National Trust pause trail hunting on its land following webinar police probe

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

The National Trust have said it will pause trail hunting on its land and will not be granting new licences this season.

The news follows a ITV News report that revealed webinars hosted by The Hunting Office, the sport’s governing body, are being examined by police officers in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to see if any criminal offences have taken place.

In a statement shared by ITV News Wales & West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn, the National Trust said: "We have taken the decision to pause trail hunting on National Trust land and will not be granting any new licences for the remainder of the season."

In a follow up tweet, the charity said: "We do not currently have a date when this decision will be reviewed."

Forestry England has also moved to suspend trail hunting on its land.

Crown Estates also issued a statement advising it was "aware of the current investigation" and adding: "We do not condone any form of hunting outside of UK law and we are therefore looking into this matter.

"The majority of our rural portfolio is comprised of tenanted, working farmland. While any decision to allow hunting rests with the tenant, it must always take place in full compliance with UK law.  

United Utilities is also suspending trail hunting on its land until the investigation is complete, in a statement the company added: "At that point, we will consider what action we should take."

 While Natural Resources Wales also confirmed it was "looking into [the investigation] to see what action, if any, we need to take."

 A police investigation was launched after allegations were made to numerous forces about the contents of online meetings the hunting body held.

The Hunting Office say the seminars “clearly dealt with the operation and promotion of legal trail hunting and managing animal rights activism” but activists argue the seminars, organised to discuss trail hunting, raise questions about the motives of some in the sport.

Trail hunting involves laying a scent similar to that of a fox for hounds to follow.

Hunting groups maintain they follow the letter of the law but, they say, accidents happen.

When dogs follow a fake trail, it frequently leads them to a real fox instead. That is not illegal.

Animal rights activists have a long-held belief that legal exemptions like trail laying offer little protection to foxes and make illegal activities difficult to prove.