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Vote could ban hunting from all National Trust land

Photo: PA

A controversial motion to ban all hunting activity from National Trust land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be voted on tomorrow.

If it happens it would have a major impact in the Lake District, where the National Trust is the biggest landowner - owning 20% of the land.

Even though hunting with hounds was outlawed in 2005, so-called "trail hunting" is still permitted.

Normally this is where an animal scent trail is laid down for the hounds to follow.

But critics say it's just a cover for illegal hunting.

We are the most regulated and the most regulated activity on National Trust land bar none and following continual surveillance in that time there hasn't been a blemish."

– Michael Thompson, Joint Master, Blencathra Foxhounds
Fox hunting was made illegal in 2005. Credit: PA

Former teacher Helen Beynon from Leicestershire is a National Trust member who put forward the proposal for it to be banned.

She's only been involved in the anti-hunting movement for a few months but says she's seen evidence that trail hunting is simply a cover story for illegal activity.

The third time I saw the fox and I saw the hunt coming towards the fox and I saw the hounds chasing it and I couldn't do anything. I jumped out of the van and I shouted at the huntsman and they just carried on. I was horrified at being in a different world that I didn't know existed."

– Helen Beynon, National Trust member

Dozens of members have supported her proposal as have the League Against Cruel Sports.

But hunt supporters say their ancient traditions could come to an end in areas like the Lake District if they're not allowed to use National Trust land.

In some areas, particularly rural areas of Cumbria there a lot of people who would be vastly affected, you know a huge impact on the farming community and the tenants of the National Trust land, there's a potential threat to losing something that they hold very dear to themselves."

– Polly Portwin, Head of Hunting Campaigns, Countryside Alliance

A former policeman who is now with the League Against Cruel Sports says it's very difficult to prosecute anyone, even if foxes are killed.

He witnessed one case in another part of the country.

I believe three, definitely two but I think possibly three, were killed by the hunt and the bodies of the foxes were recovered. The huntsman was interviewed. The file was put to the Crown Prosecution Service but it never proceeded as far as court.

"The reason it didn't proceed as far as court was because the CPS decided that they couldn't prove the intent of the huntsman, quite rightly so, they couldn't prove the intent of the huntsman and therefore there was an almost certainty that if it did go to court the case would fail."

– Darryl Cunnington, League Against Cruel Sports

Long term anti hunt campaigners in Cumbria, like Elaine Milbourn, say they've faced intimidation here because of their views.

I've had a dead fox left in our garden. I had people drive at me, I had people throw cans, I've had death threats, I've had abusive phone calls. It wasn't easy at all but right is right. I believe in what we do and I believe that fox hunting should be banned. It belongs to the Middle Ages and it's not something for 21st century Britain."

– Elaine Milbourn, anti-hunt campaigner