Another blow for hunting as a second major landowner leaves wildlife criminals with no place to hide

New Forest Hounds
Support us and go ad-free

England’s largest public land owner has started publishing details of hunting on its land. In doing so, it follows on from the country’s largest private land owner. And campaigners say the move is a ‘welcome change’.

Transparency

Forestry England recently announced it will begin publishing details of hunts using its land. It said that the decision came after “Some visitors… told us that they might want to avoid woodlands during trail hunts”. However, campaigners have also pressured Forestry England for greater transparency on hunting for some time. As a result, they have welcomed the announcement.

Jack Riggall, a member of anti-hunting group Cheshire Monitors who has engaged the Forestry Commission (of which Forestry England is a part) in dialogue on the issue, told The Canary:

[Forestry England] have now committed to publishing the meets of fox hunts they allow on their land, which is a very welcome policy change even if it doesn’t go far enough. … Plenty of questions remain such as why [Forestry England] still allows terriermen and convicted fox hunts on its land, and hunts that it knows have killed foxes whilst on its land, but we’ll soon see how fox hunts react to the [Forestry England] update as the wider campaign against hunting continues.

Freedom of information requests revealed that Forestry England suspended a meet of the Staintondale Hunt while it investigated the death of a fox at Sneaton Forest. However, Forestry England said there was “inconclusive evidence” about how it was killed.

Scrutiny

After public outcry over hunting on its estates, the National Trust began publishing details of hunts on its land. Riggall pointed out that there could be parallels in the wake of Forestry England’s decision:

When the National Trust chose to do this in August 2017, the amount of hunts applying for licences dropped by more than half, for the obvious reason that they couldn’t face scrutiny and didn’t want their crimes exposing.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

If Forestry England’s publishing of details has the same impact, more than a dozen hunts could choose not to apply for licences. Documents seen by The Canary show Forestry England licensed 36 foxhound, harrier, and beagle packs between September 2018 and February 2019. This resulted in more than 200 individual meets during the hunting season. Forestry England is also responsible for a huge amount of land. It runs 215,000 hectares of certified woodland and is the country’s largest public land manger.

At the time of publishing, Forestry England had published dates and meet locations for one hunt: the New Forest Hounds.

Accountability

Forestry England’s announcement came as a surprise to campaigners. Riggall called for such a move on 22 August. And anti-hunting groups were asking the public to sign a petition demanding the Forestry Commission publish hunting dates as recently as 1 September. Such a sudden change of heart could be a good sign. Although it’s worth noting that the National Trust doesn’t allow terriermen on its land. Forestry England is yet to commit to such a policy. Both bodies lag behind the Woodland Trust, which has an outright ban on hunting.

But this announcement is a good start for England’s public land. And for it to continue, Forestry England must properly hold hunts to account just as the public must hold Forestry England to account.

Featured image via Jim Champion/Wikimedia

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us