Trail hunting FAQs

Winter panorama, Parke, Devon

In the wake of the Annual General Meeting resolution on trail hunting, we have had many questions from both members and supporters. To help you, here are the most frequently asked questions and answers, as well as some useful background information:

Do you allow fox hunting on your land?
No. Hunting wild animals was outlawed in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004. The law does allow what is known as ‘trail hunting’ to continue. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being intentionally chased, injured or killed. 

We licence trail hunting under certain conditions designed to allow participants to take part in this activity in compatibility with our conservation aims.  

Revised licensing conditions

Why are you publishing dates and areas where trail hunts take place on your website?
It’s been a long standing licence condition for all hunts to publicly provide details of areas and times. We are now publishing details on our own website to ensure they are accessible.

Why are you banning animal-based scents?
We believe it's right to minimise as far as possible the risk of foxes or any wild animal being accidentally chased during a trail hunt; moving to artificial scents is part of achieving that aim. It is up to trail hunts to decide which artificial scent they use.

How will hounds or beagles trained with fox scent be retrained? Will they become useless for hunts? 
Our licence system for all outdoor activities places the onus on the parties undertaking the activity. How they retrain is a matter for the trail hunts themselves. We believe it's right to reduce as far as possible the risk of foxes or any wild animal being accidentally chased.

Unlicensed hunts

Are you aware of reports of trail hunts using our land without licences? What are you doing to stop them?
We take any reports of unlicensed trail hunts on our land very seriously and we seek urgent clarification from the relevant trail hunts. In prior years we've declined to issue, have suspended, or have revoked trail hunting licences when either licence conditions have been breached or where we have lost confidence in a trail hunt’s ability to adhere to the conditions.

Trail hunts understand that they need to apply for a licence if they use Trust land. The majority of trail hunts are responsible and recognise the importance of working with us to ensure this lawful activity takes place in a safe way, within the law. Clearly, it is unacceptable to disregard the long established rules and wilfully disregard landowners.

Will you take legal action if this continues?
We take any validated reports of such incidents seriously and they are considered on a case by case basis dependant on the available facts. 

Are you just ignoring the unlicensed trail hunts? 
No. Our staff record any incidents where unlicensed trail hunts take place. We then decide what action to take as a result and on a case by case basis, having consideration to our obligations as a charity. In the recent cases we're aware of we have asked the hunts for an explanation.

Trail hunt routes

Has the National Trust performed a 'U-turn' on issuing trail hunt locations since its commitment in August to publish specific routes?
We've always required trail hunts to be transparent and provide details of where and when the activity will take place. Our new licensing terms reinforce this principle.

Website information will include dates and maps of the licensed areas through which routes will pass. This will provide the level of transparency our visitors need to make an informed decision over whether or not they want to avoid or see a trail hunt in that area on certain days of the year.

However, we do not want to encourage or create a climate of confrontation between trail hunt followers or protestors. Concerns have been raised over public safety and the potential for disorder. Following discussions, including with the police, we took the decision not to publish details of start and end points, or specific routes. We were open about this at the time and have consistently referred to it in public statements.

Where will you publish information?
As a charity with five million members, we believe we should be transparent and share information of public interest in an easily accessible way. 

We're publishing on our website the area over which the trail hunt is licensed to take place, together with the dates on which it will take place. We're not proposing to publish starting or end points, specific routes and times.

Licensing procedures

How do you intend to monitor the trail hunting you licence?
We are intending to monitor hunts using existing staff, employing new staff and contractors where required, to carry out the random scent sampling and activity spot-checks for those trail hunts that we licence during 2018/19. If any of the terms of our new licence agreements are proven to have been breached during these checks, we’ll take strong, immediate action with the relevant hunt.

How do hunts apply for licences to trail hunt on National Trust land?  How long do you take to fully consider each application?
Any hunt that wishes to apply for a licence to trail hunt on our land will need to contact their local estate manager in the first instance. An application form will then be issued by the estate manager for the hunt to complete and return alongside a number of supporting documents – such as proof  of insurance and written permissions from tenants.

These documents are then reviewed along with the potential impacts on our conservation and access objectives in order to determine whether a licence will be issued. There's no set timeframe in which a decision will be made. 

Under what circumstances do you suspend trail hunt licences?
Any potential breaches in our licensing regime are taken very seriously. We may suspend or revoke licences when we suspect conditions have been broken or where we have lost confidence in a trail hunt’s ability to adhere to the conditions.

We will always establish the facts from all relevant parties before concluding any investigation. We will not go into detail over specific allegations against hunts.

What if any of your tenants give permission for a trail hunt without your knowledge?
We keep in regular contact with our tenant farmers. Since the creation of trail hunting post-2004 Hunting Act, we've led on  licensing this type of outdoor activity - tenants have never been the licensor. Hunts need to seek permission from the Trust directly but we also ask hunts to gain tenant’s consent for any trail hunt likely to cross their occupied land. We've tightened rules so that  tenant farmer permission is in writing, not anecdotal.

How many hunts did you licence in 2016?
We issued 79 annual licences to applicants last year. We've invited applications for this year’s activity and a list of issued licences can be found on our website.

How are hunt meets on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day licensed?

The hunt meets that take place at some National Trust sites do so under strict conditions. Even when no trail hunt is planned, hunts must still apply for an activity licence to access our land. We only grant this licence after assessing the potential impact on conservation or visitor access.  

As these meets are just ceremonial events, with any trail hunting happening on land that we do not manage, these activity licences do not mirror all of the details in our trail hunting licences.

However, should these groups intend to use our land for trail hunting, they must apply separately for our standard trail hunting licence, and the details of their planned event will be published on our website.

Have the Warwickshire Hunt been granted a trail hunting licence?
The Warwickshire Hunt have been granted a trail hunting licence, for Mondays and Thursday during January and February 2018. The hunt have signed up to our new licence agreement and assure us that they understand the revised terms and conditions and intend to operate within them.

A winter view of the Vale of Edale

List of licensed trail hunts 

See where licensed trail hunts taking place and maps of the areas concerned.