Keep The Ban set up a petition last year calling on Forestry England (FE) to permanently ban trail-hunting on their land. This petition came prior to the leaked Hunting Office webinars, and aimed to call out FE on their links to hunting;

“For the most recent hunting season, Forestry England gave hunting licences for 34 fox & hare ‘trail hunts’. Despite hunting wild mammals with dogs being illegal, two of the licensed/previously licensed trail hunts have been associated with convictions under the Hunting and Animal Welfare Acts.

Other licensed fox hunts have recently been in the press for alleged trespass, killing foxes, losing control of their dogs & for another criminal conviction. A saboteur was severely injured at a hunt in early September that ordinarily receives a licence from Forestry England.” (Petition)

The petition that passed the 100,000 mark in March, and is being considered for parliamentary debate, aimed to put pressure on Forestry England to cut ties with the hunting world. It came as a surprise to many people that an organisation so rooted in championing nature and wildlife was in fact deeply involved in the hunting world and subsequently tied to illegal activity.

Forestry England always maintained their argument that ‘trail-hunting’ is legal, and therefore they are within their right to allow it on their land and are ethically not at fault, because they monitor it. Keep The Bans petition and campaign work highlighted that they were issuing licences to hunts who had convictions associated with the Hunting and Animal Welfare Acts, as well as generally untrustworthy track records. Forestry England didn’t seem to care that these were the type of people they were letting loose on their land.

The argument that trail-hunting is legal has never stuck with those in the anti-hunt movement, especially not hunt saboteurs who witness it all first-hand. It wasn’t until the Hunting Officer webinars were leaked that major landowners, including Forestry England, found themselves in a slightly stickier spotlight and some temporarily suspended these licences.  

As the webinars confirmed, trail-hunting is nothing but a façade. These ‘trail-hunts’ are in fact just hunts. They go out and continue to hunt, using trail-hunting as, in their own words, a ‘smokescreen’.

The leaked webinar and online attention has really ramped up the pressure on these major landowners, especially Forestry England with the petition now being considered for parliamentary debate. Pressure is increasing, and more and more people are waking up to the deceit and trickery these landowners think they can get away with. It’s clear there is only one solution and that is to permanently ban trail-hunting for good. Any decision otherwise will be seen as further corruption and lack of care for wildlife or the law.  

Our major landowner petition can be signed here. You can take action by sending an email to Forestry England using our templated tool here.

Amy Schouwenburg

Head of Social Media