THE GROUP which looks after the Malvern Hills has defended claims its new guidelines for trail hunting will ‘effectively ban’ the sport from the area.
Following a public consultation and discussions with a number of pro and anti-hunting groups, the Malvern Hills Trust – formerly the Conservators – has produced a new set of rules which will restrict the activities of trail hunts.
Hunts and hounds are prohibited from entering the ‘main spine of the hills’ while the latter must also stay clear from undergrowth and thickets where foxes are likely to be.
Written permission, at least a month in advance, will be needed to conduct a hunt and only four visits will be allowed to the Hills and Commons each year.
Jordi Casamitjana, head of policy and research at the League Against Cruel Sports, which contributed to the consultation, said the guidelines could have the same effect as a complete ban on trail hunts as hunters will no longer be able to claim ignorance if they kill an animal.
He added this would result in hunts not using the land anymore.
However, a statement from the Malvern Hills Trust said this would not be the case.
“We are not seeking, through our Hunting Policy, to effectively ban trail hunting from our land,” said a trust spokesperson.
“The revised policy approved by the board now provides clarification for hunt organisers on what is permitted on land under the jurisdiction of the Malvern Hills Trust.
“This is to ensure there are no breaches of our bylaws, that the landscape and habitats are protected and visitors can enjoy the Hills and Commons.”
Fox hunting was banned in 2004 but there are close to 200 hunting groups across the country which use an artificial scent in the practice known as trail hunting, with Ledbury Hunt, Croome & West Warwickshire Foxhounds and Farmers Bloodhounds using the land on the Malvern Hills.
Donald Haden, spokesman for Ledbury Hunt, said: “The revised Hunting Policy will make little or no difference and we expect to continue operating much as we have done in the past.”
Lynn Sawyer, of the Three Counties Hunt Saboteurs, hailed the new Malvern Hills Trust guidelines and told the Observer they will prevent hunters from ‘blatantly’ going after foxes.
“Hunts will now have to conform or face a ban from the Malvern Hills altogether,” she said.