Trail hunting suspended on National Trust and Forestry England land
Devon and Cornwall Police is investigating webinars held by the Hunting Office, which administrates hunting across the UK.
Animal welfare campaigners say legal trail hunting, where hounds or beagles follow a scent along a pre-determined route, is being used as a “smokescreen” to allow real hunting of foxes to continue – even though it was banned since 2005.
They have pointed to two leaked training webinars involving huntsmen discussing trail hunting, which are now the focus of the police investigation.
Licenceholders on Forestry England land in Yorkshire include Bilsdale Hunt, Derwent Hunt, Saltersgate Hunt, Highmoor Bloodhounds, Sinnington Hunt and Staintondale Hunt. Locations include Cropton, Dalby, Wykeham and Eastmoors & Riccaldale Forests.
Mike Seddon, Forestry England Chief Executive, said: “We are clear when we give people licences or permission for activities in the nation’s forests that they must behave legally and responsibly or risk losing the right to carry on.
“Once we had confirmation from the police that they were investigating activities involving the Hunting Office, we suspended all licences granted to organisations that delegate work to them.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for foxhunting Paul Netherton said they were looking at video content from the two webinars and were working in conjunction with the CPS to see if any criminal offences have been committed.
The National Trust only licensed one trail hunt this year in Wiltshire.
Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, welcomed the suspension of licences and called on other landowners to follow suit.
The Hunting Office said: “The purpose of the webinars held in August was very clearly to facilitate legal hunting and any allegation that they were organised for any other purpose is completely incorrect.
“We will cooperate fully with the police and welcome the opportunity to clarify the situation.”