Should trail hunting be banned on Cornwall Council land? Debate set to take place

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

Animal rights campaigners say Cornwall Council should follow in the footsteps of the National Trust and other councils and ban trail hunting on its land.

A petition by Action Against Foxhunting Cornwall has been gained more than 10,000 signatures - but campaigners have described it as "anti-rural".

The petition is set to be debated by councillors tomorrow (January 18).

In 2021, National Trust members voted to no longer issue licences for trail hunting on its land and Peterborough and Cheshire Council also suspended the sport.

What is trail hunting?

Trail hunting is a legal sport and uses an animal-based scent for the hounds to follow.

The practice was widely adopted in the wake of the traditional fox hunting ban following the Hunting Act 2004.

Groups on each side of the debate differ as to whether the scent is laid using a material laced with something like urine or whether body parts or carcasses are used.

Deborah Hall, who started the petition, says the majority of people do not agree with trail hunting after leading huntsman Mark Hankinson was found guilty of telling others how to hunt illegally using trail hunting as a "smokescreen" for illegal fox hunting.

She said: "We just want to limit on their activities in whatever way we can, basically, and we don't want to give them a platform to promote these activities in public."

Action Against Foxhunting regularly speak to the public about why they believe trail hunting is wrong Credit: ITV West Country

She also claims trail hunting is harmful for the environment and says Cornwall should be taking the lead in the Nature Recovery Programme.

Martin Cavell, another supporter of Action Against Foxhunting, told ITV News hunts are also happening close to roads.

He claimed to have seen several near misses with the hounds on roads around West Cornwall, saying "recently there was a foxhound hit on the road just last week at Sennen".

Hunts are allowed to use the public road and bridleways but if they wish to “reserve” part of the highway for a period of time this may require specific permission from the council.

But the Countryside Alliance's director of hunting Polly Portwin says there "shouldn't be a moral argument" because it is a "lawful activity".

Although only minority group takes part in the rural activity, Polly told ITV News "anyone is welcome" and "it's very important to those communities that are involved in it".

She says the public perception of the sport is "not quite how it should be" and it is important for hunts to "demonstrate that they are hunting lawfully" such as encouraging visits to their kennels.

A report put together to help councillors make their decision says there are five active hunts with kennels in Cornwall and their activities include trail hunting and horse trials.

Cornwall Council owns approximately 23,000 acres of land, with 10,700 acres under the Council Farms Estate.

There are no restrictions on farming tenants allowing hunts on their land but there are specific rules dating back to the 1930s which require the council to allow a regular ceremonial hunt meets at Carn Brea around Boxing Day.

Councillors will debate the petition tomorrow (January 18).