Protesters have told the National Trust to “stop the hunts” in demonstrations across the country on 25 February.
Alibis and anger amplified
In October 2017, the conservation charity voted to continue allowing trail hunting on its land. This legal practice sees hounds chasing an artificially laid scent.
But groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare claim trail hunting is an “alibi against accusations of illegal hunting”; and that no genuine trails [pdf, p24] were laid in “99% of the 443 trail hunting events… observed”.
The vote result led National Trust member Helen Beynon, who put forward the motion, to tell The Guardian in October 2017:
It’s disgraceful, and the trust should be ashamed.
And anti-hunt anger has been amplified by the National Trust allegedly failing to keep to its pre-vote promise to monitor hunts more tightly. Chris Luffingham from the League Against Cruel Sports says:
The National Trust has let down its members by failing to regulate or monitor the hunts themselves and their decision to not publish the dates and locations where hunts are meeting makes it more difficult for independent monitors to track their activities to ensure any illegal hunting activity is reported to the police and punished.
But campaigners have kept up pressure on the National Trust to enforce a total ban on hunting, saying this is an issue that is “not going to go away”:
NT this is not going to go away, people will not get bored, we are passionate, we care. The question is do you?
— Nat (@somewheresumhow) February 25, 2018
National Trust countrywide
Protests on 25 February happened across at least 17 National Trust locations. These were arranged through a call-out by anti-hunting group National Dis-Trust. And they saw members of the public come together with animal rights groups to raise awareness amongst visitors to National Trust sites.
Great turn out at Castle Drogo today, where the @nationaltrust host the Mid Devon Fox Hunt. Follow @NT_Distrust for more information on the National Trust’s undemocratic stance on barbaric hunting. #trailhunting #trailhuntlies #NationalTrust #nationalDIStrust pic.twitter.com/aNgcfkyOlF
— DevonCountyHuntSabs (@devoncountysabs) February 25, 2018
— Fiona Mawson (@purrrmeister) February 25, 2018
We're at @ntbiddulphgrange right now, protesting the continued licensing of fox hunting on @nationaltrust land. Here with @CH_monitors and @NT_Distrust.#trailhuntlies #strengthentheban #houndsoff #foxoff #huntlies pic.twitter.com/zHOYK20AS8
— Cheshire Against The Hunt (@CheshireATH) February 25, 2018
Across the country from Gibside to Cornwall protesters were out campaigning against the @nationaltrust for allowing #trailhunting to take place on their land & telling the NT To stop allowing hunts on their lands #TrailHuntLies
Well done to the @LeagueACS @HoundsOff @NT_Distrust pic.twitter.com/5SqaHplIcU
— Jon proctor (@Jon_proctor_) February 26, 2018
Speaking to The Canary, Beynon said:
Members email me that things are worse than they were before. They don’t know where or when they’ll come across hounds tearing a fox to pieces…
National Dis-Trust is not just a handful of people, but a voice for the many, many members and ex-members who rightly hold the Trust responsible for the shambles that, whatever the intention, results in cruel death for animals in their care. We are not going away. We will hold them to account.
On 16 February, the National Trust responded to the planning of these events, telling SomersetLive:
People have the legal right to organise demonstrations and express their views. We accept these protests on our land, provided they are respectful and do not interfere with conservation or access for our visitors
“Utterly crass and offensive comment”
But Tim Bonner, chief executive of pro-hunting Countryside Alliance, attempted to ridicule one protester on Twitter by claiming support for animal rights is “a mental illness”:
A crime against nature? Tell me that animal rights isn't a mental illness pic.twitter.com/bxHEYidk9y
— Tim Bonner (@CA_TimB) February 25, 2018
But he faced a barrage of mocking reactions:
What’s worse: dogs wearing a goofy outfit, or ones that look like this? pic.twitter.com/XzbAUpvkGB
— Kate Louise Powell Ⓥ (@KatePow3ll) February 25, 2018
Simulating sex with a dead goose …. normal? pic.twitter.com/Tp972E8GZo
— Anti Hunting (@hunting_anti) February 26, 2018
Oh dear @CA_TimB , that sounds like ‘an own goal’.
— Barrie Noble (@SevernSearcher) February 25, 2018
And more serious comments warned against making light of “mental illness”:
This is an utterly crass and offensive comment, both in your contempt for those who look to uphold the law and protect wildlife, but also in your belittling of mental illness. I suggest you apologise and stand down.
— Gill Lewis (@gill__lewis) February 26, 2018
I've seen people struggle with mental illness and it's not something to joke about, you're a very small minded person. You should but will not feel ashamed of that tweet.
— No_More (@Bird_Crime) February 26, 2018
Is mocking/making light of mental illness within Chief Exec of @CAupdates remit? The voice of the countryside, indeed. Voice of 1954 more like!
— Chris Baker (@edu_wildlife) February 26, 2018
Becoming a major headache
The organiser of the demonstrations, National Dis-Trust, said:
The protests are just one of many actions planned to raise public awareness of illegal hunting on Trust land. The hunting season is now drawing to a close, and the Trust needs to take stock of their untenable situation. It is well past time that they recognise what is obvious to so many people and stop issuing these farcical licences.
The National Trust’s licensing of trail hunts has run nearly an entire hunting season. A full hunting season traditionally begins in late October, and coincided with the National Trust’s 2017 vote on trail hunting. And the latest protests occurred just as the season is coming to an end.
Hunting is a deeply emotive issue, something the National Trust itself recognises. But emotive issues tend to inspire committed, passionate struggles. And the two events bookend what could become a major headache for the National Trust.
– Read more at The Canary about wildlife crime.
Featured image via League Against Cruel Sports