We are delighted that Peterborough City Council has banned hunts from their lands. We are also very pleased that a number of major landowners have suspended trail hunt licences pending the results of the police investigation into the leaked webinars. However, the police investigation is NOT into whether illegal hunting has taken place but into whether any laws were broken in the webinars themselves. Obviously we will be delighted if the investigation finds this to be the case and prosecutions result but we fear that it will be very difficult for the police to make anything ‘stick’ in this respect.
The hunts will then gleefully try to make political capital out of this and try to claim they have been exonerated but we cannot let the public lose site of the main issue here – namely that the webinar presenters confirmed what we have been saying since the ban was introduced, that trail hunting is a cover for illegal hunting. We cannot let the fact that an investigation is taking place detract from this key point.
Now that the hunts themselves have confirmed that trail hunting is a smokescreen for illegal hunting, landowners have no excuse and must now permanently ban the hunts from their land.
Please feel free to share this open letter far and wide – let’s spread it as far as possible to let the landowners know in no uncertain terms that if they continue to allow trail-hunting on their land they will be complicit in illegal hunting. They can no longer claim ignorance and hid behind platitudes.
Following the recent conviction of Mark Hankinson, a director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, for his part in the “Hunting Office Webinar Scandal”, we are asking you to ban trail hunting from your land permanently. The conviction proved that (in the judge’s words) trail laying is a ‘sham and a fiction.’
The Hunting Act 2004 states this:
“A person commits an offence if he knowingly permits land which belongs to him to be entered or used in the course of the commission of an offence under Section 1”
Section 1 of the Hunting Act states:
“A person commits an offence if he hunts a wild mammal with a dog”
This means that if a hunt is caught breaking the law on your land, and you have given them permission to be there, you may also be prosecuted.
Mr Hankinson and the other presenters confirmed what anti-hunting groups have been telling the public and landowners for the last 15 years, namely that trail hunting is a lie, a device to enable fox-hunting to continue unhindered. It is used by fox hunts to allow them blatantly to flout the law. Anti-hunting groups have repeatedly said this, and have offered plenty of evidence in the form of videos and photos, but landowners have always simply replied to say that evidence of illegal fox-hunting should be passed to the police (which it is) and have continued to allow the hunts to use their land. Now, however, the webinars and subsequent conviction should remove any doubt from landowners’ minds about what actually happens. Landowners can no longer use the excuse that they don’t know.
We are also delighted that National Trust members have voted 2:1 to ban trail hunting and hound exercise on National Trust owned land. Some councils have already banned hunts from council-owned land and other councils are looking to follow suit – for the same reason that they cannot trust the hunts to act within the law on their land.
We therefore urge you as a landowner to stop hunts from using your land. For years the hunts have routinely broken the law (they still do) and some landowners have been complicit in this. Now, however, landowners have definitive confirmation of this and have the perfect opportunity to make the break with this criminal activity. Please take the step and ban the hunt from using your land to commit wildlife crime.
Action Against Foxhunting