The consultation and report showed how ‘trail’ hunting is being used as a smokescreen by hunts to hide the chasing and killing of animals.
A vote by councillors yesterday to permanently ban fox hunts from Cheshire West and Chester Council land is a “fantastic result” for animal welfare, according to the The League Against Cruel Sports.
It follows a suspension of all trail hunting on the council's land after a meeting which called for a consultation and a cross-party report looking at the threat posed by hunts to animals and the environment.
The report has now identified a risk from trail hunting to both wild and domestic animals and recommended a ban on council-owned land and to work towards a ban on farmland rented from the council.
Nick Weston, head of campaigns at The League Against Cruel Sports, said: “This is a fantastic result, and I’d like to thank the councillors who put so much energy into stopping fox hunts from using Cheshire West and Chester Council land.
“The consultation and report showed how ‘trail’ hunting is being used as a smokescreen by hunts to hide the chasing and killing of animals.
"We welcome the decision by the cabinet who have decided to act and prevent the cruel ‘sport’ of fox hunting from ever happening on council land.”
The league collated at least 21 reports of suspected illegal hunting activity within the Cheshire West and Chester local authority area during the 2019/20 hunting season, including the ‘autumn hunting’ or cub hunting season.
These reports included multiple incidents of badger sett blocking, foxes seen being pursued by and fleeing from hounds, and livestock worrying including horses and pregnant ewes.
The council vote fell against the backdrop of the conviction of Mark Hankinson, the disgraced now former director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, who was recently found guilty of encouraging or assisting others to break the Hunting Act 2004, under the Serious Crimes Act 2007.
He was caught telling hunt masters how to use the excuse of so-called ‘trail’ hunting to get away with killing animals.
During the trial, trail hunting was described by Judge Tan Ikram, deputy chief magistrate of England and Wales, as a "sham" and "a fiction".
The council vote also came only weeks after the National Trust, Natural Resources Wales, and the Malvern Hills Trust all permanently ended ‘trail’ hunting on their land.
Elsewhere in the UK, two other councils – Peterborough City Council and Nottinghamshire County Council – voted to ban hunts from their land in 2020 and 2019 respectively.
Ruby Harbour is the editorial assistant at The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from The League Against Cruel Sports.