Cheshire trail hunting ban a step closer

The motion calls on the council’s cabinet to develop a policy on trail hunting which takes into account the threat posed by hunts to the environment and animals.

The vote to tackle trail hunting is the second in 24 hours, following the decision taken by Peterborough City Council yesterday to ban the activity on its land.

It follows the launch of a police investigation into explosive comments made by senior hunt officials during two training webinars.

In them they seemed to admit that trail hunting is a “smokescreen” to cover up the chasing and killing of foxes.

The League Against Cruel Sports, which campaigns to end hunting for good, welcomed the decision.

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

“We commend Cheshire West and Chester Council for taking an important step towards bringing an end to ‘trail’ hunting across the country and stamping out fox hunting.

“Our campaign to deny public land to hunts to prevent them chasing and killing foxes is gathering momentum as a result of the release of the Hunting Office webinars and police investigation into the hunts’ comments. We look forward now to other councils tackling the scourge of trail hunting – a smokescreen for the barbaric blood sport of fox hunting – and banning it on their land.”

With Cheshire East Council also confirming recently that hunts can’t use their land, the decision taken last night will lock hunts out of public land across the whole of the county.

The motion was submitted by the Labour member for Upton, Cllr Matt Bryan.

It stated: "This Council notes that the hunting of wild animals with dogs is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies. With a continual threat to the environment and on wild and domestic animals; to prevent potential illegal activity in breach of The Hunting Act 2004 and The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and to prevent damage to other flora and fauna by hunts, their hounds, followers and objectors, this Council asks Cabinet to consider and develop a policy to clearly reflect this position with regard to Trail Hunting on Council-owned land."

The League compiled eye-witness reports relating to the incidents of suspected illegal fox hunting activity in Cheshire between October 2019 and early March this year.

We collated 30 incidents in Cheshire last season, making the county one of the hotspots for hunting in Britain. One gruesome report described a fox being ripped apart by hunt hounds in a private garden in the county and which was witnessed by the residents’ young children.

In Cheshire West and Chester, there were 21 incidents including those witnessed during the 2019 cub hunting season which takes place in the run-up to the fox hunting season. These included foxes being chased and badger setts being blocked to prevent foxes escaping underground.

The League issued a set of startling figures late last week showing there were 300 reported incidents of suspected illegal fox cub hunting across England and Wales in 2020, despite the fox hunting ban. This included 14 incidents in Cheshire. Fox cub hunting takes place between the middle of August and the end of October, and involves the hounds being trained to kill, in the run-up to the fox hunting season which begins in November.

Chris Luffingham, added:

“The smokescreen confessions by the hunts and the police investigation into them are a game changer. No longer can the hunts hide behind their trail laying excuses.

“The vast majority of the public oppose fox hunting and it should have no place in a 21st century society which has become more environmentally friendly and kinder towards animals.”

Six major landowners have suspended trail hunting on their land since the webinars were released. This follows a League campaign that saw supporters send more than 120,000 emails to major landowners in England and Wales to ban trail hunting on their land.

The landowners that have suspended licences are Forestry England, the National Trust, United Utilities, Lake District National Park, Natural Resources Wales, and the Church of England.

The League is now calling on the Ministry of Defence, Duchy of Cornwall and Crown Estates to follow their example.

It is also calling for the bans on trail hunting to be made permanent.

Cherwell District Council will be voting on Monday on a motion proposed by Cllr Ian Middleton which warns hunts not to cross public or council controlled land or cause a nuisance on public highways within Cherwell.

The motion specifically references the webinars and that as a responsible authority, they must also take steps to ensure they are not seen to be supporting potentially illegal activities.

Fox hunting was banned in February 2005 but the hunts then invented trail hunting, a cover for illegal hunting designed to deceive the authorities.



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