National Trust members vote to ban trail hunting
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
Members of the National Trust have voted to ban trail hunting to avoid it being used as a "smokescreen" for fox hunting.
Members voted for a motion to ban the activity on trust land, the proposal stating that "overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that 'trail hunting' is a cover for hunting with dogs".
Trail hunting simulates a traditional hunt without foxes being deliberately chased or killed by laying an artificial scent for riders.
The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting with dogs.
Of those who voted, 57pc were in favour, 28pc were against, and 13pc abstained.
The vote is not binding, but the board of trustees is expected to consider the outcome.
In November 2020, the National Trust and Forestry England suspended licences for trail hunting on their land in response to a police investigation into webinars involving huntsmen discussing the practice.
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Saturday's vote comes just weeks after a prominent huntsman was convicted after giving advice about how to covertly carry out illegal fox hunts.
Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mark Hankinson was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court of intentionally encouraging huntsmen to use legal trail hunting as "a sham and a fiction" for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals via two webinars held in August 2020.
The huntsman's illicit advice was exposed after saboteurs leaked footage to police and the media of the online discussions.
He was ordered to pay £3,500, with the judge concluding that he was "clearly encouraging the mirage of trail laying to act as cover for old fashioned illegal hunting".
Andy Knott, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Enough is enough. Now the membership has voted to end it, we must insist the National Trust's trustees act.
"The trust must ban 'trail' hunting for good. Other landowners should take note and follow suit."
Polly Portwin, the Countryside Alliance's director of the campaign for hunting, said there is "absolutely no mandate for prohibition of a legal activity which has been carried out on National Trust land for generations".
She argued that adopting the motion "would totally undermine the Trust's own motto: 'for everyone, for ever'.