The upcoming trial of Royal Artillery (RAH) huntsman Charles Carter, who has been accused of illegal hunting, shows exactly why the Ministry of Defence (MoD) needs to ban trail hunting immediately.
Carter will appear in court on 1 June. The alleged offence took place on MoD land, and it is the first time a case related to the Hunting Act on MoD land has made it to court. The murder of the fox took place on 30 October 2021.
Keep The Ban was told by hunt monitors that Carter was behaving recklessly throughout the 2021/22 hunting season: so much so that on 13 November the MoD police instructed him to stop hunting and return to the kennels. We were told that monitors and sabs witnessed Carter continuing to hunt after this.
RAH went on to kill two more foxes in December. It recorded the deaths as accidental, so no action was taken against the hunt. You can read more about these murders here.
On top of this, RAH’s hounds were filmed by monitors as they chased two deer across Salisbury Plain on 4 December. The hunt either couldn’t control their hounds, or had no desire to.
The upcoming trial won’t be the first time that Carter has found himself in the dock for allegations of illegal hunting. In 2017, when he was master of Middleton Hunt, he was cleared of the charge. At the time, the court was shown footage of Carter making sexist, lewd comments to a hunt monitor, saying “I’d quite like to shag you, actually,” and asking her if he could take her to bed.
Carter was a councillor in Norfolk at the time of the incident, but was forced to resign after the footage emerged.
The MoD’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has continued to ignore calls from campaigners to end trail hunting on its land.
An MoD spokesperson said:
“Trail hunting continues to be permitted on MoD land subject to hunts obtaining and abiding by the terms of a trail hunting licence and the law.”
Yet it is clear that the RAH is not abiding to the terms of the licence, nor is it following the law.
Three of the UK’s biggest landowners - the National Trust, Forestry England and Natural Resources Wales - banned trail hunting after Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, was found guilty of encouraging illegal hunting. Hankinson was recorded on a Zoom call, telling other hunt officials that trail hunting could be used as a smokescreen to cover up actual hunting. Despite this, the DIO has continued issuing licences.
Keep The Ban spoke to animal welfare group Save Me Trust, which has been closely following RAH’s illegal hunting. The Trust’s Anne Brummer told us:
“Following the conviction of the governing body for ‘sham and fiction’ of trail hunting, the MoD is one of the last large land owners to enable this smokescreen to continue. Now the RAH is in court for illegal hunting on MoD land, and it admits that two foxes were cruelly torn apart by hounds at Christmas ‘by accident’. Deer were chased over a public road, while police cautions were issued across a season of blatant hunting. Our question to the MoD is: why are you allowing and facilitating illegal activities on your land by issuing a licence to a hunt that you know is illegally killing wildlife?”
On 16 May an Early Day Motion (EDM) was tabled, signed by a number of MPs. The EDM states:
“this House notes with concern that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) continues to grant licences for trail and drag hunts on MoD land, including 248 hunts over 13 MoD sites in a single year; notes that leaked footage shows the Hunting Office and the Masters of Fox Hounds Association describing trail and drag hunts as a smokescreen; notes that trail and drag hunts can be, and are used to disguise the illegal and barbaric practice of fox hunting…”
The EDM continues, saying that the house:
“welcomes the National Trust and Natural Resources Wales’s decisions to ban trail and drag hunting; and calls on the Government to end the licencing of trail and drag hunts on MoD land.”
Surely now that a case of illegal hunting on its land has made it to court, the MoD must follow the examples of the National Trust, Forestry England and Natural Resources Wales and finally enforce a permanent ban.
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