Countryside Alliance Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:

The National Trust has long found itself an unwilling participant in the politics of hunting. Prior to the Hunting Act it made some unfortunate decisions under pressure from the animal rights movement, but in recent years the licensing process, by which a significant number of hunts agree access onto National Trust land, seems to have worked well. The anti-hunt movement, however, does not care that the Trust only licences trail-hunting and in a move that reveals (again) its blatant hypocrisy the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) has organised a motion at the National Trust’s AGM to ban trail-hunting on Trust land supported by 50 of the Trust’s 5 million members. If you are a National Trust member we have produced advice on how you can help counter that motion. Meanwhile, LACS and other animal rights extremists continue to attack the Trust and its staff by email and on social media using the usual unpleasant animal rights tactics.

The initial response from the Trust to this campaign was not helpful. It published changes to its trail-hunting policy which appeared to have been made as a direct response to demands from the animal rights movement. The changes include the advance publication of meet information on the Trust’s website and the banning of animal-based scent used by most hunts to lay trails. The changes apparently came out of an ‘in-depth review’ carried out by the Trust, but that review did not include any consultation with its tenant farmers, any of the hunts that hold licences, or the associations that represent them. It is no surprise, therefore, that some of the changes are completely impractical and will go down extremely badly with hunts, the majority of National Trust tenants and the wider rural community.

The idea that hunts that operate on National Trust land, many of which have been targeted by animal rights extremists in the past, would have their meets advertised on the National Trust’s website is simply ridiculous. Likewise, a requirement to retrain hounds to hunt trails laid with scents no hunts use, for no practical purpose, almost looks like an attempt to make it impossible for hunts to operate on Trust land.

The Alliance has subsequently met with the National Trust. We made it clear that whilst we all understand that the Trust has once again been dragged into a fight it would rather keep well out of some of the conditions that it is attempting to impose on hunts are simply unacceptable. I hope that the Trust has taken on board the real concerns raised by its tenants and the hunts that operate on Trust land. We understand the unpleasant impact of electronic animal rights campaigning and cyber-bullying, but a stand-off between the Trust and its tenants, neighbours and a significant part of the rural community would be a much more damaging fight and something that the Alliance and hunting world is keen to avoid.

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