Trail hunting has recently been laid bare as a loophole to facilitate actual fox hunting, most notably in the case of R v Mark Hankinson. Indeed, the Judge called trail hunting ‘a sham and a smokescreen’.
This case, and the public outcry that it sparked, prompted Forestry England, Natural Resources Wales and, most recently, the National Trust to suspend trail hunting on their land. However, the UK Government has yet to follow suit and still allows trail hunting on Ministry of Defence land.
In November, one of my Opposition Colleagues, Luke Pollard MP, asked the Secretary of State for Defence:
‘What assessment he has made of the merits of prohibiting trail hunting on land owned by his Department to prevent its use as a cover for illegal hunting, following the judgment in the case of R v Mark Hankinson?’
The Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, responded by saying:
‘Trail and drag hunting on the Defence estate remain legal activities providing they are carried out within the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004. A range of people and activities are allowed access to the MOD estate subject to appropriate controls.’
It is disappointing that the Government is willing to play along with the sham of trail hunting and allow it to continue on government owned land.
There is an opportunity within the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to investigate possibilities for strengthening the fox hunting ban, and I can confirm that my Opposition Colleagues and I will raise this issue during the Bill’s parliamentary process.
I can assure you that I fully support the current bans on fox hunting, deer hunting and hare coursing and will continue to press at every possible opportunity for the existing legislation to be strengthened.