National Trust members vote to ban trail hunting amid concerns it is a ‘cover’ for hunting with dogs.
The Hunting Act 2004 banned using dogs to chase or kill foxes. Trail hunting is supposed to simulate the traditional hunt without the kill by laying an artificial scent for riders.
Members supported a motion not to allow the activity on trust land, with those who proposed it stating that “overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that ‘trail hunting’ is a cover for hunting with dogs”.
A total of 76,816 votes were cast to ban trail hunts on trust land, with 38,184 against and 18,047 abstentions.
The results of the vote are not binding and trustees will consider the outcome.
The vote was taken at Saturday’s annual general meeting at Harrogate Convention Centre in North Yorkshire.
Members who proposed the ban said, “overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that trail hunting is a cover for hunting with dogs”.
Demonstrators from the League Against Cruel Sports gathered outside the event and welcomed the result, saying “enough is enough”.
The trust owns over 620,000 acres of land, the ballot was seen as having the potential to disrupt the future of foxhunting in England because a ban will severely restrict space for the bloodsport.
In 2018, the National Trust permitted 25 groups to trail hunt on its land and said it would follow the same approach in 2019.
But in 2020 it paused licensing along with other major landowners, the charity suspended “trail-hunting” after a leak of Zoom meetings at which hunt chiefs from across the UK discussed how to create “a smokescreen”.
The webinars led to Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, being convicted of encouraging people to illegally chase wild animals and being ordered to pay £3,500.
Several councils also banned trail-hunting on their land.
Hunts insist they go “trail-hunting” – following a trail laid with an artificial scent – to stay within the law after hunting mammals with dogs was outlawed in 2005. The trust had allowed this on its land ever since.
But hunt saboteurs who have repeatedly filmed hunts out riding with hounds insist the claim is a sham to cover up continued illegal foxhunting.
The National Trust vote on banning “trail-hunting”, exempt hunting and exercising hounds had divided animal-loving members, some of whom gave up their membership as a protest. Others had argued it was important to remain a member to have a vote this time around.