Defence boss threw a “veil of secrecy” over hunts using public land, charity says

National animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports had been urging the MoD to suspend so-called trail hunting on its land after reports the practice is used as a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting.

But instead the defence secretary has personally taken steps to ensure hunts’ activities on MoD land cannot be scrutinised at all, by revoking a Memorandum of Understanding that helped the charity monitor the hunts on public land.

I am doing this on a number of grounds, including security concerns as well the behaviour of protesters and their attire which is intimidating to other users. Any memorandum of agreement is built on the foundation of good will and mutual respect which I would expect to be shown to all users of flat lands, whether supporters of the hunt or not. When there are circumstances where this is brought into question, the memorandum of understanding is no longer valid."

Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, in a letter to Andy Knott, CEO

The move came just before Boxing Day, which is the biggest ceremonial hunting day in the calendar.

Chris Luffingham, deputy CEO at the League, said: “We do not recognise the behaviours he has accused us of while monitoring the hunts. We have always complied fully and diligently with the MoU and have received no prior communication of any apparent concerns from the MoD or Mr Wallace’s office.

“In contrast, the League has recorded incidents in which MoD licensed hunts have displayed poor behaviour, including one incident earlier in December in which an employed huntsman from the MoD-licensed Royal Artillery Hunt is alleged to have deliberately struck a protester with their car."

The Royal Artillery Hunt chases a fox on MOD land

The Royal Artillery Hunt chases a fox on MOD land in 2022 - image courtesy of Salisbury Monitors

Chris continued: “We have constantly sought contact with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation to raise these issues and provide evidence of them, but we have been left constantly frustrated that our requests for meetings – as outlined in the MOU itself – have been ignored.

“We have been mindful that barriers such as the coronavirus pandemic and recent strains on the MoD due to the war in Ukraine have taken up MoD resources, but we had been looking forward to a positive working relationship in the near future.

“We have now written to Mr Wallace to seek clarification on the statements he has made in his letter, and urge him to make activity taking place on publicly-owned land more open to scrutiny, not less.”

Your personally-issued, vague and unevidenced, summary sanction is the first we have heard of the matter. We do not know what alleged incidents you refer to, or even if they refer to us. Nor have you afforded us the opportunity to respond. We do not recognise the attitude or behaviours you allude to in your letter as describing any of the League’s investigators or other staff. I reject the implication that I, or any of my staff, are a security risk to the MoD or the users of its estate. We have always complied fully and diligently with the MoU and have received no prior communication of any apparent concerns on the part of your department. In contrast with our unblemished record of lawfully monitoring hunts on the MoD estate and across the country, we have recorded many incidents where the hunts have displayed precisely the behaviour you complain of. As one example of many, a prominent member of the MoD-licensed Royal Artillery Hunt is alleged to have deliberately struck a member of the public with his car last week."

Andy Knott, MBE, CEO of he League Against Cruel Sports, responding to Mr Wallace

The League has published polling that shows overwhelming support for strengthening of the Hunting Act in England and Wales, including from respondents in Mr Wallace’s own constituency and those living in areas of Wiltshire where the MoD licenses hunts.

It has also published a report that shows the impact hunting has on rural communities, such as trespass, livestock worrying and dangers to public safety – none of which would take place, says the League, if hounds really were following properly pre-laid trails.

Chris added: “The evidence is clear that trail hunting is a smokescreen for old fashioned illegal hunting, and it’s time for change. Hunting should be stopped on publicly-owned MoD land and the Law needs to be strengthened to ensure hunting is properly banned in England and Wales.”


Notes to editors

Polling was conducted online by Find Out Now between June 11 and June 14 2022, and the total sample size was 5,187 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). MRP Analysis was conducted by Electoral Calculus. Both Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are members of the British Polling Council.



Q1 Do you agree or disagree that the law should be changed to prevent animals being chased with dogs and killed?

[Excluding those who refused to answer.]

Q2 If a candidate in your seat at an upcoming general election wanted to strengthen the ban on hunting with dogs, would you be more or less likely to vote for that candidate? [Excluding those who refused to answer.]

Net Agree

Neither Agree nor Disagree / Don't Know

Net Disagree

Net More Likely

No more or less likely /

Don't Know

Net Less Likely

















South West Wiltshire








Wyre and Preston North








Download the full data here.

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 or email

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