Government response to “Stop Forestry England granting licenses for Fox & Hare hunts”

Jack Riggall, an independent hunt monitor and anti-hunting campaigner, is writing a series of posts for us on fox hunts and Forestry England (FE), the government department responsible for managing and promoting the nation’s forests (search Jack Riggall). He also launched an e-petition asking FE to stop giving fox and hare hunts licences to ‘trail hunt’ on their (our) land: last year FE doled out 34 licences, with minimal supervision of the hunts concerned. The petition (which is now closed) gained more than 10,000 signatures, triggering a government response which is copied below.

As expected, the response relies heavily on the fabrication of ‘trail hunting’ (an invention of fox hunts which we’ve written about many times – eg National Trust and Trail Hunting 101), and on us believing that fabrication unquestioningly. As Jack puts it in his posts for us, “For those who aren’t aware, Forestry England allow a number of criminal fox hunts to use publicly funded forests for wildlife crime. They do this under the guise of licensing ‘trail hunting’ [a copy of their licence agreement with the Master of Foxhounds Association [MFHA] can be seen here], a false alibi for illegal hunting. In expecting us to believe that wildlife isn’t harmed on these so-called ‘trail hunts’, this government department expects us to ignore footage and public condemnation of the hunts in question“.

The government may expect us to ignore the evidence, but that’s not going to happen. Many of us are asking more and more questions, and monitors are in the field providing the answers and whenever we get the opportunity we will post those answers on this site. In time, we are certain, as the evidence builds the edifice that hunting has built around ‘trail hunting’ will collapse.

While hunts may believe they invented the perfect cover for breaking the Hunting Act, what exactly will they claim they’re up to when ‘trail hunting’ is proven to be a lie? They have – to stretch a cliche – put all their rotten eggs in one rotten basket, and when that basket gives way…well, they will be left with egg all over and will only have themselves to blame…

In the meantime, it is interesting to note that the civil servant who wrote this response pointedly added a rather tetchy “The Government will not amend the Hunting Act 2004” line as a closer. Could that be because It was widely reported before last November’s general election that the Conservatives appeared to have dropped a long-standing manifesto pledge to allow a vote on repeal of the Hunting Act? Hunts were not pleased at the publicity this received, but as we pointed out at the time what the Conservatives actually did was say that there would be “no changes to the Hunting Act” which meant that there would be no changes to strengthen it or help to enforce it either (see – Conservative Manifesto and fox hunting). With 191 fox hunts still operating and going out more than 10,500 times a ‘season’, perhaps the government’s friends in the hunting community have asked their chums to make sure that the rest of us are under no illusions that the current government is still onside?

 

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Stop Forestry England granting licenses for Fox & Hare hunts”.

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

 

If you would like to support the work of Jack and the Cheshire Monitors you can donate via Paypal at paypal.com/paypalme/CMonitors.
Thankyou.