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Cross-party support for Cornish hunts sees motion to establish 'public consultation' defeated

Councillors in Cornwall have spoken decisively today to express their support for the continuation of a lawful activity taking place on council-owned land.

Photo credit: Four Burrow Hunt by Lisa Wood Photography

During a meeting of the council, a petition which proposed to ban trail hunting on council-owned land was discussed.

The debate was triggered after an online petition was submitted to the council calling for a total ban of trail hunting on council owned land. The petition, which boasted having '10,000' signatures sparked concerns from rural campaigners after it was found that many signatures included no residency details, while others listed locations as being from outside Cornwall, with some as far away as South Africa.

The council voted in support of a recommendation to enable the leader of the council to make an executive decision on the matter. Conservative, Mebyon Kernow and Independent group leaders spoke in favour of allowing lawful trail hunting to continue.

An amendment by the Labour Party was proposed during the meeting which would have seen the council establish a cross-party working group, which would look into trail hunting and carry out a public consultation. This would have replicated a similar decision taken by Labour's own Cheshire West and Chester council. The consultation there took a year to conclude and proved unnecessary as no hunts in Cheshire use council land. Councillors in Cornwall, however, voted against a similar recommendation at the meeting today.

The decision by councillors to vote against a costly consultation and cross-party working group was welcomed by the Countryside Alliance.

Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting for the organisation said: "It is right that councillors voted against carrying out a public consultation on the matter, which would have clearly wasted valuable council time and resources. We expect the Leader of the Council to decide in favour of the continuation of lawful activities on council-owned land and for the matter to be drawn to a close, particularly given the significant contributions from members of the Conservative and Independent groups."

"The majority of councillors who spoke at the meeting today were in favour of the continuation of a legal activity on council-owned land. We are pleased that most councillors listened to the valid arguments put forward by many of their constituents. Trail hunting is an important part of rural life in Cornwall, both socially and economically, and banning it altogether would be anti-rural. It was clear from many of the contributions today that the hunting community in Cornwall is highly regarded locally and that a complete ban on trail hunting would not have been passed by the council."

Conservative councillor for Liskeard Central, Nick Craker said: "I was pleased to hear cross-party support vocally expressed for trailing hunting to continue on Cornwall Council land at Full Council. The Cornish Hunts are well embedded into our rural communities and support our local economy."

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 restricted 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.

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