THE MALVERN Hills Trust has taken the decision to ban ‘trail’ hunting on its land after concerns were raised about the behaviour of local fox hunts.
The organisation’s trustees voted earlier this month to suspend licensing indefinitely following a series of infringements by groups to trail hunting policy and trust bylaws.
Nick Weston, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said it applauded the trustees for ‘making the right move’.
“The tide is turning against fox hunting and its ‘trail’ hunting activities which have been exposed as a ‘smokescreen’ to cover up the chasing and killing of animals.”
A report commissioned by the Malvern Hills Trust on trail hunting showed very little evidence of trail laying, hounds out of control, and the hunts disturbing wildlife including foxes, muntjac and a tawny owl being flushed out of undergrowth.
During the monitoring of ten separate hunting days, only one trail was ever seen being laid and this involved a sock being dragged across a field for a couple of minutes – this was done behind the hounds who were travelling in the opposite direction at speed and the hunt were not reported returning to the location later in the day.
A woman visitor to the hills also reported being forced off a bridleway by a hunt travelling at speed causing serious concerns for the safety of her child.
The hunts were witnessed encouraging their hounds into areas of cover – where wild animals are likely to be found – in breach of the Trust’s trail hunting policy and in areas reported to be almost impossible to physically lay a trail through as they were impenetrable on foot or by horse.
The decision to ban trail hunting falls against the backdrop of the conviction of Mark Hankinson, the disgraced now former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, who was found guilty of encouraging or assisting others to break the Hunting Act 2004, under the Serious Crimes Act 2007.
He was caught was caught telling hunt masters how to use the excuse of so-called ‘trail’ hunting to get away with killing animals.
‘Trail’ hunting was described by Judge Tan Ikram, deputy chief magistrate of England and Wales, as a ‘mirage’ ‘sham’ and ‘smokescreen’.
Trail hunting was also banned last week by Natural Resources Wales.
The decision to end ‘trail’ hunting comes in advance of a National Trust meeting to discuss the future of trail hunting on its land after members at its recent AGM voted overwhelmingly for it to be banned.
The League is campaigning to get other major landowners to commit to permanently banning trail hunting after many organisations suspended it late last year in the light of the leaked hunt webinars which led to the Hankinson trial.
Nick added: “We’re calling on the nation’s major landowners including Forestry England, United Utilities, the Church of England, Crown Estates, Duchy of Cornwall, local authorities, the national parks authorities, and the Ministry of Defence to ban the practice of trail hunting.
“Enough is enough. It’s time for the fox hunts to be brought to heel once and for all and to be prevented from accessing the countryside where they can kill with impunity.”