The National Trust is currently renewing licences to allow hunts to continue using its land in England and Wales.

“We’ve always made clear that we will permit what is allowable — in other words, draghunting and the various forms of legalised hunting, including flushing to guns,” said the Trust’s spokesman, Julian Lloyd.

“But it isn’t a blanket allowance — we have to weigh it up against conservation issues, such as the use of firearms in open access areas, and sensitive sites, where we have to take into account the wildlife.”

Last season, the Trust issued 198 licenses for hunting. Before the Hunting Act came into force on 18 February, it wrote to inform each of its hunt licencees that their agreement was invalid. But following regional discussions and after obtaining consent from its tenants, the Trust is now issuing new licences. It has also been liaising with the Forestry Commission (FC), as has the newly formed Hunting Office, representing the interests of all hound sports (see below).

“All relevant parties are liaising — it’s unusual for individual hunts to be on a single landowner’s estate, so we’re co-ordinating as much as possible,” added Lloyd.

While the Trust has always been supportive, the FC has been less so. It also revoked hunts’ licences after the ban, only allowing access to draghunts affiliated to the Masters of Draghounds and Bloodhounds Association.

“We’re in negotiations [with the FC] at the moment,” said Alistair Jackson of the Hunting Office. “We’re optimistic that a satisfactory arrangement will be made.

“The MoD has told us that it’s waiting to see what the FC does, but, as always, we’re talking to them.”

Hunting Office established

The Hunting Office was set up on 1 May to handle a number of matters common to all hound sports. The office liaises with DEFRA, the National Trust, Forestry Commission, the police and other public bodies.

The office is based at Bagendon, Gloucestershire, which the MFHA traditionally shared with the Hunt Staff Benefit Society. Although all hound organisations will continue to exist independently, the Hunting Office will undertake their admin. The office is also now home to the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA) and is manned by Alistair Jackson with secretarial assistance.

The fight goes on

The first of the Countryside Alliance’s legal challenges to the Hunting Act begins in the High Court on Monday (4 July), with the challenge to the Act’s validity on human rights grounds and under the EU Free Movement of Goods.

The case is followed on 13 July by the appeal hearing in the House of Lords of the validity of the Parliament Act.

  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (30 June, ’05)

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