National Trust faces split over ban on stag-hunting

THE NATIONAL Trust is in danger of a split over its stance on the banning of stag-hunting on its land. Its ruling council meets this week to debate a study which challenges the organisation's prevailing view that the sport is cruel.

The report, which was funded by the Countryside Alliance and stag hunts, also concludes that the suffering of the stags would be curtailed by the simple remedy of shortening the length of the hunt.

The meeting is likely to see battle lines drawn up ahead of the trust's annual meeting in November, when the leadership's position on stag-hunting will be openly challenged by pro-hunting members.

The trust acted swiftly to implement a ban on stag-hunting last year after a report which concluded that pursuit by dogs and people on horseback was "grossly stressful".

The two-year study by Professor Patrick Bateson, professor of animal behaviour at Cambridge University, found that hunting was exhausting and agonising for the red deer of Devon and Somerset.

But two weeks ago, a study by Roger Harris, of the Royal Veterinary College, was submitted to the trust, saying that the stresses encountered in hunted deer are found in many sports that people find acceptable, including long horse races and football.

Dr Harris's report suggested that hunted stags may suffer intense stress for no more than 10 minutes, and that by reducing the length of the hunt the stag would suffer less.

Both he and Professor Bateson will give their views at Thursday's meeting.

"I think it's asking for the moon for scientific evidence to take precedence over emotion," Professor Bateson said. "The debate has become polarised and even the scientists have found themselves disagreeing partly because of the positions they have adopted.

"There is nothing in Dr Harris's study which makes me question my own findings. Both studies show that, as far as we can be sure, hunting can be very stressful.

"If the evidence shows that stags suffer, then the people who pursue the 'sport' know they are causing suffering. By most standards of ethics that amounts to cruelty. The hunts are welcome to try to see if they can hunt while reducing the amount of suffering, but I don't see how it can be done."

For its part, the trust is confident that the ban will remain in place. "I think there would have to be some pretty strong evidence that hunting was not cruel for our members to change the policy," said its spokeswoman, Caroline Audemars. "Both studies are quite similar. They both suggest that hunting involves a degree of suffering and in some cases extreme suffering. I don't think there is enough difference to suggest we change."

But the trust will face a bumpy ride at its annual meeting, when a broadly pro-hunting group, the Friends of the National Trust (Font) calls on members to vote on three resolutions, one of which criticises the ban on stag-hunting.

Font, whose leadership includes a surgeon and several QCs and says it has 3,000 supporters, has put up several candidates for election to the 52- member ruling council. It says the stag-hunting ban is the "last straw" in its dissatisfaction with the trust.

"There's a lot of debatable information with regard to stag-hunting," a spokesman said. "We are concerned about the management of deer. We believe the ban will have a detrimental effect on the herds in the long run."

It is a view for which the trust leadership has little time. "There are healthy herds of deer in East Anglia and Cumbria where there has never been a hunt," retorted Mrs Audemars.

Irrespective of the hunting ban, which was introduced in April last year, the trust remains committed to the culling of deer. The culls kill considerably more deer than the three stag-hunts on its land, and the trust employs a stalker to keep deer numbers from growing so large that they destroy their habitat.

Many farmers are unhappy about the ban. Last November more than 50 stags and hind were shot by farmers in Somerset who said they would no longer tolerate deer damaging their crop in what was described by anti- stag-hunt campaigners as "a monstrous, spiteful act".

Suggested Topics
News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?