“Exempt” hunting of sick and wounded deer will continue on National Trust land, despite a League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) resolution to ban it. At the Trust’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday (4 November), 20,182 members voted against LACS chief executive Douglas Bachelor’s resolution while only 12,768 voted in favour.

“We focus on deer control and welfare rather than sport,” explained a spokesperson for the National Trust, “and this seems the best way of quickly dispatching an injured animal.”

Since 1997 stag hunting has been banned on National Trust land. Stalkers with rifles were employed to track injured deer straying onto Trust property. But in May this year, a resolution was passed to permit the hunting of sick and injured deer that cross the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate on Exmoor.

“We wanted to assess the operation of this measure,” said the spokesperson, adding that hypothetically the same approach could be used on other estates.

“Our approach to deer management will continue to be driven first and foremost by practical considerations of animal welfare,” said National Trust Chairman Sir William Proby. “We need to continue to ensure that our management on the ground is conducted in the most humane way possible and in a way that minimises suffering for the animals involved.”

The Countryside Alliance (CA) believes the vote is a “symbolic” outcome, as members have accepted hunting as the most effective form of wildlife management. “The tide of public opinion has turned significantly since the Trust’s ban of deer hunting in the late nineties,” said a CA spokesperson. “People understand that hunting can play a significant part in the humane management of mammal populations.”

In reality there has not yet been an incident where a sick or injured deer has crossed onto Trust land since May. But animal rights campaigners are angry that the National Trust does not require hunts to prove that their target deer are injured or sick.

“The Hunting Act 2004 has little regard for animal welfare, which is one of the reasons why it must be repealed by a future government and replaced with a law which allows this sort of efficient and humane procedure,” the CA spokesperson added.