National Trust ‘increasingly isolated’ as hunting licenses halve.

The National Trust is leaving itself increasingly isolated from the wave of public opinion by allowing hunting on its land, a leading animal welfare charity has warned.

In what the League Against Cruel Sports has branded ‘a major blow for hunting’, the number of hunting licenses issued by the National Trust has dwindled by more than half, from 67 in 2016 to less than 25 this year. The decrease follows the anti-hunting organisation launching a campaign last year urging the National Trust to end the practice.

For what is believed to be the first time in history hunts will no longer be operating out of key estates, including the National Trust-owned fells of the Lake District.

Andy Knott MBE, CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports, has written to Director General Hilary McGrady, as the first hunts of the season begin meeting on National Trust land, pressing for remaining licenses to now be abandoned. He said:

“The National Trust has a long history of standing up for wildlife persecuted through hunting. In 1997 it was one of the first major landowners to prohibit stag hunting, following condemnations of the cruel ‘sport’ from the organisation’s ruling council. It is therefore shocking to see the Trust no longer embraces this approach to wildlife persecution and instead is operating behind the curve of public concern.

“The National Trust remains one of the only, if not the only, non-government conservation bodies to allow hunting on its land, with peers including English Heritage, Woodland Trust, Canal & River Trust, and even its own sister-organisation, National Trust Scotland, refusing permission.”

Horses, hounds and followers are being granted free access to scores of estates which the National Trust maintains on behalf of the nation. This includes ancient woodland, conservation areas and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), home to vulnerable fauna and flora.

Monitoring by wildlife protection organisations, including the League, has revealed how hunts granted access to National Trust estates are pursuing foxes and hares under the guise of following a trail - 14 years after the cruel ‘sport’ was banned.

Andy Knott added:

“With over
85% of the public opposing all forms of hunting wild animals with hounds – including a considerable number of National Trust members, visitors and staff members – it is high time the conservation body provided protection to wildlife by stopping licensing hunting on its land. Anything else will leave the National Trust trying in vain to stop the tide, like King Canute, and in the process selling out British wildlife.”

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