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Move to ban trail hunting in North Yorkshire attacked by leading animal welfare campaigner

A motion set to be debated next week by North Yorkshire councillors has been branded ‘anti-rural’ and a ‘colossal waste of time’ by a leading animal welfare campaigner.

Jim Barrington, who for several years worked as a Director for the League Against Cruel Sports, said that any attempt to ban trail hunting on land owned by North Yorkshire council ‘would do nothing to help animal welfare’ but ‘everything to fuel prejudice’ against rural communities.

Mr Barrington, who now advises the Countryside Alliance on animal welfare, issued his comments ahead a meeting of North Yorkshire’s full council meeting on Wednesday 19th July 2023.

Among the agenda items is a motion submitted by Labour councillor Rich Maw which states: “This council resolves to ban trail hunting, exempt hunting, hound exercise and hunt meets outright across all council land where legally possible, including any NEW tenancies where there are positive covenants attached to the land that currently require the council as owner to allow trail hunting events and formal gatherings”.

The motion has been seconded by Green Party councillor, Arnold Warneken.

Some 10 hunts take part in lawful trail hunting activities across North Yorkshire. 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. It is unclear whether any hunts use land owned by North Yorkshire, raising questions about why the motion has been submitted.

The Countryside Alliance, which has thousands of members across county, is contacting councillors urging them to reject the ‘divisive’ motion. The rural campaigning group says that hunts provide a vital social and economic lifeline in the countryside.

Jim Barrington said:

“This motion does nothing to help animal welfare, but everything to fuel prejudice against rural people. Submitting this motion is a colossal waste of time, when there are so many genuine issues facing people living across North Yorkshire, not least the cost-of-living crisis.

“We sincerely hope councillors from across North Yorkshire reject this anti-rural motion in the first instance. There can simply be no justification whatsoever to ban a lawful activity on council owned land.”

Similar motions to ban trail hunting at other councils have failed in recent years. Attempts in Essex, Cornwall and North Northamptonshire all fell after significant backlash from rural electors.

The meeting of the full council is due to take place on Wednesday 19th July at 10:30am. 

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