National Trust members to vote on trail hunting ban on estates
National Trust members are voting on proposals to ban legal "trail hunting" on the organisation's land.
Members who have put forward the resolution calling on the National Trust not to permit trail hunting - in which a scent is laid for hounds and the hunt to follow - say the practice is allowing illegal hunting of foxes, deer and other animals with dogs.
They have also raised concerns about damage from hunting to wider wildlife and landscapes on Trust land in England and Wales.
But the charity's board of trustees said new measures are being brought in for licensing legal hunts, including forbidding laying fox-based scents which can lead to foxes being accidentally hunted.
As well as meeting its conservation aims, the National Trust should look for ways to "welcome people and to work to accommodate users from as broad a range of constituencies as possible" on its land, the trustees said.
They said the revised process for licensing trail hunts would allow the Trust to meet both aims, and have urged members to vote against the resolution at the charity's annual general meeting in Swindon on Saturday.
Since the ban on hunting with dogs came into force in 2005, the National Trust has licensed legal trail hunting on its land as one of number of activities it allows.
The Trust said it monitored the activities it licensed and over the last five years had taken action against trail hunts on six occasions.
Last year 79 licences were issued to 67 hunts for use of National Trust land.
Anti-hunt campaigners are gathering outside the AGM to support the vote to ban trail hunting, exempt hunting and exercising hounds on Trust land.
Philippa King, acting chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The National Trust claims no illegal hunting takes place on their land but we believe they are either being deceived or not paying attention."
She said the League Against Cruel Sports had produced more than 400 pages of reports and evidence to support the motion.
"The National Trust is a treasured institution which does wonderful work, but it has allowed itself to be embarrassed by the hunting fraternity. Sadly the National Trust is encouraging its members not to support the motion."
But a spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance said: "There is no evidence to suggest that hunts are breaking the law - there has not been a single successful prosecution of a hunt trail-hunting across National Trust land since the inception of the Hunting Act in February 2005.
"The National Trust was set up exactly to preserve the cultural heritage of our country that hunts represent.
"From Cumbria to Cornwall hunts have been an intrinsic part of rural life for hundreds of years and they remain just that."