A motion described as 'bonkers', which had proposed a ban on trail hunting on land owned by Cherwell District Council in parts of Oxfordshire, has been heavily defeated after a full meeting of the Council on Monday 14 December.
The motion, proposed by Green Party councillor Ian Middleton, stated that hunts would ‘not be permitted to cross public or council controlled land or cause a nuisance on public highways within Cherwell, and that we will expect any such encroachments to be prosecuted’.
However eyebrows were raised among councillors during the meeting because it was unclear whether any land owned by Cherwell was actually used by local hunts.
One councillor said: “Cherwell owns mainly play areas, grass verges, car parks and shopping malls - over which the only hunting that takes place is for bargains!”
During the debate prior to the vote, one councillor who voted against the motion, said: “ The hunt would never cross council land because we haven’t really got any worth talking about. It is not illegal for them to trail hunt.”
Cllr. G A Reynolds went on to question why valuable time was being used to debate the motion. He said: “Is it not time that we stopped using this council to do all sorts of things that are not our responsibility? It seems to be that the name of the game nowadays is to get this council to take on responsibilities that aren’t ours. We have enough problems at the present moment with what we are doing”.
He also implied that other councillors had used threatening language or behaviour. He added: “I do not take lightly to being threatened by other councillors.”
“ There is no need whatsoever in debate to threaten other councillors by whipping up stories whether they are true or false in order to try and change the way honest people outside are going to vote.”
Another councillor labelled the motion as ‘bonkers’. Cllr. James Macnamara warned against opening Cherwell District Council up to ridicule, reminding colleagues of a recent vote by Peterborough City Council to ban trail hunting on city council owned land.
He said: “ We are being asked to ban this legal activity on council land...we (the council) don’t have any swathes of countryside. When did a hunt last hunt through Castle Quay? I mean, it's completely bonkers.
"Now, Peterborough Council have passed this motion and have opened themselves up to ridicule.”
The recent vote to ban trail hunting on land owned by Peterborough City Council made national headlines after it became apparent that no hunt used any of their land for trail hunting activity. For the 30 councillors who voted in favour of the motion, 26 were against. A Countryside Alliance spokesperson said at the time: “Even in a city where trail hunting doesn’t take place, there was significant opposition to what is clearly a politically motivated stunt that has nothing to do with animal welfare and everything to do with grandstanding.”
Speaking in response to Cherwell’s decision not to suspend trail hunting, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “There appears to be a running theme here in that where there is an accountable body of decision makers, there is always considerable opposition to meaningless, time wasting, grandstanding political gestures that have no real basis in reality. Rightly, opponents to motions which attempt to curtail trail hunting, point out that council time and resources should be spent dealing with local matters that matter to local residents. Cherwell Councillors were right to vote this motion down.”
Separately, a Labour Party backed motion to ‘develop policy’ for ‘trail hunting on council- owned land’ by Cheshire West & Chester Council was also slammed as “pointless” by rural campaigners.
A spokesperson for the Countryside Alliance said: “It is not even clear whether the council actually holds rights over any land on which trail hunting takes place. Sadly it appears to be a shoddy distraction technique to take focus away from the very pressing issues facing Cheshire West & Chester that the current Labour administration are failing to address. We would expect any local council to fully liaise with the local trail hunting community to ensure any policy is fair. Banning a legal activity, behind closed doors and away from scrutiny, would simply be unacceptable.”