and filmed the Devon and Somerset Staghounds chasing deer across the Holnicote Estate on Exmoor.

13 years after hunting was banned in England and Wales, red deer were seen scattering across the moorland with people on horseback in pursuit. Hunt followers were witnessed parked up on the moorland itself watching the hunt alongside hunt supporters following on quad bikes.

Andrew Kendall, a former policeman and professional investigator for the League Against Cruel Sports, witnessed the incident. He said:

“Deer were clearly being flushed out of wooded valleys and chased onto open moorland on the hottest day of the year which is clearly detrimental to their health.

“We’re in the middle of the young stag hunting season. Sadly a young male deer would have been chased for miles by hounds pursued by horsemen and women and followers on quad bikes, before being shot.”

Chris Luffingham, League Against Cruel Sports director of campaigns, said:

The National Trust need to work out if they really care about nature or not. Not for the first time, a hunt – which we believe to have been illegal – took place on National Trust land, causing massive disturbance to not only the deer but the whole area. And not for the first time, We’ve got evidence that National Trust staff witnessed the whole thing – and did nothing to stop it.  

“If Hilary McGrady is sincere in her bid to make the National Trust more nature friendly, then she needs to get a grip on the illegal and disruptive activity which is taking place on their land on a frequent basis.

The most recent polling indicated 87 per cent of the British public were opposed to deer “being hunted by packs of hounds. People would be horrified if they knew about the amount of hunting still taking place and the cruelty and dreadful death toll the hunts are inflicting on wildlife – we believe that the three deer hunts operating in the West Country are killing over 200 deer every year.”

The National Trust issue licences for ‘trail’ hunting, a term used to cover up illegal hunting activities. However no stag hunt has been issued a licence to hunt by the National Trust, which means the hunts often trespass on NT land without any action being taken.

Last month, a League Conservation officer witnessed the Devon and Somerset Hunt chase a young stag before shooting it and then carving it up to hand out body parts to supporters.

Chris Luffingham added:

“We are calling on all landowners including the National Trust to ban hunts from their land and we need to strengthen the Hunting Act and bring in tougher sentencing to act as a deterrent.”

The shocking incident of deer being hunted on National Trust land was reported by the Daily Express and the Independent.

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