Animal lovers have been left distraught today after National Trust members failed to pass a motion to ban ‘trail hunting’ on Trust land.

A group of National Trust members, supported by the League Against Cruel Sports, put forward a motion calling on the charity to stop fox, hare and stag hunts from illegally killing animals on Trust land under the cover of 'trail hunting', exempt hunting or just exercising their hounds.

In the result out this afternoon, the number of people voting against the motion to ban Trail hunting was 30,985. Those for the motion was 30,686. This means that the motion failed by 299 votes. It is worth noting that the National Trust was given discretionary votes by some members, meaning that those votes were used by the National Trust to vote against the motion. Without those discretionary votes, the number of people who voted for the motion was actually greater than those who voted against. So the decision was swung against  the motion by the National Trust board.

The result means that 67 hunts which have previously been issued with licences to hunt on Trust land will be able to continue doing so in the future.

Philippa King, Acting CEO of the League Against Cruel Sports, said:

“The Trust claims to protect our countryside but they have singularly failed to do that. This is a massive backward step for justice and a shot in the arm for cruelty. The fact that more people actually voted to ban trail hunting than voted not to is very telling and we are extremely proud of that. But the vote was lost because the National Trust decided to ignore the popular vote and side with the pro-hunt lobby. This is both sad and very worrying and we hope that the Trust will have taken on board and listened very carefully to the points made by members. We want to see them bring in the new licensing rules they have introduced and do everything in their power to ensure the hunts are properly monitored.

“The National Trust could have played a major role in curtailing illegal hunting in this country, but they chose to ignore 400 pages of evidence and instead mislead their members into voting against this motion. Their justification is that there have been no prosecutions of hunts on National Trust land – but if you let a burglar wander round your house without supervision, then he’s unlikely to be arrested.

“Hunts will now claim that people believe they are hunting legally. If so, they shouldn’t mind if the National Trust now invites independent monitors onto their land to ensure that the hunts follow their rules, as the Trust officials don’t normally monitor hunting on their land as they should. We’ll then see how many accidents, how many chases and how many deaths occur in the name of ‘trail’ hunting.”

Helen Beynon, National Trust member who was one of those proposing the motion, said:

“I started this with some other National Trust members because I witnessed the deceit of hunts which are claiming to follow trails but are actually chasing animals, and I couldn’t abide the thought of them getting away with it on National Trust land. I believe the only reason our motion has failed is because most National Trust members haven’t seen it with their own eyes. If they’d have seen what I’ve seen, then I have no doubt they would have voted with us.

“I was surprised, that despite all the evidence available to the National Trust Trustees, and the fact that we were given no opportunity to respond to the terms of any new licence, they advised members to vote against our proposal. By doing this, they have led people to believe that there is no problem. But there is a problem, hunts will now be able to continue their barbaric hobby on land which is meant to be protected for people and animals. It’s disgraceful, and the National Trust should be ashamed.”

Trail hunting, not drag hunting

The motion did not attempt to ban ‘drag’ hunting which has existed as a legitimate sport for 200 years and uses non-animal based artificial trails in areas without foxes or hares. ‘Drag’ hunting offers a genuine alternative to illegal hunting, as the huntsmen have full knowledge of where the trail is being laid, so ‘accidental kills’ are practically unheard of. However, no fox or hare hunt converted to drag hunting after the Hunting Act passed in 2004, and they invented ‘trail’ hunting instead.

“This was not an attempt to kill off ‘tradition’, it was an attempt to stop the killing of animals for fun,” said Philippa King. “Drag hunts follow an artificial trail and rarely catch an animal ‘by accident’, and will not be affected by this ban. Trail hunting was invented after the Hunting Act came in, but there was no genuine reason to invent a new version of drag hunting unless there was an ulterior motive – to carry on killing foxes, deer and hares, and get away with it.

“This deception has been recognised by many National Trust members, but not by the Trust themselves. Today the hunts will be laughing at the National Trust – or at least those in the National Trust who are opposed to hunting.”

Last year the National Trust issued 79 annual licences granting hunts access to their land in England and Wales to trail hunt.

The League believes there is no such a thing as the 'sport of trail hunting' and it is simply a temporary, false alibi to cover for illegal hunting while the hunting fraternity hopes for the hunting ban to be repealed or weakened.

Invented following the enactment of the Hunting Act 2004, trail hunting was created to mimic traditional hunting. Hunts are said to follow a pre-laid trail in areas where the ‘once’ hunted animals would naturally occur. However those controlling the hounds are not told where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds catch the scent of a live animal instead - resulting in a chase and often a kill - this is then classed as an ‘accident’.

Reports from more than 30 hunt monitors across ten years from different organisations covering the majority of hunts in England and Wales (157), have reported witnessing someone laying a possible trail only in an average of around 3% of the occasions they monitored hunts. Worse, they believed that they may have witnessed a genuine trail hunting event, rather than a fake one, on an average of around 0.04% of occasions.

Find out more about the National Trust vote at www.league.org.uk/nationaltrust

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For more information or interview requests please contact the League Against Cruel Sports Press Office on 01483 524250 (24hrs) or email [email protected]

The League Against Cruel Sports is Britain's leading charity that works to stop animals being persecuted, abused and killed for sport. The League was instrumental in helping bring about the landmark Hunting Act. We carry out investigations to expose law-breaking and cruelty to animals and campaign for stronger animal protection laws and penalties. We work to change attitudes and behaviour through education and manage sanctuaries to protect wildlife. Find out more about our work at www.league.org.uk. Registered charity in England and Wales (no.1095234) and Scotland (no.SC045533).