The League Against Cruel Sports is very concerned about the growing evidence of illegal hunting and other offences taking place on National Trust land, including the criminal use of firearms, poaching of deer, driving vehicles at deer and damaging Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Hunting wild animals like deer, hares and foxes with dogs for sport is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies. The National Trust currently issues licences to a number of hunts to conduct ‘trail hunts’ on some of its estates. These licences contain conditions designed to protect fauna and flora but it would seem the National Trust do not take any enforcement action for breaches of licence conditions unless there has been a police investigation and a conviction; no checks are made and the hunts simply self-report on their compliance with licence conditions.

League Against Cruel Sports officers have found evidence that a hunt which was banned from hunting with dogs on National Trust land in 1997, has repeatedly engaged in illegal stag hunting, driving hunt quad bikes and other vehicles on a restricted byway and footpaths used regularly by the public (including school children) and across protected moorland, and has discharged firearms to kill deer on National Trust land, which is open to the public, in the West Country. On one occasion, a National Trust vehicle passed along a restricted byway as hunt vehicles were driven illegally in the opposite direction but there was no intervention. The evidence shows that National Trust estate staff may be aware of what goes on but take no action to stop it happening.

The League has sought on repeated occasions to contact the National Trust to convey its grave concerns and to share examples of the evidence in our possession. The League’s most recent efforts date back to 13th September when we contacted their offices directly. The League was able to secure a meeting at the National Trust’s London offices in Grosvenor Gardens, on March 1st.

At the meeting, having heard that the National Trust has insufficient resources to monitor licenced or unlicenced hunting activity on its land, the League offered to support the National Trust by providing monitors, and by providing training to National Trust estate managers (similar to that which the League provides on the national Police Wildlife Crime Officer training course and for several police forces). Regrettably, the National Trust declined these offers. However, it did agree to discuss the evidence presented by the League with regional managers and to consider whether any other action could be taken.

The League believes that the evidence clearly shows that hunting activities on National Trust land are cruel, illegal, unauthorised, dangerous to the public, as well as damaging to Sites of Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

We await the outcome of the National Trust’s discussions following our meeting. The League very much hopes that the National Trust will take responsibility for hunting activity on its estates and do all it can to ensure that the law is upheld. Should the National Trust’s response fall short, we will consult with our members and partners on our response.

UPDATE (07/04/2017):

The National Trust have failed to respond by our deadline. We will be looking into this further in due course.