Chatsworth urged to ban trail hunting on its land as ‘smokescreen’ claims probed by police
Chatsworth Estate has been urged to stop trail hunting on its land – while police investigate online conferences discussing the practice.
The law allows trail hunting which is where hounds or beagles follow a scent along a pre-determined route – effectively replicating a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed.
However, animal welfare campaigners say it is being used as a ‘smokescreen’ to allow real hunting of foxes to continue, which is illegal.
They have pointed to discussions in two leaked training webinars, hosted by the Hunting Council, which are now the focus of a police probe.
In light of this, several organisations – including Forestry England and the National Trust – have suspended licences for trail hunting on their land.
The Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs group said Chatsworth allows the Barlow Hunt on its land a few times a season – and called for this to be stopped.
Earlier this year, the Barlow Hunt insisted it ‘operates as a legal trail hunt within the parameters laid down by the Hunting Act’ after a fox was killed by hounds near Chesterfield.
A Chatsworth spokesperson said: “We do not permit any form of illegal activity on the Chatsworth Estate.
“Historically local hunts have been granted access to the estate to undertake a legal form of hunting, where dogs follow a scent trail that has been laid artificially.
“If we discovered evidence of any illegal activity, we would always report it to the police and provide any necessary support in subsequent investigations.”
A Sheffield Hunt Saboteurs spokesperson said: “Trail hunting has frequently been criticised as merely a cover up for chasing live animals, which is against the law.
“Opponents of hunting are now calling for the law to be strengthened so that trail hunting is no longer available as an excuse.”
The Barlow Hunt did not respond to our request for a comment.
Referring to the online conferences which are under police investigation, a Hunting Council spokesperson said: “The purpose of the webinars held in August was very clearly to facilitate legal hunting and any allegation that they were organised for any other purpose is completely incorrect.
“We will co-operate fully with the police.”