Protests held at National Trust sites
Campaigners against fox hunting have held protests at National Trust sites across the country.
They are concerned that the National Trust allows so-called 'trail hunts' on its land, where hounds are supposedly following a scent - but many wild animals, including foxes, hares and even deer, end up being chased and killed at these events.
National Dis-Trust, which campaigns against hunting on National Trust land, worked with local groups for a day of protest on Sunday, which saw hundreds of people turn out.
Among the demonstrations at 17 locations, National Dis-Trust teamed up with Somerset Wildlife Crime to protest at Dunster Castle; with Weymouth Animal Rights at Kingston Lacy House and Gardens; with Cheshire Against the Cull at Little Moreton Hall, Congleton; and with Grantham Against Bloodsports at Woolsthorpe Manor.
Trail hunting has long been suspected of being a cover for illegal hunting by campaigners against bloodsports - but the National Trust used proxy votes to narrowly defeat a motion to ban it last October, despite an online petition gaining 175,000 signatures in support of the move.
A spokesperson for National Dis-Trust said: "We joined 24 other wildlife protection organisations to protest the continuation of so-called trail hunting licences being issued to fox hunts on National Trust land as part of a wider, and rapidly growing, campaign against criminal bloodsports.
"The protests are just one of many actions planned to raise public awareness of illegal hunting on Trust land. The hunting season is now drawing to a close, and the Trust needs to take stock of their untenable situation; the hunts they have licensed have repeatedly been exposed in the national press for illegally hunting foxes.
"It is well past time that they recognise what is obvious to so many people and stop issuing these farcical licences."
The National Trust, explaining its position on trail hunting here, insisted it "does not allow illegal hunting on its land, and anyone who suspects illegal activity should report it to the police".
A spokesperson added: "We have been carefully listening to both sides of a highly polarised and passionate debate around trail hunting for years.
"People have the legal right to organise demonstrations and express their views. We accept these protests on our land, provided they are respectful and do not interfere with conservation or access for our visitors."Eduardo Goncalves, Chief Executive at the League against Cruel Sports, claimed the National Trust had "ignored the will of their members to block the vote to ban trail hunting on their land".
He added: "They claimed they would regulate and monitor trail hunting on their land, but this hasn't materialised, with several hunts already being spotted carrying on as normal.
"If they have any respect for their members or their reputation, they will take this issue more seriously than they are at present, because people don't want animals being killed for fun on land which is meant to be protected for all of us."
The National Trust's current Chief Operating Office, Hilary McGrady, has been promoted to Director-General - a post she takes up on March 12.
The National Dis-Trust spokesperson said: "It will be up to her whether she endorses the existing policy of defending wildlife crime, or whether she brings the Trust into a modern era that should be opposing bloodsports at every opportunity."