A former MP has hailed the Lake District National Park Authority’s (LDNPA) decision to impose an indefinite suspension on hunting licences. And it comes as the Countryside Alliance continues defending hunting on the fells.
Former Carlisle Labour MP Eric Martlew welcomed the news that the LDNPA had indefinitely suspended hunting on its land. These primarily affected fell packs, or fox hunting packs that hunt on foot throughout the region. Speaking to local paper News and Star, Martlew said he believed the LDNPA’s decision is “the end of hunting – certainly in the Lake District”.
Martlew’s comments came as the Countryside Alliance said there could still be a future for hunting in the area. News website Cumbria Crack reported that the Countryside Alliance’s head of hunting Polly Portwin said that hunts are taking on the onus to prove what they do is “legitimate”. And she went on to say:
“Once that is demonstrated, there can be no justification whatsoever for restricting a legal activity by the LDNPA”
However, one anti-hunting group said Portwin’s statements have come “too late”.
Campaign group Stop Hunting On the Nation’s Land told Keep The Ban:
“Hunts have had 18 years to demonstrate that their activity is legitimate.
“It’s too late for Polly Portwin to start saying they need to demonstrate they’re acting legally – for the past 18 years the only evidence has shown that the hunts are prepared to commit wildlife crime if they think they can get away with it under the guise of trail hunting.”
And the group brought even the possibility of trail hunting into question:
“there is no way that the fell packs in the Lake District would be able to hunt a trail anyway – it would be physically impossible for anyone to lay a trail across crags and ghylls at any time of day, and the fellpacks set out at dawn quite often so trail layers would have to be up the fells in the dark. They wouldn’t live long.”
As previously reported in The Canary in 2019, fell packs already openly admitted chasing and killing foxes in LDNPA documents. Statutory reports submitted to the LDNPA revealed the Blencathra Foxhounds admitted to chasing foxes at 57% of its meets and killing foxes at 9% of its meets.
“Even the LDNPA self-report record sheets show how much illegal hunting has been taking place under licence,” Stop Hunting on the Nation’s Land told Keep The Ban.
This in itself didn’t appear to be enough evidence for the LDNPA to stop hunting on its land. But the authority eventually followed the lead of other major landowners in suspending hunting after the Hunt Saboteurs Association published incriminating Hunting Office webinars in November 2020.
Stop Hunting On the Nation’s Land told Keep The Ban that local anti-hunting group Cumbria Hunt Watch offered £100 in 2015 to any fell pack that proved they could follow a pre-laid trail.
“Needless to say, none of the packs responded,” the group said.
Portwin’s statement that hunts need to prove their legitimacy prompts the question of what they’ve actually proven since the Hunting Act came into effect. And despite the Countryside Alliance’s faith in the tenacity of hunts across the Lake District, their days may be numbered.
Stop Hunting On the Nation’s Land explained bluntly that the hunts “have made a mockery of many public landowners, and should never be trusted again.”
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