Until the end of 2020, National Trust (along with many other major landowners) allowed ‘trail hunts’ to use their land by issuing them with licenses. This enabled various hunts across the country to ‘trail-hunt’ over their land, which more than often will have led to the ‘accidental’ killing of foxes.  

Since the leaked webinars, and the admittance of hunts purposely using ‘trail hunting’ as a cover up for real hunting, landowners including National Trust have ‘temporarily’ suspended issuing these licenses pending the current police investigation. The investigation is ongoing, although Mark Hankinson, the director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, has since been charged with his involvement. We don’t know when the investigation will be over, but what we do know is that a temporary suspension isn’t good enough. Now it’s out in the open that these trail-hunts are illegally hunting, landowners should permanently ban these licenses if they care about wildlife at all. We are urging National Trust to set precedent and permanently ban these licenses.

Our Forestry England petition urging them to permanently ban these licenses exceeded its 100,000 mark and is being considered for debate in parliament. This is great progress but there’s still a long way to go, and other major landowners like National Trust need to act now and put a stop to more wildlife being killed in the future.

The public response to major landowners, but in particular to National Trust, has been huge. Currently 63,534 emails have been sent to landowners using the templated letter on our website.

National Trust have a big reputation, nature lovers and wildlife lovers are their primary audience and make up the main bulk of their income generation through memberships. It is therefore not a good look to be exposed as issuing ‘trail hunting’ licences to hunts that we know for a fact are secretly illegally hunting on their land and killing foxes. Why would anyone who cares about wildlife and nature want to put money into the pockets of an organisation or trust who indirectly support the murder of wildlife?

It’s paramount we keep the pressure on National Trust to permanently suspend these licences by sending more emails, and also signing our new Landowner Petition launched last week.  

We can’t imagine why National Trust would not want to ban these hunts from using their land when it’s so publicly known that they are illegally hunting. National Trust should surely want to distance themselves from any negative press and people who enjoy murdering wildlife. The only reason we can think of is money. We don’t know the extent of the relationship between National Trust and these hunts, but we imagine there is some sort of financial benefit for National Trust to be issuing these licenses otherwise ethically they would’ve already cut ties with the hunting world. We hope National Trust will do the right thing and prioritise our wildlife and nature, that is so rapidly at risk, over money.  

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media

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