Council to consider banning trail-hunting on its land

A vote on whether trail-hunting should be banned on a local authority’s land is set to be held this week.

Councillor Lee Scordis, of Essex County Council, is proposing the motion at the full council meeting tomorrow (14 May).

The Countryside Alliance (CA) is urging people in Essex to contact their ward councillors and ask them to oppose the “draconian” motion.

Trail-hunting, where hounds follow a laid scent, is legal under the Hunting Act (2004).

But Cllr Scordis, seconded by Cllr Allan Davies, is calling for a ban on “any future trail hunting and exercising of packs of foxhounds on Essex County Council land”.

Cllr Scordis told H&H he is concerned trail-hunting is being used as a cover for illegal hunting and that he has received a “significant amount of abuse” from pro-hunting supporters since proposing the motion.

“We are concerned that trail hunting is being used as a guise by a minority to hunt foxes and hares,” he said.

“We have no issue with drag hunting. This is only a ban on county council land and will hopefully send a strong message that the rules need tightening up.”

Polly Portwin, head of hunting at the CA, told H&H there is “no justification for this motion other than pure prejudice”.

“There have been no prosecutions of hunts for illegal hunting in Essex since the Hunting Act was enforced, nor is there any evidence to suggest that Essex hunts break the law,” she said.

“It is ironic that it was the Labour Party, during the passage of the Hunting Act, that argued trail-hunting was a viable alternative to traditional forms of hunting, yet this Labour councillor is proposing to ban a perfectly legal activity that is enjoyed by thousands of Essex residents.”

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In a message to CA members, Tim Bonner stressed the importance of people lobbying their councillors after a recent vote to ban trail hunting on Nottinghamshire County Council land was won by one vote.

“We want to ensure that Essex county councillors fully understand the strength of feeling and support for these legal activities in order for them to vote against it, and therefore we urge you to contact your local councillor immediately asking them to oppose this motion,” he said.

He added suggested wording could include pointing out that the motion is “entirely illogical”.

“Trail-hunting and hound exercising are no different to any other legal activity like dog walking or drag hunting,” he said.

“To seek to ban lawful recreational activities on council land is draconian and unnecessary.

“No one, including the council, can give permission for an unlawful activity, without themselves committing an offence, and no council should be banning lawful activities, without very serious reasons and the motion provides no justification for the action being proposed.

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