National Trust members to vote on trail hunting ban on their land

Members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt, formed in 1952, near Bawtry in South Yorkshire as hundreds of packs across the country meet for traditional Boxing Day hunts.  Danny Lawson/PA
Members of the Grove and Rufford Hunt near Bawtry in South Yorkshire Credit: PA

National Trust members are gearing up for a fight over hunting at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting in October.

Members are being given a vote on whether to “ban trail hunting, exempt hunting and hound exercise on their land”.

The resolution proposed by conservationist and National Trust member Dr Denise Taylor claims that “evidence comprehensively shows that illegal hunting continues to take place under the guise of ‘trail hunting’ by hunts who also carry out activities on National Trust land”.

National Trust trustees say they’re keen to “hear the views of the membership on this subject” and “do not allow illegal activity on our land”, adding that one of their core purposes is to promote access to their land.

Trail hunting, where riders and hounds follow a scent, is one of many activities licensed by the trust.

The key campaigning groups on this issue are already calling on their supporters to vote.

The Countryside Alliance has told it’s members to vote against the resolution and say they will be running a “dedicated campaign over the forthcoming weeks to protect the future of trail hunting on National Trust land”.

The League Against Cruel Sports is promising a “peaceful” demonstration at the AGM in Harrogate on the October 30 “to encourage trust members to ban hunting for good”.

The Surrey Union Hunt meet at Okewoodhill near Dorking, Surrey for the Boxing Day hunt. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

In November 2020, the National Trust joined a host of other large landowners including Forestry England and United Utilities and suspended hunting activity on their land.

The suspension followed a report by ITV News about the content of webinars hosted by the Hunting Office.

Leading Huntsman Mark Hankinson was subsequently charged with “intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the Hunting Act”. His trial at Westminster Magistrates is due to start later this month.

In 2017, a proposal to ban trail hunting on National Trust land was narrowly defeated. It sparked furious debate back then and is once again expected to polarise the institution’s membership.