Licences for "trail hunting" have been suspended indefinitely by Malvern Hills Trust after "concerns over number of infringements of Trail Hunting policy & Trust byelaws over the past 4 years". Minutes released from MHT show that the guilty verdict of Mark Hankinson last month played a key role in the subsequent decision that was made. In the now landmark trial, the former Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association was found guilty of encouraging and assisting others to break the 2004 Hunting Act. He was shown on camera advising around 100 other senior hunting officials how best to carry on chasing and killing wildlife and how "trail hunting" could be used as a "smokescreen" to onlookers.

Unsurprisingly the Malvern Hills Trust becomes yet another body to end their association with so-called "trail hunts" and it is much welcomed by Keep The Ban.

At their (Thursday 11th November) the Board of trustees considered the issue of trail hunting events on Trust land.  Trustees expressed concerns over the number of infringements of its Trail Hunting policy and Trust byelaws over the past four years and subsequently voted to suspend licencing of all trail hunting on its land indefinitely.

THE NATIONAL TRUST ARE STILL YET TO PERMANENTLY END HUNTING LICENCES

The National Trust have banned hunts from using their land, or have they? Last month a historic vote was held to determine whether the NationalTrust would continue to allow so-called “trail hunts” on their land.


A resolution was brought forward by a member of the Trust who wanted to see an end to hunting activities and in a landslide majority 76,816 members voted in favour of the hunting ban with 38,184 against it.

However, while this was an overwhelming result the NationalTrust board of trustees still get the final say as to whether this verdict will actually be carried through. In fact, the official line from the National Trust is that “We’re not currently issuing licences for any trail hunting activities.The votes cast by members on the resolutions are advisory and will help us make decisions in the months to come. Later this year, our Board of Trustees will meet and reflect on the outcomes of the resolutions.”

So, it is by no means a done deal. Even despite endless evidence of so-called trail hunts using National Trust land to chase and kill wildlife. So how exactly did we get to this point? What exactly is trail hunting? And why are major landowners under increasing pressure to ban trail hunts from their land?

Since 2017 Keep The Ban has drawn attention to the National Trust and their allowance of so-called ‘trail hunts’ to use their land.

We set up a petition which has since been signed by over 370,000 people and was later handed in to the National Trust in person.

We then supported NationalTrust member Helen Beynon in her resolution calling on the Trust to permanently end all ‘trail hunt’ licences.

This began a six-month campaign visiting National Trust sites and encouragingNational Trust members to vote in favour of the resolution.

Whilst the resolution was ultimately unsuccessful by a mere 300 votes out of around 60,000, it did result in major changes to how licenses are given out.

The National Trust also created a dedicated team to deal with the issue of trail hunting and it has led to a significant reduction in the number of hunts using Trust land. In 2018 25 licences were handed out to hunts but by 2019this number had fallen by 64% to just 9 hunts. In the most recent season only 1licence was given out by the National Trust.

The issue with these licences is that so-called “trail hunting” is nothing but a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting. Last year on 13th November, online webinars hosted by Lord Mancroft and the Hunting Office were leaked by the Hunt Saboteur Association and showed senior hunting officials and even an ex police officer advise hunts from across the country how to use “trail hunting” as a coverup for illegal fox hunting.

Two weeks later this led to major landowners such as the National Trust, Forestry England and a whole host of other organisations temporarily suspending so-called trail hunt licences on their land. In the meantime, Keep The Ban have been applying pressure on these landowners to make their suspensions permanent with over half a million people signing our petitions to make this a reality. Fast forward to February 13th of this year and Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of FoxhoundsAssociation is charged with a Hunting Act offence as a result of these webinars.

On 15th October Mark Hankinson was found guilty of encouraging others to commit an offence and Judge Ikram stated that “It was clearly advice and encouragement to commit the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog.” It really cannot be understated just how significant this verdict was. For the first time in open court the sham that is trail hunting was laid bare for all to see and proved what anti hunt campaigners have been saying for years.

Indeed, ever since the 2004 Hunting Act came into place which made hunting wild mammals with hounds illegal, hunts across the country have turned to the notion of trail hunting as an alibi for their sordid abuse of wildlife. In theory trail hunting involves an artificial scent being laid down for the hounds to pursue as opposed to chasing and hunting a live mammal but this never happens. However what it does provide is a smokescreen for hunts to claim that they didn’t deliberately or intentionally kill an animal but that their hounds simply caught the scent of a fox and deviated off course. This is nothing but a lie and the now infamous “trail of lies” report found that less than 1% of hunts lay a potentially genuine artificial trail down.

A report from 2018-19 hunting season, conducted by National Distrust highlighted that reckless and out of control hunts continue to wreak havoc across the countryside, terrorising and killing not only wildlife but domestic animals too. This same report, conducted of 44 randomly selected hunts ordinarily licenced by theNational Trust, found that a third had convictions for assault upon monitors and that 70% of these hunts had members arrested for wildlife crime relating to activities carried out under so-called ‘trail hunts’.

The outcome of the most recent National Trust AGM to ban these hunts from National Trust land has therefore been a long time coming. As of right now the Board of Trustees get to decide whether the vote will be carried out and so the future of hunting on NationalTrust land still hangs in the balance. We’re calling for our supporters to continue to make their voices heard and to petition the National Trust to do the right thing and end hunting on their land for good.

Rob Pownall

Founder of Keep The Ban

Looking to help?

Adopt a fox with Keep The Ban for just £2 per month and support our on-going work to expose wildlife crime and end fox hunting in the UK for good.

Thank you for visiting our site!

Keep The Ban is a non-profit organisation that campaigns to end wildlife persecution and we fund anti-hunting groups across the country such as the brilliant Hunt Investigation Team. We rely solely on our supporters and donations. If you'd like to support what we do please head to our shop or back us with a small donation.