‘Entirely illogical’ plan to ban trail-hunting voted down

Essex county councillors have voted against a motion calling for trail-hunting to be banned on council-owned land, after a “pointless and divisive” debate.

At a full council meeting yesterday (14 May) councillors voted down Lee Scordis’s motion to ban trail-hunting and exercising hounds on the public land.

As he proposed the motion, “This council notes that the hunting of wild animals with dogs is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies. This council therefore calls upon the cabinet not to allow any future trail-hunting and exercising of packs of foxhounds on Essex County Council land”, Cllr Scordis told colleagues trail-hunting is often used as a “guise to flout the law”.

The Labour councillor said in the most recent season, the League Against Cruel Sports had “had 282 reports of illegal hunting”, and that hunting of foxes had “rightly been banned”.

He also claimed 85% of the UK and 81% of people in rural areas are against foxhunting, although he did not cite the sources of these figures, and said he had been the victim of online abuse since he posted his motion on his Facebook page.

“I’ve been trolled by people from all over the UK, who have told others to complain about me to the council for ridiculous reasons,” he said. “I’ve been accused of being prejudiced and a bigot, by people who don’t know me. I’ve been called a ‘lefty whinger’ and: ‘keep your geeky snout out of business that doesn’t concern you’.

“Can I ask you to stand with the majority in the UK and support me in tightening the law?”

But in the debate, although Labour group leader Ivan Henderson backed Cllr Scordis, other speakers did not. Independent councillor Kerry Smith said the motion was “legally unsound”, as it “seeks to indirectly remove the right of the common man to use public rights of way”, while independent Jo Beavis pointed out that no huntsman in Essex has ever been questioned by police over illegal hunting issues, and that huntsmen were confused by the bringing of the “entirely illogical motion”, which was brought “without any serious reasons”.

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Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “We are very pleased the council voted against a motion to ban the legal activities of trail-hunting and hound exercise. It is a great shame that councillors had to waste time on such a pointless and divisive debate, but we are very grateful that they rejected the proposal.

“Hunts in Essex have been hunting an artificial scent perfectly legally since the Hunting Act came into force in 2005. There are at least eight packs of hounds operating in the county yet none has ever been charged with a hunting offence, let alone convicted of one, so the suggestion that they are not hunting lawfully is completely unfounded.

“Hunting continues to attract support across Essex as people continue to enjoy following and watching hounds working in the countryside.”

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