A REVIEW of the governance of hunting will look at the potential for a new governing body, so the community can “move forward to preserve, promote and protect the sport we all love”.
Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) chairman Andrew Osborne has announced his intention to set up the review “as a matter of urgency”, to evaluate and make recommendations on the governance of hunting with hounds, and “the perception of hunting activities to make sure hunts are in a position to offer reassurance to landowners and other stakeholders that they are operating within the law”.
Mr Osborne referred to the leaking of a webinar on trail-hunting and the subsequent prosecution of former MFHA director Mark Hankinson for encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act.
“As all supporters of hunting know, the infiltration and subsequent misrepresentation of a trail-hunting webinar and the prosecution of a director has been used to try and cause great harm to our way of life,” he said.
“On behalf of all of the Hunting Office team, I would like to apologise to all hunts and members for the fallout that has resulted. Having taken over the chairmanship in June of this year, it has been extremely difficult to move forward with my fundamental goal of ensuring that our sport can continue in this ever-changing world.
“We have been working hard since then to plan the way forward.”
Mr Osborne said he has had meetings with more than 150 huntsmen to discuss the way forward.
“This has been extremely constructive and, being an ex-huntsman myself, we have been able to talk in detail about the challenges of hunting hounds in the 17 years since the Hunting Act came into force,” he said. “Since those initial meetings, I set up three consultation meetings in London where a broad swathe of people from the hunting world met to discuss the way forward. These meetings not only involved members of the MFHA, but also hunt chairmen, secretaries, subscribers from the Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles, Masters of Basset Hounds Association, Masters of Deerhounds Association, Central Committee of Fell Packs, Countryside Alliance board members and a number of senior and junior hunt staff.
“The general consensus was that there is a need for change in the areas of hunting governance, and the perception of our hunting activities.”
Mr Osborne said the review will consider potential for a new governing body, which will “have authority and effective jurisdiction over its members, and ensure that the rules are appropriate, acceptable and enforceable”.
“I believe there will always be a role for the MFHA and the other hunting associations, but the new body should be separate from them,” he added.
“I believe that all hunts should be accredited members of this new organisation, as well as the masters and other hunt officials. I also think it is time to bring hunt staff into such a membership, so they are stakeholders too. One of hunting’s biggest assets is the many thousands of people who participate in our sport from all walks of life — it is time that we all played a part in the future of hunting with hounds.
“Hunting with hounds has always held a key role within the countryside and the management of that countryside, especially in the modern world. It is essential we do not lose sight of this core principle, and the review will look at how the hunting community can better explain and promote all the good it does in the countryside.
“I hope that the review panel will be able to report back to the hunting associations as soon as possible, at which point we can, with the approval of our members, act upon its recommendations and all move forward to preserve, promote and protect the sport we all love.”
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