Trail hunting is a “smokescreen”

The League Against Cruel Sports is calling on lawmakers and landowners to “sit up and pay attention” after senior figures within the fox hunting lobby were caught on camera appearing to admit that ‘trail’ hunting is a “smokescreen” for the chasing and killing of foxes.

The explosive revelations were contained within two leaked Zoom training meetings involving those involved at the very heart of hunting including Lord Mancroft, chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA); Mark Hankinson, MFHA director; Phillip Davies, Countryside Alliance police liaison officer; and more than 100 hunt masters, representing more than half of the country’s fox hunts.

Police are now investigating the contents of the webinars.

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

“This is huge. This finally seems to be an admission from the hunting lobby that they’ve been ignoring the law for the past 15 years.

“It’s what we’ve been saying since trail hunting was invented after the Hunting Act came into force in 2005 – that it’s a smokescreen for real hunting.”

The League Against Cruel Sports has dismissed trail hunting as a smokescreen for illegal hunting ever since it was created in the wake of hunting with dogs being banned 15 years ago.

Now the hunters have been caught out admitting trail hunting creates “the element of doubt” that has allowed them to get away with hunting wild animals even when taken to court.

ITV News exposed the cover-up in a hard-hitting news story released this afternoon and showing that the notion of trail hunting is being used by hunts to deceive the police, the courts, the media and the public about their fox hunting activity.

Just last week footage taken by the League’s professional investigators was shown on ITV West Country showing hounds from the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt chasing a fox.

The League is now calling on organisations that continue to allow trail on hunting on their land such as the National Trust, Forestry Commission, United Utilities, and Ministry of Defence to revoke these licences and stop being complicit in animal cruelty.

Mr Luffingham added:

“To hear a Countryside Alliance consultant and a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association describe in their own words how to “create that smokescreen or that element of doubt”, presumably in any ensuing court case, would appear to confirm everything we’ve been saying about hunting.

“The thundering silence of more than 100 hunters on the call who could have disagreed spoke volumes.

“We are pleased to see the police are sitting up and paying attention, and we invite prosecutors, politicians, and the people who license ‘trail’ hunting on their land to do the same.”

The use of the term smokescreen was used by hunt figures twice in the training meeting.

Phil Davies, the Countryside Alliance police liaison officer, said:

“Now you know more about hunting than the saboteurs or courts will know but what it will do is create that smokescreen or that element of doubt that we haven’t deliberately hunted a fox, so if nothing else you need to record that and it will help us provide a defence to huntsman.”

Mark Hankinson, MFHA director, said:

“It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating, and that is what it’s all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business.”

The League Against Cruel Sports has compiled 677 reports which pointed to suspected illegal fox hunting, witnessed by members of the public across England and Wales during the last fox hunting and cub hunting season.


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