National Trust bans fox-hunt packs after ‘terriermen’ filmed and fox disembowelled

Pressure mounts over hunt licences as calls grow for permit system

Jane Dalton
Friday 04 January 2019 17:09 GMT
Footage suggests South Shropshire fox hunting group trespassing on National Trust land

The National Trust has banned two hunt packs from its land and is being urged to cut ties with a third that witnesses say killed a fox.

Saboteurs and monitors have taken photographs and footage appearing to show riders and hounds chasing foxes this week – including one fox that was allegedly disembowelled by the Portman Hunt in Dorset, which is licensed by the trust.

It comes as hunting opponents try to force local councils to insist hunts apply for special events permits to go out.

Hounds with the Portman Hunt chased the fox across countryside before tearing it apart, according to North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs members, who retrieved the corpse.

The League Against Cruel Sports is calling on the National Trust’s Kingston Lacy property to end its relationship with the Portman Hunt and cancel its licence to hunt on its land.

Social media users have written on Kingston Lacy’s accounts, calling for a ban.

The National Trust has already cancelled trail-hunting licences for both the South Shropshire Hunt and the Trinity Foot and South Herts Beagles for the winter.

Since the Hunting Act 2004 banned the hunting of wildlife, hunts insist they follow trails, not foxes. But sceptics say “trail-hunting” is a cover.

The South Shropshire Hunt had been licensed for trail-hunting events on trust land on one day next week and on 29 January.

Pressure group National Dis-Trust says the South Shropshire took terriermen onto trust land at the Long Mynd estate last month and hunted for four hours, including hunting outside their licensed area.

If I decided to run an event that met outside a village pub I would need permission from the council

Barbara Wray

The National Trust allows “trail-hunting” but has banned the use of terriermen – men who use terriers to dig out foxes that have fled underground.

“Multiple foxes were pursued and the terrierman waited to dig out. The police were informed of illegal hunting and use of quadbikes,” the activists claimed.

A fox was filmed narrowly escaping capture, they said, and video showed terriermen also apparently accompanying the hunt on quadbikes.

Ten days later the trust website was updated to say all remaining dates for the South Shropshire had been cancelled for the 2018-19 season.

Saboteurs say they saw a fox being chased and killed (North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs )
Saboteurs say they saw a fox being chased and killed (North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs ) (North Dorset Hunt Saboteurs)

National Dis-Trust said the South Shropshire Hunt was “still out for blood” elsewhere this week.

The hunt said the allegations were untrue. Camilla Corrie, of the South Shropshire Hunt, told The Independent: “I understand there have been a number of unsubstantiated allegations made against us, but we continue to work closely with the National Trust and look forward to trail hunting in the near future.”

National Dis-Trust also reported Shropshire’s United Pack to the trust for allegedly hunting on Long Mynd outside their licensed area and with quad bikes and terrier boxes.

“They travelled directly across where the South Shropshire Foxhounds had marked a fox to ground the day before,” the group claimed.

But a spokesperson from the United pack said: “The United operates within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.

"The hunt works closely with all of their landowners, including the National Trust, to ensure they respect the wishes of the people whose land they cross, and are in discussions with the National Trust regarding the allegation that the hunt strayed out of their licensed area on the date in question.”

Separately, just before Christmas the trust cancelled all dates for the Trinity Foot and South Herts Beagles but the reasons were unclear. The trust said it was because the date clashed with a deer cull at the Ashridge Estate but the hunt insisted it had always used the estate during annual culls.

A National Trust spokesman told The Independent: “This year we have concluded that, upon reflection, the area is not a suitable location to licence trail-hunting given the extensive deer management programme which takes place simultaneously.”

Conducting the two activities at the same time at Ashridge was not compatible, he said. “Due to the ongoing issues surrounding the deer-management scheme, we will not be inviting future applications for trail-hunting on the estate.”

The footage of a fox allegedly killed in Dorset emerged as thousands of Facebook users condemned footage of a rider from the Portman Hunt apparently kicking a horse in the stomach as he tried to mount it.

The hunt said in a statement: “The Portman Hunt takes great pride in maintaining the highest standards of animal welfare. We are taking this very seriously and will deal with the matter internally.”

Meanwhile, a businesswoman is trying to force local authorities to enforce rules that could prove an obstacle to hunt organisers.

The rider, photographed on one leg, was seen aiming the other one at the horse’s stomach
The rider, photographed on one leg, was seen aiming the other one at the horse’s stomach (Dorset Against Blood Sports)

Barbara Wray says: “If I decided to run an event – say a community treasure hunt which was open to all members of the community, with children and adults on bicycles or segways, in wheechairs or on ponies … and I set the meeting point as outside the village pub ... I would have needed to have applied to the council for permission.”

Ms Wray, who has qualifications in agriculture, says she has asked 12 councils so far whether hunts have applied for event permits but not one had said it had received an application. Some said it wasn’t their jurisdiction, others have not replied yet.

She is starting a petition on, calling for hunts to be forced to apply for and be granted event permissions according to local council regulations and Health and Safety Executive guidelines; and that they must supply risk assessments and proof of public liability before being allowed to meet on public land or highways.

She said: “In addition the trail course must be submitted in advance, to the council for their approval – showing that horses and hounds will be kept well away from public highways.

“Finally that trail hunts only permit horses, riders and hounds. No quad bikes or terriers should accompany the riders.”

Last month Tetbury town council in Gloucestershire voted to ban the Beaufort Hunt, a favourite of Prince Charles, from its land.

The Portman Hunt said it would fully co-operate with the police investigation into the apparent fox killing. A spokesperson said: “The hunt operates within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004.

“Despite this, the hunt, along with many others across the country, is regularly subjected to spurious allegations of illegal hunting as part of a wider animal-rights agenda.”

There were numerous clashes around the UK between hunters and protesters on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day as thousands turned out for hunt meets.

The National Trust declined to comment on the cancelling of the South Shropshire licences.

A spokesman said the United Pack was still licensed to trail-hunt on trust land “and we assume they will be using their one remaining licence date”.

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The Local Government Association, which has guidelines on how to stage public events, including obtaining council permission, declined to comment.

The Countryside Alliance also declined to comment on the idea of hunts obtaining permits from councils.

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