Call to ban controversial trail hunting on North Northamptonshire Council land

The National Trust has already banned the form of hunting introduced after fox hunting was outlawed

Saturday, 27th November 2021, 10:02 am
The Brigstock boxing day hunt meeting in 2013
The Brigstock boxing day hunt meeting in 2013

A councillor is set to call for a ban on controversial trail hunting on publicly-owned land at this week's full council meeting.

Cllr Alison Dalziel's motion follows on from landowners National Trust and Natural Resources Wales voting to halt trail hunting on their land.

She is hoping that members of the public will also attend the meeting to inform a constructive debate on the issue.

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Trail hunting was introduced as an alternative for those who still wanted to hunt after the killing of foxes for sport was made illegal in 2004.

It was created to mimic traditional fox hunting with dogs by laying an artificial trail using fox urine. However, hounds often pick up the scents of a live fox and begin to track it, leading to the death of foxes.

Trail hunting supporters say that huntsmen should stop hounds following the scent as soon as they realise what has happened.

But last month Mark Hankinson, the former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, was found guilty of assisting others to break the Hunting Act 2004 after training more than 100 huntsmen on webinars on how to use trail hunting as a smokescreen.

In 2019, the boxing day hunt was banned from meeting in nearby Oakham Town Centre and instead had to meet at an out-of-town location, attended by protestors from across Rutland.

Labour representative for Beanfield ward Cllr Dalziel will propose a motion asking her fellow members to vote to ban any form of hunting on NNC-owned land.

Her motion, backed by Cllr Matt Keane, states: “North Northamptonshire Council notes that fox hunting with hounds is illegal under the terms of the Hunting Act 2004, except where an exemption applies.

"Most hunts claim to now be trail hunting including those who operate in North Northamptonshire, where hounds follow an artificial scent, as opposed to clean boot or drag hunting, where hounds will pursue the scent of a human runner for fun. There are no clean boot or drag hunts operating in North Northamptonshire.

"Trail hunting was created after the introduction of the Hunting Ban, with any chase or kill of a wild mammal often being attributed to accidental rather than intentional hunting.”

She will ask members to vote that until the Hunting Act 2004 is strengthened to include a recklessness clause, the council resolves that it will not permit trail hunting, exempt hunting, or any form of hunt meets, on its land.

Speaking to this newspaper ahead of Wednesday's meeting, which will take place in Thrapston, Cllr Dalziel said: "The point is for us as a unitary authority to have a policy in place that permits hunts from using our land.

"So if any hunts wanted to meet in Brigstock, for example, we'd have a clear policy already in place saying that they cannot do so.

"It's a pre-emptive move.

"It's not about naming names but we know what Mark Hankinson was found guilty of, and over the past couple of months we've seen the National Trust and others ban trail hunting and there's a bit of a ripple effect.

"I'd have nothing against trail hunting if they operated within the law but the evidence is stacking up against trail hunting and public confidence in the practise is just not there.

"I hope that some members of the public can come along to speak to we can have a transparent debate in the chamber."

You can view the agenda for the meeting and find details of how to speak here. Anyone wishing to participate needs to register their interest by 9am on Monday (November 29).