The National Trust has banned track hunting on their land, nearly a year after temporarily suspending such activity due to concerns from critics that the practice serves as a smokescreen for illegal fox hunting.
In a landslide vote at its annual meeting in October, the trust – one of Britain’s largest landowners – voted overwhelmingly to ask shop stewards to ban this form of hunting, which was conceived under the Hunting Act banning hunting of foxes with dogs.
In track hunting, a “style layer” precedes the hunt and pulls a cloth coated with an animal scent. Hunters throw the dogs to this scent and follow it to the end of the path. Critics argue that it is routinely used as a cover for old-fashioned illegal hunting.
It comes after one of Wales’s largest landowners, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), similarly banned this practice. The land owned by the government-sponsored body makes up about 7% of Wales’s landscape and forests.
The National Trust decision was welcomed by League Against Cruel Sports, an animal rights organization. However, the organization said it was concerned that it did not go far enough and would not become permanent, and that without a complete and explicit ban, fox hunting could still take place.
Chris Luffingham, director of charity for campaigns, said: “The votes of their members could not have been louder and sent a clear message to the board that enough is enough and trace hunting should be banned on trust land.
“The board has recognized the emotional strength of its membership and the general public, who are more aware than ever that so-called track hunting is used as an excuse – a smokescreen – for illegal hunting. But the recent Hankinson ruling has shown that the hunting community cannot be trusted from above and below, and not having a definitive ban can lead to foxes being hunted and killed by hunters. ”
Mark Hankinson, the former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, was found guilty of encouraging or helping others break the Hunting Act 2004 under the Serious Crimes Act 2007. He had spoken to more than 100 other hunters at a series of training webinars on , how to use track hunting as a smoke veil.
The NRW said in a statement: “The outcome of the lawsuit against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organization’s ability to ensure that its activities are carried out within the law and the terms of its agreement.”
The league lobbies other major landowners such as Forestry England, United Utilities, Church of England, Crown Estates, the Duchy of Cornwall, local authorities, national park authorities and the Ministry of Defense to follow the National Trust and Natural Resources Wales in banning track hunting.