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Anti-hunting petition before Cornwall Council dubbed 'anti-rural' and 'divisive'

A petition calling for an end to trail hunting on land owned by Cornwall Council has been dubbed 'anti-rural' by countryside campaigners.

Photo credit: Four Burrow Hunt by Lisa Wood Photography

The online petition, which has appeared on the website for over a year, is to be presented at the next full council meeting, on 18th January 2022.

The organisers of the petition, 'AAF Cornwall', call on the council to 'ban all meets of Trail Hunts on public space and Council owned land'.

An agenda item ahead of the meeting of the full council states that a report is being devised, which it is expected will be presented to local councillors.

The council's website states that petitions will only be considered if at least 250 people have signed it and goes on to say 'Any petition submitted to the Council must be signed by at least 250 people. These people must live, work, study or use the service(s) that the petition relates to within Cornwall.' While some of the signatories self-identify as being from Cornwall, there are others from outside the county as far away as Knysna in South Africa.

Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting at the Countryside Alliance said: " Cornwall is a predominantly rural county, which has a number of hunts that operate and contribute to the local economy. For many, trail hunting is important part of countryside life and it would be anti-rural to ban a legal activity. We will be making that case to local councillors, as will the local hunts. In the event that councillors are asked to vote, we sincerely hope they reject this divisive petition.

"There are a number of outstanding questions in relation to this petition which we will be pursuing. We will want to know what checks are in place to ensure that signatories meet the specific criteria. It would be bizarre for any local petition to be debated which has relied on signatories from outside a specific area. An email address in itself, clearly does not substitute for a physical address in Cornwall. In the interest of balance, it would also only be right for the hunting community to feed into any report so the council is not led by any one particular side."

Trail-hunting involves laying of a scent across the country which a pack of hounds then searches for and follows using their noses. The season starts in the autumn and continues throughout the winter, with most packs finishing during March. When the Hunting Act 2004 was enforced in February 2005, many hunts wanted to retain their infrastructure so took up trail-hunting with their hounds to comply with the new law that had banned traditional foxhunting.

There are five trail hunting packs based in Cornwall - as well as other packs based on the county borders - which are understood to access council-owned land in Cornwall. It is not clear what overall impact a potential ban on using council land could have on their lawful hunting activities but it could potentially have an impact not only on the hunts themselves and the industries within Cornwall those who the hunt support, but also on the tenant farmers, some of which rely upon the fallen stock services provided by some of the hunts.

Nationally, there are over 250 registered packs of hounds conducting more than 12,000 days of trail hunting each year. Hunts, including those in Cornwall, employ professional members of staff whose priority it is to maintain high standards of animal welfare for their hounds and horses in their care. Not only do hunts provide direct employment, but they also utilise other local businesses and professional services which contribute to the local economy.

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