Former defence secretary hid “personal vendetta” against wildlife charity behind a veil of secrecy

Press release

  • Charity is urging new defence secretary Grant Shapps to stop allowing hunts to access land on the defence estate
  • FOI responses show military-affiliated hunts chased and killed wild animals, contra to the Hunting Act 2004
  • Solicitors working for the League says there may have been “an extraordinary malfunction in public body decision-making” if no new evidence surfaces

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace has been accused of launching a “personal vendetta” against an animal welfare charity.

As hunts meet today [Boxing Day] for the biggest day in their calendar, it can be revealed the former head of the Ministry of Defence ripped up an agreement to allow scrutiny of fox hunters operating on Ministry of Defence land, seemingly without any evidence to do so.

At the time Wallace was making political moves to become the next head of Nato and had also had his seat in Leicestershire scrapped because of boundary changes.

He used his position as the political head of the country’s armed forces to scrap a memorandum of understanding the MOD had with national animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports, citing “security concerns as well as the behaviour of protestors and their attire which is intimidating to other users”.

Mounted hunt on horseback chase a fox towards the camera

A fox fleeing from the RAH (Copyright Salisbury Monitors)

But the charity says, after a year of fighting to lift the veil of secrecy around Wallace’s decision, it now has seeming proof he was using his position to follow his own agenda.

Andy Knott, chief executive of the League, who was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army, said: “We and our lawyers, Leigh Day, were stonewalled at every turn when we tried to find out why our agreement was terminated out of the blue. It was only after Mr Wallace resigned as defence secretary that we’ve been able to get seeming evidence that his allegations against us were unfounded.

“How can the man in charge of our nation’s defences be able to make any decision based on a personal vendetta against the League’s work to end illegal hunting in this country?”

The so-called evidence of the League’s threat to national security and threatening behaviour rests on two photographs. One shows a group selfie of the Hunt Saboteurs Association, and another shows a member of the Moonraker Hunt Saboteur group taking a selfie with a red-coated huntsman in the background. Neither organisation is part of the League, neither photo has a time or location stamped on it and neither was part of the League’s Memorandum of Understanding with the MOD.

Mr Knott added: “Given we had just completed the training of 200 police and Crown Prosecution Service personnel in the Hunting Act, you might think Mr Wallace would see us as friend, not foe!

“We’re now seeking assurances from Grant Shapps that he will ban the hunts, rather than the hunt monitors from the MOD estate, and that the MOD will now comply with an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office into what information the MOD holds to substantiate Mr Wallace’s statement. Instead of excusing the hunts, I urge Mr Shapps to start excluding them from land designated for the serious business of training our armed forces.”

Carol Day, from Leigh Day solicitors which represents the League, added: “As a result of a ten-month ICO investigation, the MOD provided two photographs of members of an entirely different organisation, which may or may not have been taken on MOD land, as evidence for the withdrawal of their memorandum of understanding. Our client will be pursuing its complaint with the ICO on the assumption that this cannot be the sum total of the information relied upon by Mr Wallace. If it is, it suggests an extraordinary malfunction in public body decision-making.”

Mr Knott continued: “As recently as October this year Mr Wallace was spreading lies about the League, accusing us of all sorts – from physically attacking hunters to buying off the Labour party. As a lobbying charity, governed by strict rules around political neutrality, the only attacking we do is to attack the Hunting Act’s loopholes that allow illegal hunting to go unpunished! We urge all politicians to strengthen it so to properly protect animals.”


Notes to editors

  • The League Against Cruel Sports publishes reports of activity relating to illegal hunting and hunt havoc at the end of every season. The latest figures are available here.

For media enquiries or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports press office on 01483 524250 or email Please note our office will be closed on Christmas Day.

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading animal 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 wildlife reserves 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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