National Trust members have voted to ban trail hunting amid fears it is being used as a “smokescreen” for chasing and killing foxes.
Members supported a motion not to allow the activity on trust land, with those who proposed it stating that “overwhelming evidence leads to the conclusion that ‘trail hunting’ is a cover for hunting with dogs”.
A total of 76,816 votes were cast for the motion, with 38,184 votes against and 18,047 abstentions.
The results of the vote are not binding, but the board of trustees is expected to consider the outcome following Saturday’s annual general meeting.
Demonstrators from the League Against Cruel Sports gathered outside Harrogate Convention Centre in North Yorkshire as the event was being held, to show their support for the banning proposal.
They welcomed the result saying “enough is enough”, but the Countryside Alliance, which campaigned against the motion, said the vote represents only a “tiny proportion” of national membership and therefore gives no mandate.
The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting with dogs.
Trail hunting simulates a traditional hunt without foxes being deliberately chased or killed by laying an artificial scent for riders.
In November last year the National Trust and Forestry England suspended licences for trail hunting on their land in response to a police investigation into webinars involving huntsmen discussing the practice.
Saturday’s vote comes just weeks after a prominent huntsman was convicted after giving advice about how to covertly carry out illegal fox hunts.
Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association Mark Hankinson was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court of intentionally encouraging huntsmen to use legal trail hunting as “a sham and a fiction” for the unlawful chasing and killing of animals via two webinars held in August 2020.
The huntsman’s illicit advice was exposed after saboteurs leaked footage to police and the media of the online discussions.
He was ordered to pay £3,500, with the judge concluding that he was “clearly encouraging the mirage of trail laying to act as cover for old fashioned illegal hunting”.
Andy Knott, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: “Enough is enough. Now the membership has voted to permanently end it, we must insist the National Trust’s trustees listen and act.
“The trust must ban ‘trail’ hunting on its land for good. Other landowners should take note and immediately follow suit.”
Polly Portwin, the Countryside Alliance’s director of the campaign for hunting, said there is “absolutely no mandate for prohibition of a legal activity which has been carried out on National Trust land for generations”.
She argued that adopting the motion “would totally undermine the Trust’s own motto: ‘for everyone, for ever’, adding that the alliance remains ready to work with the trust “to ensure that everyone can have confidence that trail hunting activity is open, transparent and legitimate”.