Now hunt saboteurs target the ARMY: Activists launch war on the MoD

Now hunt saboteurs target the ARMY: Activists launch war on the MoD for ‘facilitating illegal hunting’ on land including Sandhurst and the Brecon Beacons

  • EXCLUSIVE: Activists said they will turn attention to MoD who let hunts on land
  • The Hunt Saboteurs Association claimed it ‘facilitates illegal hunting on the land’
  • It was the latest attempt to squeeze out the areas in which the sport can operate
  • It comes after the National Trust last week banned packs of hounds from estates

Hunt saboteurs will now target the Ministry of Defence in their latest war on trail hunting.

Activists said they will turn their attentions to military chiefs they claim ‘facilitate illegal hunting on their land’.

They said it was the latest attempt to squeeze out the areas in which the sport can operate.

The MoD currently sanctions trail hunting on bases across the country, including at Sandhurst and the Brecon Beacons.

Other bases where licences are issued are at Aldershot in Hampshire, Colchester in Essex and across Northumberland.

The move comes after the National Trust last week banned packs of hounds from the 620,000 acres it manages across the country.

Activists said they will turn their attentions to military chiefs they claim ‘facilitate illegal hunting on their land’. Pictured: The Royal Artillery Hunt in front of a tank last week

Which trail hunts were licensed to use MoD land last season?

  • Surrey Union
  • Staff College Drag Hunt Sandhurst
  • Ullswater
  • Tynedale
  • West of Yore
  • Zetland
  • Essex & Suffolk
  • Blankney Hunt
  • Tanatside
  • Glyn Celyn Beagles
  • Brecon & Talybont
  • Sennybridge Farmers Hunt
  • Irfon & Towy
  • Royal Artillery Hunt
  • Tedworth
  • East Kent with West Side
  • Wilts & Infantry Beagles
  • Palmer Marlborough Beagles

Lee Moon, from the Hunt Saboteurs Association told MailOnline: ‘Our next target will be the MOD who, despite appearing indifferent to public opinion, cannot continue to facilitate illegal hunting on their land.

‘We expect to see some hunts fold completely and others face an increasingly difficult future as they struggle for land on which to carry out their illegal acts.’

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation dished out 11 trail hunting licences for the 2021-22 season, according to anti-hunt site Keep The Ban.

This was a sharp decline from 19 granted in the season before the pandemic struck, 26 in 2019 and 21 in 2018.

Last season hunts were sanctions to use military land across the country to chase artificial scents.

These included bases in Aldershot in Hampshire, Sandhurst in Wiltshire, Colchester in Essex and the Brecon Beacons in Wales.

Hankley Common in Surrey, Gibraltar Barracks in Hampshire, Albermarle Barracks in Northumberland and Ellington Banks in Yorkshire were among the camps named.

The Royal Artillery Hunt, which is made up of soldiers and civilians on Salisbury Plain, had the most amount of fixtures on MoD land with 28 from September to November.

Wilts & Infantry Beagles, based in Warminster, was second with 20 while the Tedworth hunt had 13 days.

Hunts pay £75 for the licence to be granted – which can be refunded if a pack does not make it out due to military exercises – plus a further £100 for it to be prepared.

Hunting on MoD land is separated into green land – where anyone following the hunt can go – and red land, which is only for huntsmen to retrieve any stray hounds.

In the contract, huntsmen also swear to abide by the laws set out in the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 and the Hunting Act 2004.

They are also not allowed to lay a natural scent – using the carcass of a dead animal – for the hounds to follow, it has to be artificial.

The Secretary of State for Defence, which is currently former British Army officer Ben Wallace, signs off on the licences.

But the agreement between the hunts and the MoD can be ripped up with just a month’s notice, government documents show.

An MoD spokesman said: ‘Trail hunting continues to be permitted on MOD land, subject to hunts obtaining and abiding by the terms of a trail hunting licence and the law.’

Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner said: ‘The Government has made it perfectly clear that legal hunting activity will be allowed to continue on MoD land.

‘We look forward to as many hunts as possible being able to take the opportunity to go drag hunting and trail hunting this winter.

‘Activists would be better advised to focus on campaigns that actually improve animal welfare and the environment, rather than pursuing their petty class war agenda.’

The National Trust, which has been blasted for going ‘woke’ in recent months, said the board of trustees had ‘carefully considered the issue’ before taking the drastic step (file photo)

Last week the National Trust banned trail hunting on its land because bosses feared ‘the reputational risk’ of allowing packs to continue.

The charity, which has been blasted for going ‘woke’ in recent months, said the board of trustees had ‘carefully considered the issue’ before taking the drastic step.

It said a recent conviction of a senior huntsman and a vote at its annual general meeting – involving just two per cent of members – were among other factors.

Hunting and rural groups slammed the trust for ‘breaking its fundamental principle’ of ‘for everyone, for ever’.

They pointed to an ‘engineered’ bullying campaign from opponents of legal hunting to harass landowners into stopping the sport.

It came as senior huntsman Mark Hankinson appealed against his conviction for telling people to use trail hunting as a ‘smokescreen’ for killing foxes.

National Trust director of land and nature Harry Bowell said: ‘The board of trustees has carefully considered this issue.

‘Its decision to issue no further licences for trail hunting is based on a wide range of considerations.

‘These include – but are not limited to – a loss of trust and confidence in the MFHA, which governs trail hunting, the vote by National Trust members at our recent AGM, the considerable resources needed to facilitate trail hunting, and the reputational risk of this activity continuing on our land.’

Hunting and rural groups slammed the trust for ‘breaking its fundamental principle’ of ‘for everyone, for ever’ (file photo)

National Trust members at the charity’s annual general meeting voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on its land. The National Trust has just under six million members who would have been eligible to vote.

Those who proposed the motion on the ban stated ‘overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that ‘trail hunting’ is a cover for hunting with dogs’. The Countryside Alliance campaigned against the motion to ban trail hunting on National Trust land.

Polly Portwin, Director of the Campaign for Hunting, said: ‘The vote involved a tiny proportion of the Trust’s membership and is absolutely no mandate for prohibition of a legal activity which has been carried out on National Trust land for generations.

‘Adopting the motion would totally undermine the Trust’s own motto: ‘for everyone, for ever. The principle the Trust follows should be simple – legal activity should be allowed on National Trust land as long as it is not impacting on other users.

‘We remain ready to work with the Trust to ensure that everyone can have confidence that trail hunting activity is open, transparent and legitimate. Hunts who use National Trust land for these lawful activities are required to comply with a strict licensing policy.

‘The Trust’s Board of Trustees have stated they are satisfied with the implementation of, and the compliance with, the licensing conditions.’ Following the AGM in 2017, when a previous bid to ban trail hunting was voted down, the charity introduced a management team to oversee the licensing process.

The trust said it had seen both compliant and legitimate activity since then, but also claimed there were multiple reported breaches. The National Trust looks after hundreds of thousands of acres of countryside across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The move to ban trail hunting applies to land in England and Wales. No hunting is allowed on Northern Irish trust land. When the Trust suspended licences a year ago, there was just one trail hunting licence. The previous year, 2019/20, there had been 14 licences, and eight the year before that.

Trail hunting is legal and sees hounds follow a scent laid down by huntsmen to follow through the countryside.

It replicates a traditional fox hunt without an animal actually being chased, injured or killed.

There is occasionally a risk a hound may accidentally pick up on a real fox scent, but they are then stopped by their masters.

The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting foxes with hounds, but there have been reports of breaches since.

Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance Tim Bonner blasted the Trust’s decision for going against its motto.

Mr Bonner told MailOnline: ‘The National Trust’s decision breaks a fundamental principle.

‘The charity claims to be ‘for everyone, for ever’, but by prohibiting a legal activity it has decided it is actually just for those who its board approves of.

‘The inability of trustees to differentiate between the legal use of hounds and the governance of hunting is extremely regrettable and breaks the basic principle of access to National Trust land for legitimate activities.’

A spokesman from the Hunting Office said: ‘Today the National Trust board has informed us of their decision not to issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.

‘This decision is hugely disappointing, considering 98 per cent of the Trust members did not participate in the vote to ban trail hunting at the AGM earlier this year.

‘The board’s decision to prevent a lawful and legitimate activity comes as a result of an engineered campaign by opponents of trail hunting to bully landowners into stopping a lawful activity carried out by the rural community.

‘Hunts have had access to National Trust land for generations and the decision goes completely against the core mantra of the National Trust ”for everyone, for ever”.

‘We hope that we can maintain an open dialogue with the Trust and have further consultation following the review which we are currently conducting.’

The Trust’s ban comes after a senior huntsman was convicted of telling people to use the sport as a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal fox hunting.

The sport was suspended on Trust land from November 2020 after a police probe into webinars by huntsmen discussing the practice.

Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mr Hankinson was in October found guilty of telling them to use trail hunting as ‘a sham and a fiction’ for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals.

Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mark Hankinson was in October found guilty of telling huntsmen to use trail hunting as ‘a sham and a fiction’ for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals

The 61-year-old was recorded on two training sessions for about 100 hunts in which he acknowledged trail hunting was a cover for the chasing and killing of foxes.

He was charged after footage from the webinars was obtained by hunt saboteurs, who leaked it to the media and the police.

His barrister pointed out the recordings were obtained by the Hunt Sabotage Association illegally.

But Deputy Senior District Judge Tan Ikram refused an application to exclude the evidence.

Hankinson, of Sherborne, Dorset, denied but was convicted of encouraging illegal fox-hunting, in two webinars between August 11 and 13 last year.

He was fined £1,000, in addition to £2,500 in prosecution costs and a £100 surcharge last month following a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Judge Martin Beddoe set Hankinson’s two-day appeal for May 5 at Southwark Crown Court following a short hearing.

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