The problem with telling a lie is that you often have to cover it up with another, then another and another. Before you know it, you have a whole pack of lies running out of control!
This is exactly the situation the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) and the Countryside Alliance (CA) have got themselves into over trail hunting.
On the eve of the Hunting Act becoming law on 19th February 2005, CA CEO Tim Bonner told the Daily Telegraph that hunts would switch to trail hunting, explaining that: “To everyone looking at what is happening on the 19th it will look, sound and smell just like hunting did before.”
The central idea – repeated for years by the MFHA and CA – is that the huntsman would have no idea where the trail was laid. This meant they could go anywhere and do anything while claiming they were looking for or following a trail.
Within weeks of the ban, hunt sabs realised that trail hunting was a pack of lies. No trail layer was ever seen but, somehow, miles of ‘trails’ were magically laid up hill and down dale before every hunt. Yes, Tim, it did look exactly like foxhunting – because that is what it was.
Then – a couple of years ago – things started to change. Sabs began to see a strange form of performance art unfold at some hunts. Hunt supporters on quad bikes, horses or even on foot – often dressed in ‘trail layer’ tabards – would make a point of laying trails in front of sabs and any police who were present. Needless to say, these are always ignored by the hounds.
Of course, such overt trail laying activity completely contradicts the central tenet of trail hunting as described by the MFHA and CA since 2005: the huntsman very obviously would know where any trail was and so the whole exercise is rendered pointless.
The extensive use of quad bikes is particularly absurd. Hunting literature is full of warnings about how vehicle exhaust fumes mask a fox’s scent; the exhaust from a trail-laying quad would completely obliterate a laid trail. But why let an obvious fact get in the way of yet another lie?
It was only when the infamous Hunting Office training webinars were leaked last year that it all made sense.
Firstly, the webinars revealed that overt trail laying is the latest desperate strategy to provide a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal hunting. Secondly, they showed that the hunter’s insurance company – AXA – insist that all hunts must have ‘credible photographic or video evidence’ of trail laying to claim on the policy. Overt trail laying, then, is a none-too-subtle performance designed to deceive the police, the public and even an insurance company.
None of this has been lost on the National Trust who have wisely “taken the decision to pause trail hunting” on their land. At their AGM in October, National Trust members will have the chance to make turn this “pause” into a permanent ban.
So, please remember…trail hunting – in all its forms – is a pack of lies.