AN ANIMAL welfare charity has urged the National Trust to cancel a trail hunting licence for the Sugar Loaf, near Abergavenny, calling it a “barbaric practice”.

Trail hunting involves people on foot or horseback following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds or beagles, mirroring the traditional hunt without a fox being chased, injured or killed. Hunting real wild animals with dogs has been illegal in Wales and England since 2005, and in Scotland since 2003.

But pressure group the League Against Cruel Sports say trail hunting “has been widely dismissed as a fraudulent activity that is used as a cover-up for the illegal pursuit of foxes” - and have protested against a licence issued to the Monmouthshire Hunt, covering the Sugar Loaf mountain in Monmouthshire, which is owned by the National Trust.


Chris Luffingham, the organisation's director of campaigns said: “It’s time the National Trust stopped allowing fox hunts on their land and got in line with the views of the general public, the vast majority of whom abhor this barbaric practice.

“The fox hunting ban is being flouted by the hunts, yet their contemptible behaviour is essentially being condoned by the National Trust when they issue trail hunting licences.”

The Monmouthshire Hunt's licence only allows them to carry out the activity on the Sugar Load four days a year - January 8, January 15, February 19 and February 26.

A spokeswoman for The National Trust said: “Any activity associated with the term hunting continues to provoke strong emotions on both sides of the debate.

“We recognise our approach will not satisfy everyone. Our charity’s core aim is to look after the places in our care and that remains our top priority when considering whether to licence any outdoor activity.

“This would be true whether it’s mountain biking or a food festival.

“The trust does licence trail hunting in some areas and at certain times of the year, where it is compatible with our aims of public access and conservation.

“Our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions will allow participants to undertake a version of this legal activity that’s compatible with our conservation aims.

“But our charity was also established for the nation’s benefit and to provide the widest spectrum of public access and enjoyment.

“We therefore always look to welcome people to our places and to host the broadest range of outdoor activities on our land. We believe this should include trail hunting, where it is consistent with our conservation aims and is legally pursued.”

Last Boxing Day, protestors clashed at The Tredegar Farmers' Boxing Day Hunt, leading the pub that hosts the 70 years old tradition – The Tredegar Arms in Bassaleg - to cancel it this year.

Mr Luffingham added: “It’s time for the National Trust to follow the positive examples of landowners such as the Woodland Trust, English Heritage and National Trust Scotland, which don’t issue trail hunting licences on land they manage.

“We are calling for the Hunting Act to be strengthened to close loopholes that allow activities such as trail hunting to be used as a cover for illegal hunting and to finally bring about an end to cruel sports in the UK.”

A spokesperson for the Monmouthshire Hunt commented: “The Monmouthshire Hunt is licensed by the National Trust to access their land.

"Under the terms of the licence the hunt is entitled to trail-hunt and exercise the hounds, activities which are completely legal.

"The vote to ban trail-hunting on National Trust land was rejected by its members at the Trust’s AGM in 2017. Since then the Trust has implemented a strict monitoring programme to ensure hunts are complying with the terms of their licence and this is much welcomed by the Monmouthshire.

“It is 14 years since the Hunting Act was enforced yet there have been just 27 convictions under the Hunting Act 2004 relating to registered hunts, despite more than a quarter of a million days hunting having taken place by over 250 hunts during this time.

"These figures do not suggest that hunts are breaking the law and is confirmation that the infrastructure of hunting remains an integral part of the countryside and is here to stay.”