27th April 2018
National Trust Director General, Hilary McGrady, met with National DisTrust and others in Swindon on April 9th 2018 to hear about ongoing concerns regarding so-called ‘trailhunting’ over the conservation charities’ 618,000 acres.
Key points arising from the meeting include:
- From the outset, the Director General stressed that whilst she wanted to listen and learn, so-called trailhunting would continue to be permitted on NT land under licence.
- For the National DisTrust, Helen Beynon said that Trustees had misinformed Members in advance of the 2017 Members Resolution vote to ban so-called trailhunting on NT land with regard to new trailhunting guidelines that were promised but then rescinded upon. Helen said that Trustees advice did influence how many Members voted.
- Many hunts which would usually have applied for a trailhunting licence from the NT did not do so for the 2017/18 season due to “uncertainty” on how new guidance would be applied following the narrowly defeated Members Resolution at the 2017 AGM.
- Consequently, there was a higher than normal incidence of “transgressions” by unlicensed hunts.
- Rescinded guidelines, such as the advance publication of trailhunting routes, resulted from decisions made by Trustees, and not third parties such as the police.
- Trustees will complete an internal Review of licence structures and procedures before the 2018 AGM in October.
- Next season NT staff will undertake observation of trails being laid and followed at one pre-arranged monitoring session for each hunt granted a licence.
- Monitoring by NT staff will be by vehicle and from hills through binoculars.
- Based on a wealth of evidence gathered from observing hunts on NT land and elsewhere, we raised concerns that hunts would seek to mislead NT observers and that this could be easily done.
- While we welcome NT guidelines prohibiting the use of animal-based scent to lay trails, we flagged the implausibility of hunts training hounds to chase artificial trails on NT lands and animal-based trails elsewhere.
- Until recently, many hunts claim to use fox urine lures sourced from America to lay trails. We raised concerns that two Freedom Of Information requests to the Governments own Animal & Plant Health Agency regarding fox urine imports spanning from the beginning of 2014 to the 22nd March 2018 reveal that no import licences were granted.
- We cited an example being the Duke Of Beaufort’s Hunt, which is licenced for so-called trailhunting on NT property. Their Joint Master told Somerset Live (20.03.18), “We use a liquid substance imported from the USA, that gets put on a rag at the end of a whip.” We suggested this was not true.
- We informed the Director General that staff and supporters with some hunts granted a licence by the National Trust for permission for trailhunting on their properties carry Hunting Act and other criminal convictions.
- We explained our belief that trailhunting is a false alibi used by hunts to cynically con law enforcement professionals, misinform the public and provide a cover for illegally hunting wild mammals with dogs.
- Regarding “terriermen”, we were told that people carrying paraphanalia used for digging out foxes would not be allowed on NT property.
National DisTrust and Hounds Off would like to thank Hilary McGrady and Mark Harold (NT Director, Land & Nature) for meeting and engaging with us in these discussions.
National DisTrust & Hounds Off, 18 April 2018
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