Trail Hunting

Traditional hunting involving the chasing and killing of animals, was banned by the Hunting Act 2004 in England and Wales, and the  Protection of Wild Mammals Act 2002 in Scotland.

After the ban, ‘trail’ hunting was created.

What is ‘trail’ hunting?

  • ‘Trail’ hunting was created to mimic traditional fox hunting with dogs.
  • The hunts lay an animal-based scent trail (using fox urine) which has been laid in areas where foxes or hares are likely to be.
  • Crucially, those laying the trail are not meant to tell those controlling the hounds where the scent has been laid, so if the hounds end up following a live animal scent the hunt can claim that they did not know.
Graphic on how trail hunts work

What is drag hunting?

  • Drag Hunting, was a legitimate sport created in the 1800s which was not intended to mimic animal hunting, but instead a sport using foxhounds to search for a non-animal scent laid by a drag pulled on a string, without the pursuit or killing of wild animals
  • Drag hunting 'accidents' are very rare when live animals are chased, while in ‘trail’ hunting they are very common.

'Trail hunting is a “smokescreen”…

An explosive exposé aired on ITV in November 2020 showed senior figures within the Master of Fox Hounds Association and the Countryside Alliance caught on camera admitting that ‘trail’ hunting is a “smokescreen” for the chasing and killing of foxes.

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.”

If 'trail' hunting is real, then why are hunts out of control on roads and railways, trespassing on private land, and worrying domestic pets and livestock as well as still killing wildlife? Find out more below:

Claim of trail hunting was a cynical subterfuge"

– Judge Michael Pert QC after Fernie Hunt unsuccessfully appealed their guilty verdict.

The case against ‘trail’ hunting

  1. After the ban came in to force, the hunts could have converted to genuine drag hunting or to ‘clean boot’ hunting instead of chasing and killing animals, but instead, they chose the latter.
  2. The hunts operate in the same locations they used prior to the ban – areas which are known to contain foxes (or hares, deer or mink).
  3. Trail hunts are always accompanied by terrier men – contractors who follow the hunt on quadbikes, with terrier dogs. In traditional hunting these dogs were sent underground to find a fox if it had escaped, by hiding in a hole underground for example. Terrier men would place the terrier in the hole to force the fox out so the chase could continue. If trail hunts genuinely don’t try to catch foxes, why are they always accompanied by terrier men?
  4. Trail hunts very rarely involve laying a trail. Since the Hunting Act 2004 was enacted, over 30 hunt monitors have released more than 4,000 monitor reports in which witnesses report seeing someone lay a possible trail in an average of around only 3% of occasions where they monitored hunts. They believe however, that only an average of around 0.04% of the occasions witnessed, were a genuine trail hunting event.

The League Against Cruel Sports believe ‘trail’ hunting is not a genuine sport but a cover for illegal hunting, designed to deceive the authorities and make the prosecution of illegal hunters very difficult. 

Now the hunting fraternity themselves have admitted to using trail hunting as an excuse to circumvent the law, it is only a matter of time before trail hunting comes to an end.  

Find out more

Read our trail hunting leaflet and see what a 'trail' hunt looks like.

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