Fox hunts gather for festive meets amid growing calls for trail pursuit bans


Critics claim trail hunting – which has been banned on National Trust and some councils’ land – is being used as a cover for real hunting

Fox hunts gathered for their traditional festive meets today amid growing calls for “smokescreen” trail hunts to be banned.

Thousands of supporters flocked to Boxing Day events, which were held 24 hours later than usual because December 26 fell on a Sunday this year.

As riders prepared to set off for legal trail pursuits, critics claimed the practice is used as cover to illegally target foxes.

League Against Cruel Sports director of external affairs Chris Luffingham said: “The Boxing Day hunt meets are public relations puff pieces and would be harmless if they weren’t purely designed to try and show the public that what they do for the rest of their hunting season is innocent.

Christmas Hunts usually take place on Boxing Day but as the Essex Hunt does not ride on the Sabbath this years event took place on Bank Holiday Monday
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Martin Dalton/REX/Shutterstock)

Hunt Master Conrad Jones joins riders and hounds as they take part in the Kennels Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire meet
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PA)

“Just two short months ago their red coats were in the wardrobe as they attended the court hearing of a man who was later found guilty of teaching huntsmen and women how to use the guise of trail hunting or to exploit loopholes in the law to get away with old fashioned illegal hunting.

“The public are tired of there being one rule for one set of people and another rule for them. “This Government needs to strengthen the Hunting Act to remove those loopholes and protect wildlife.”

In October, Mark Hankinson, a senior huntsman, was found guilty of encouraging and assisting people to evade the ban on fox hunting by using trail hunting.

Riders and hounds as they take part in the Kennels Lanarkshire & Renfrewshire meet in Houston, Scotland
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Hankinson, who is appealing his conviction, told a webinar: “It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating.”

Kimblewick Hunt Master of Foxhounds Andrew Sallis told Sky News that “hunts have been complying with the law” since hunting with dogs was banned in 2005.

“There have only been a handful of prosecutions in those 16 years – that is covering 12,000 days each year,” he said yesterday(MON).

Denying claims trail hunting – which has been banned on National Trust and some councils’ land – was cover for real hunting, he insisted: “If that were the case surely there would be a plethora of prosecutions every week.”

Mark Dickson Bradley leads the Holcombe Hunt as it takes a run out during a post-Boxing Day meet
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Asadour Guzelian)

He said Boxing Day was “a showcase day where the hounds will be greeted by the wider rural community”.

Mr Sallis added: “Boxing Day is a bit like the Grand National, it’s a unique spectacle and we are always delighted to go to a very public place and welcome the wider rural community to come and meet the hounds.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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