The National Trust is being urged to cancel its controversial new hunting licence issued for the Mottistone Estate.
The League Against Cruel Sports has written to management of the Mottistone Estate in a bid to persuade the conservation body to block those seeking to hunt on its land. But the National Trust, in a firm rebuttal, insists the hunts on their land “effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “The Mottistone Estate is a local treasure which showcases British nature at its best. Allowing a hunt to trample across the land, taking part in an activity which many people believe involves the killing of animals, completely goes against that philosophy.
“With over 85 per cent of the public opposing all forms of hunting wild animals with hounds – including a considerable number of National Trust members and visitors to properties like the Mottistone Estate – it is high time the conservation body provided protection to wildlife by stopping licensing hunting on its land.”
In its letter, the League cites how horses, hounds and followers are being granted free access to sections of the Mottistone Estate, which the Trust maintains on behalf of the nation.
This includes a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), home to vulnerable fauna and flora.
Monitoring by wildlife protection organisations, including the League, has revealed how hunts granted access to National Trust estates are pursuing fox, hare and deer under the guise of following a trail – 14 years after the cruel ‘sport’ was banned.
Mr Luffingham added: “It’s sad that this licence has been issued. But now it’s been done, the National Trust estate need to show their members and the public how they will ensure that animals are safe on their land. We need to hear from them as to exactly how they will prevent foxes being killed by the hunt.”
The National Trust claim to have brought in measures to ensure hunts don’t kill animals on their land. However organisations including the League believe these to be inadequate. One example are ‘spot checks’ on the hunts to check they are acting legally – however the hunts will be given 24 hours’ notice of these checks.
“Giving hunts 24 hours’ notice that they will be watched is like telling a burglar which house is being staked out by the police. It’s a nonsense and reflects the half-hearted and ineffectual way in which the National Trust has approached this serious problem,” said Mr Luffingham.
A spokesman for Mottistone Estate said they hadn’t seen the letter or received information from the League Against Cruel Sports and couldn’t comment at this time.
But the NT later responded and defended its activities.
A spokesman for the National Trust said: “The law does allow what is known as trail ‘hunting’ to continue. This activity involves people on foot or horseback following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds or beagles. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed.
“The Trust does license trail ‘hunts’ in some areas and at certain times of the year, where it is compatible with our aims of public access and conservation.
“We believe the overwhelming majority of hunts act responsibly, and we hope our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions will allow participants to enjoy this activity in compatibility with our conservation aims.
“Any activity associated with the term ‘hunting’ continues to provoke strong emotions on both sides of the debate. We recognise our reforms will not satisfy everyone.
“Our charity’s core aim is to look after the places in our care and that remains our top priority when considering whether to license any outdoor activity. This would be true whether it’s mountain biking or a food festival.
“But our charity was also established for the nation’s benefit and to provide the widest spectrum of public access and enjoyment. We therefore always look to welcome people to our places and to host the broadest range of outdoor activities on our land.
“We believe this should include trail ‘hunting’, where it is consistent with our conservation aims and is legally pursued.”
More information on the National Trust’s position on Trail Hunting can be found here: nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-position-on-trail-hunting