Closed petition Stop Forestry England granting licenses for Fox & Hare hunts

For the most recent hunting season, Forestry England gave hunting licences for 34 fox & hare “trail hunts”. Despite the hunting of wild mammals with dogs being illegal, two of the licensed trail hunts have received, or been associated with, convictions under the Hunting and Animal Welfare Acts.

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Very recently, two of the hunts that Forestry England licence for so-called 'trail hunting' have received, or been associated with, convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 [Meynell & South Staffordshire Hunt in November 2019] & the Animal Welfare Act 2006 [Kimblewick Hunt in October 2019]. Other licensed fox hunts have recently been in the press for alleged trespass, killing foxes, losing control of their dogs & for another criminal conviction. These hunts should not take place on public land.

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Government responded

This response was given on 10 September 2020

Trail hunting is a legal activity. Forestry England permits trail hunting under an agreement with the Masters of Fox Hounds Association. It has the power to suspend or withdraw any permission.

The Hunting Act 2004 banned hunting wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales, except where it is carried out in accordance with the exemptions set out in Schedule 1 to the Act. Forestry England would only permit exempt hunting under exceptional circumstances and for a minimal period on the land that it manages.

Trail hunting is a legal recreational activity and was widely promoted as an alternative activity to hunting a live quarry before the Hunting Act. Forestry England permits trail hunting by some traditional long-standing hunting groups under an agreement with the Masters of Fox Hounds Association and individual hunts. Details of the agreement can be found on the Forestry England web site: [https://www.forestryengland.uk/trail-hunting] as well as details of trail hunts when these have been agreed with Forestry England. These permissions set out strict controls on how and where the trail hunt can operate, including a requirement to protect the safety of participants, followers, Forestry England staff and all others likely to be within the vicinity of the trail hunt.

Forestry England’s permission system balances people’s desire for activities in the nation’s forests with the need to minimise the risk of harm and limit any negative impact on the managing of forests for people, nature and the economy.

The permission includes clauses to suspend or revoke the permission if the requirements are not met. Any illegal activity by a trail hunt on land managed by Forestry England would be unacceptable.

Forestry England seriously considers all reports of breaches of the permission that are backed by credible evidence when deciding whether to allow each trail hunt to continue its activities in the nation’s forests or renew its permission for a further season.

Forestry England has a record of taking action. In the 2019/20 trail hunting season it revoked a trail hunt’s permission on the basis of convictions for “causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal” even though the offences did not take place on land managed by Forestry England. The Hunt will not be granted any further permission to conduct its trail hunting activities until Forestry England is satisfied that the hunt has taken appropriate action.

In the same season Forestry England suspended a hunt’s permission because of the activities of individuals associated with that hunt, then reinstated it once satisfied that the individuals concerned were no longer engaged in activities of the hunt. For the remainder of the season the hunt put new procedures in place to prevent a reoccurrence.

Forestry England has no plans to end the granting of permission for trail hunting where the hunts concerned can meet the terms and conditions of the permission which are themselves kept under regular review.

The Government will not amend the Hunting Act 2004.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs