Pro-hunting lobby group 'misled Trust'

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The Independent Online
A PRO-HUNTING lobbying group, backed by prominent public figures including the actor Jeremy Irons, and the Olympic horsewoman Lucinda Green, has been accused of subterfuge in its campaign to overturn the National Trust's ban on stag-hunting on its land.

The group, Friends of the National Trust (Font), which hasBaroness Mallalieu as a leading supporter, has selected candidates for the election to the charity's policy-making ruling council. But none of the seven chosen for the eight vacancies mentions his or her connections with hunting in the ballot papers and biographies.

Anti-hunting pressure groups say that they are misleading the trust's membership when it votes for the council, and the hunting lobby is trying to "infiltrate the trust by subterfuge" and plotting to overturn policies.

Ms Green, who is standing as a candidate, describes herself as an international event rider and writer and says she has "particular interest in conservation of the countryside". She does not mention her hunting with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. She is proposed by Lord Mancroft, a board member of the Countryside Alliance, and one of her seconders is Sir Robin Dunn of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds.

George Lopes, proposed by the former Tory Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington and seconded by Jeremy Irons, says he is a Christie's fine arts representative and governor of a local primary school.

But he does not say he takes part in deer-stalking or that his wife hunts with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds.

Robert Waley-Cohen mentions childhood and adult holidays on his family farm in Exmoor, and that he takes "particular interest in conservation of wild deer". He does not reveal he is a board member of the Countryside Alliance and hunts with the Devon and Somerset Stag- hounds. He is proposed by Nicholas Serota, the Director of the Tate, and one of his seconders is the prominent City figure, Sir Nicholas Goodison.

The other Font candidates are Hugh van Cutsem, a shooting companion of Prince Charles; John Joliffe, a former high sheriff of Somerset; and Timothy Myers, who says his interests include the conservation of wildlife and whose seconder is Catherine Nicholls, a member of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and Master of the Dulverton West Foxhounds.

Half the 52-strong council of the National Trust is nominated and rest elected for three-year periods.

The current election is for eight vacancies, out of which six sitting members are seeking re-election. The result will be announced on 7 November at the annual general meeting in Cardiff.

John Cooper, the chairman of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The hunting lobby is attempting to infiltrate one of our national institutions by subterfuge. If these candidates stood as what they really are - bloodsport enthusiasts - they know they would be rejected by the vast majority of the trust membership."

The National Trust voted to ban stag-hunting on its lands in l990. This was fully implemented last year. Caroline Audemars, of the trust, said the charity did not have control over what candidates chose to reveal in their biographies. But she added: "Clarity is obviously important for this. The members will vote as they see fit. Hunting is a very tiny part of the National Trust's concerns, and it would not be helpful to have single issue pressure groups on the council."

Font members denied they engaged in subterfuge. One of the organisers, Jo Collins, said: "Although we were stimulated by the ban on stag-hunting this is not the only issue.

"The candidates we backed have written their own biographies and if they didn't mention hunting neither did other candidates who, I'm sure, are anti-hunting."