The Ministry of Defence has formally notified hunts that if they want a licence to cross its land after 18 February they must become members of the Masters of Bloodhounds and Draghounds Association (MDBA). Hunts received the news by letter last weekend.
While the revoking of current agreements does not come as a surprise given the new legislation, some fear that the ministry will not be open to negotiating new agreements to allow mock or trail hunting, or indeed exempt hunting, within the law. The MP in charge of MoD estates is Ivor Caplin, an honorary life member of the League Against Cruel Sports.
However, a spokesman for the MoD has told Horse & Hound that hunts may still apply for permission from local defence estates offices, in the same way that organisers of cross-country runs, paragliding and four-wheel drive rallies do before an event. Permission would, though, not always be given. If granted, it could be on a day-by-day or seasonal basis, depending on local circumstances.
The MoD has to date had a “master agreement” with the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), but packs still had to apply for individual licences.
Alastair Jackson, director of the MFHA, says: “I will suggest to the MoD that it might negotiate a new master agreement with us for legal activities. I’m confident we’ll be able to make new agreements with the Forestry Commission and National Trust and I hope we’ll be able to do so with the MoD too.”
However, a spokesman for the MoD says: “Hunts and other groups can ask permission for activities on a local basis to carry out legal forms of hunting — but we don’t plan to make a new agreement with the MFHA.”
The Royal Artillery hunt, most of whose country on Salisbury Plain is administered by the MoD, has already had talks with the Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association about converting fully to draghunting so that it can continue.
Four Welsh Foxhound packs — the Sennybridge Farmers, the Brecon and Talybont, the Irfon and Towy and the South Pembrokeshire — three of which are featured next week in Horse & Hound — use extensive tracts of MoD land.
A joint-master of another hunt that uses some MoD land says: “If hunts are changing their constitutions and activities to operate within the law, why can’t the MoD alter parts of its existing arrangement to comply with the law?”