National Trust members have a chance to vote for cruelty-free future

National Trust members have a decision to make. On the face of it, it’s a decision as to whether or not to ban hunting on National Trust land. But it’s also a decision between past and present; cruelty or compassion.

Many National Trust members will have been shocked recently to find out that hunting is allowed on Trust land. Every year, the Trust issues licences for ‘trail hunting’ in these protected areas – last year it was 79. The Trust will have believed, we assume, that ‘trail hunting’ is a legal activity that does not involve chasing and killing animals.

Unfortunately, the reality is very different.

Trail hunting purports to mimic traditional hunting by following a scent trail (using fox urine, according to the hunters) which has been laid in areas where foxes are likely to be. However, over 4000 reports by hunt monitors since the hunting ban came in show that they believe that on average, ‘trail hunts’ may actually lay a genuine trail on less than one percent of occasions they go out.

This means that on the vast majority of occasions the hunts are heading out without a trail – to try and chase and kill foxes just as they were before the Hunting Act.

We believe this evidence conclusively shows that illegal hunting is taking place – both on National Trust land and across the country. The National Trust members who proposed this vote believe the same.

In addition to licensed trail hunting, the League have evidence that hunts chase and kill stags on NT land, without having been given permission (though in video footage of the hunt, a National Trust vehicle is seen in the area, but without taking action).

For these reasons, we can make two assumptions.

The National Trust do not effectively monitor licensed hunting on their land. They say they have taken action in a handful of cases where illegal hunting was reported, but this seems like a drop in the ocean.

At least some National Trust officials know that illegal hunting is taking place on their land. When the League tried to discuss the issue with both local and senior NT officials, we were messed around then ignored. We offered to support the Trust by monitoring hunts on their land, but we were turned down. This didn’t seem like the actions of an organisation taking the problem seriously.

Once details of the members’ motion reached the media, the National Trust reacted in two ways. Firstly, they announced changes to their policy on trail hunting. This included banning trails made out of animal products, banning terriermen and ensuring hunts publish details of time and locations they will be active.

Secondly, they encouraged their members to vote against the motion, saying that there wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that trail hunting is ‘any better or worse’ than activities like mountain biking.

This blog is too short to go into every detail of why these two reactions are flawed. The trail hunting changes are a fudge, as they will not work without an increase in monitoring and enforcement, which the Trust have shown themselves unwilling to do. If hunts are allowed on Trust land for any reason, history shows that they will then continue to kill animals.

The Trust may be trying to tread a line between two opposing sides. It can’t be an easy position to be in. I’m sure they just want to be getting on with their otherwise excellent work protecting and conserving our countryside. But while they allow themselves to be bamboozled by the hunts, who are meticulously deceiving their hosts, they cannot claim that conservation is at their heart.

Hunting animals for ‘fun’ is, for most people in this country, something that belongs in the past. Hunts continue to find ways around the law so they can satisfy their bloodlust. Stopping them from accessing National Trust land – properly, not half-heartedly – will be a major blow to them. It will show that people in this country are compassionate and forward thinking, not locked in a cruel past.

National Trust members can deliver that blow by voting to ban hunting when they get their voting papers through.

We wish them well.

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