Support surges for Mendips trail hunting ban
- Credit: Archant
Support for a campaign to ban trail hunting in the Mendips has skyrocketed after accusations of antisocial behaviour and illegal hunting practices emerged.
Last year, the National Trust granted Weston and Banwell Harriers a licence to organise hunts in the Crook Peak area of the Mendips throughout January and February.
Since then, the campaign has gained more than 100,000 signatures, with reports of intimidating behaviour, dangerous driving and illegal hunting fuelling support.
Villagers from the Mendip Hills say the hunters have ignored National Trust directives by letting their dogs off leads and intentionally blocking badger setts in an attempt to trap foxes, which was made illegal in 1992.
One person said: “The Weston and Banwell Harriers are blocking setts on Wavering Down.
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“There are no collars, tags or chips on their hounds, and they do not pick up their dog poo during the hunt.
“They park all over the place, blocking roads and not moving out of the way when asked.”
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Another added: “I’m too scared to walk my dogs in the area in case they get attacked by hounds.
“We should not be frightened of the hunt.”
Maria Burt, from Weston, started the campaign, describing trail hunting as a ‘cover’ to evade the fox hunting ban.
She said: “When ‘lethal’ hunting was banned, they invented trail hunting.
“There are key differences between drag hunting (where hounds are trained to chase an artificial scent) and trail hunting (where hounds are trained to chase an animal’s scent).”
Burt claims many hunters no longer set trails before a hunt.
She added: “Trail hunts include people on quad bikes. These are called ‘terrier men’ – they traditionally accompanied hunts with their dogs.
“These dogs were used to follow a fox if it had bolted down a hole in the ground, often leading to a fight and the fox being dug up and killed.
“If the hunts are now only following a trail, why do they still include terrier men?”
Weston and Banwell Harriers deny the allegations.
Chris Luffington of the animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports said: “With over 85 per cent of the public opposing hunting wild animals with hounds - including a considerable number of National Trust members and visitors to the Mendip Hills - it is high time the conservation body provided protection to wildlife by stopping licensing hunting on its land.”
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Weston and Banwell Harriers’ response to the allegations:
A spokesman on for Weston and Banwell Harriers said: “The Weston and Banwell Harriers operate within the law to comply with the Hunting Act 2004. Hunts are regularly subjected to spurious allegations regarding their legal hunting activities and we are being actively targeted on a regular basis.
“We can confirm that despite being licensed to trail-hunt on National Trust land this season, we have not yet accessed their land and refute any allegations made against us in relation to any illegal activity on National Trust property.
“Trail-hunting is one of the activities that hunts carry out to comply with the law and it was originally accepted by the animal rights activists as an acceptable alternative to hunting.
“There have been just 24 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 relating to registered hunts since the act was enforced in February 2005, this is despite more than a quarter of a million days hunting performed by over 250 hunts.
“At the Weston and Banwell we liaise closely with our landowners and overall enjoy a good relationship within our community while ensuring the arrangements we put in place for any hunting day enable us to conduct our activities in a safe, legal and sensible way.”