It was Winston Churchill who said that “democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried” and the trustees of the National Trust must often rue the day that their predecessors embraced democracy as whole-heartedly as they did. The Trust’s constitution allows for any resolution that is backed by 50 of its 5 million members to be voted on at its AGM.
This year there will be no less than six Members’ Resolutions on everything from the management of volunteers, to executive salaries and the provision of defibrillators. There is also a resolution, promoted by an anti-hunting organisation, to ban trail hunting on National Trust land. There is something especially ironic about organisations which spent decades promoting the hunting of artificial scents as they pursued a ban on hunting live quarry now trying to ban that as well. More evidence, if it were needed, that the campaign against fox hunting has never had much to do with the fox.
The same motion was moved four years ago when barely more than 1% of Trust members actually voted and the proposal to ban trail hunting was narrowly defeated. Members’ Resolutions are not binding on the Trust’s Board and with such a small proportion of members taking part they would presumably not feel duty bound to adopt any of the motions that might be passed. The hunting issue and the other controversial resolutions that have been moved by members will, however, undoubtedly take up much of the time and focus of the Trust’s AGM after a year in which Covid has had a catastrophic impact on its operations and led to widespread redundancies.
As pointless and wasteful as the campaign to ban trail hunting on National Trust land is, it is a principle that we must oppose. Just over 30,000 Trust members voted against the ban in 2017 and our aim this year is to find a ‘plus one’ for each of those 30,000 to protect the future of trail hunting on National Trust land. Of course, there are thousands of hunting people who are National Trust members, but there are also thousands more who will not have even heard about the vote and will be part of the 99% of members who will not vote at all unless someone brings them along as a plus one.
In particular, the many National Trust members who shoot need to be aware that if trail hunting is banned on National Trust land this year it is a racing certainty that exactly the same organisations who are promoting this motion will be forcing a vote on banning shooting on National Trust land next year.
So please, if you are a National Trust member, vote yourself, but also encourage another Trust member to vote against the motion as your "plus one". The easiest way to negotiate the National Trust voting process is to sign up to our National Trust network.
We will send you instructions on how to vote and provide updates and information on National Trust elections and issues.
Let’s send a clear message to the Board of Trustees and beyond that banning a legal activity as part of a blatantly political campaign is not something the Trust’s members support.