Questions asked as National Trust members vote against trail-hunting on trust land

  • THE National Trust has been asked how it can even consider banning a legal activity on its land — as members voted to ban trail-hunting from all the charity’s property.

    At the trust’s AGM on 30 October, 115,000 votes were cast, representing less than 2% of the charity’s membership, 76,816 in favour of the ban.

    Proposer Denise Taylor, a sustainability consultant and environmental educator, had told members they had an “important decision to make”, on whether to “be part of protecting and conserving our national heritage or allow the illegal persecution of foxes to continue on National Trust property”. Dr Taylor said trail-hunting has a negative impact on a number of species.

    Trustee Tom Tew, who has 30 years’ experience in nature conservation, said the trust has had meetings with organisations from across the divide of opinion, and that the return of this subject shows the strength of opinion on it.

    “Passions run high and unity we know will not be possible here,” he said. “Nor is there likely to be a practical compromise solution to satisfy both supporters and opposers.”

    Dr Tew explained that current policy involves licensing of hunts that want to use trust land, and that many of these have been monitored since 2018 to ensure compliance with licence terms. But since the trial involving trail-hunting was announced, the activity has been suspended on trust land.

    Countryside Alliance head of hunting Polly Portwin said she was representing members and supporters who “wish to continue to be able to access land available for millions of others to partake in their activities on it”.

    “I’m also speaking for people who don’t hunt but believe the trust shouldn’t discriminate against people who want to conduct a legal activity,” she said.

    “As we’ve heard repeatedly today, the trust mantra is ‘For ever, for everyone’.”

    Ms Portwin noted that hound exercise is legal, that all dogs need exercise, adding: “We question why members of the trust, a charitable organisation, would even consider banning an activity that’s positive for animal welfare.”

    She added that trail-hunting is also lawful, that the trust has been monitoring licensed packs and said it is satisfied with the licensing policy, and that the trust says there is no evidence trail-hunting is any more damaging to conservation than any other lawful activity.

    “Members should see there’s no justification for banning these activities when they’re lawful and conducted in line with trust policy,” she said.

    Former MFH Nigel Rawlinson pointed out that in the +16 years since the foxhunting ban, the number of related prosecutions “could be counted on both hands”, adding that often “edited videos” are submitted as evidence, so prosecutions fail, wasting police time.

    In summing up, Dr Tew explained that the AGM is not a policy-making forum, but it “houses the democratic debate that powers the trust”.

    “In making complex decisions such as this, trustees will have to consider a range of issues, but the debate and votes on this will most certainly inform our decision,” he said.

    It was the second time such a motion had been put to an AGM; in 2017, it was defeated, and the trust’s rules mean the same proposal cannot be made for four years.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...