Trail hunting is suspended amid claims it's a front for chasing foxes

Outfoxed! Trail hunting is suspended amid claims it’s a front for chasing foxes after chiefs ‘used web to trade tips on breaking the law’

  • They are examining leaked recordings of online training sessions for trail hunters
  • Animal welfare activists claim this shows legal trail hunting is just ‘smokescreen’ 
  • In trail hunting, hounds follow scent along route with no foxes chased or killed

Trail hunting on National Trust and Forestry England land has been suspended while police probe videos said to show that it’s just a front for chasing foxes.

They are examining leaked recordings of two online training sessions for trail hunters – which allegedly include discussions on how to get round the anti-hunting law.

Animal welfare activists claim this shows that legal trail hunting is just a ‘smokescreen’ to cover real fox hunting, which has been illegal since 2005.

Trail hunting on National Trust and Forestry England land has been suspended while police probe videos said to show that it’s just a front for chasing foxes (stock image)

But the Hunting Office, which organises the UK sport, denies the allegation, saying the purpose of the two webinar sessions was to discuss legal hunting.

In trail hunting, hounds or beagles follow a scent along a pre-determined route with no foxes chased, injured or killed.

More than 100 hunt staff and masters of hunts took part in the webinars, which were almost three hours long.

According to ITV News, in one session a contributor says: ‘If you’ve got saboteurs out with you in any shape or form we need to have clear visible plausible trail laying being done throughout the day. It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating.

‘And that is what it’s all about –trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business.’

ITV says that another speaker warned anyone who filmed a hunt to be careful to ‘only record’ the legal things they did.

After the League Against Cruel Sports gave the recordings to police, both the National Trust and Forestry England suspended trail hunt licences on their land.

A Trust spokesman said: ‘We are aware of videos circulating on social media. We have taken the decision to pause trail hunting on National Trust land and will not be granting any new licences for the remainder of the season.’

Animal welfare activists claim this shows that legal trail hunting is just a ‘smokescreen’ to cover real fox hunting, which has been illegal since 2005 (file photo)

Forestry England added: ‘We have now suspended all licences for trail hunting. This is in response to confirmation that the police are investigating webinars hosted by the Hunting Office.’ 

Chris Luffingham of the League Against Cruel Sports welcomed the moves and said: ‘We now repeat our calls for other landowners such as United Utilities, Defra, Ministry of Defence, and the Duchy of Cornwall to follow suit.’

Paul Netherton, who is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on fox hunting said: ‘Police are currently investigating and examining video content. We are working in conjunction with the CPS to see if any criminal offences have been committed.’

A Hunting Office spokesman said: ‘The purpose of the webinars… 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.’

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