Hunting’s so-called governing body, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA) has spent the summer trying to promote the smokescreen of trail hunting.
The BHSA has published several poorly produced videos, taken at country shows, which purport to show ‘trail hunting’ in action. These typically show an individual laying a trail as they jog or cycle around a showring. The hounds are then laid on to follow the trail.
In fact, this spectacle bears no relationship whatsoever to the process of ‘trail hunting’ as described by the BHSA on their own website, which states that “the Huntsman and followers often do not know where any of the trails have been laid, so that the days hunting will mimic its realistic form.”
Similarly, the Countryside Alliance’s advice is that “the less that the followers, or even the huntsman, know of the route of the trail, the more the hunting will mimic its traditional and challenging form.”
The deceit of ‘trail hunting’ is built around hunts pretending to have laid trails, so that the huntsman always has an alibi when actually seeking out and hunting foxes.
Put simply: the reason trail hunting “mimics” fox hunting is because it is fox hunting!
In fact, the activity promoted by the BHSA this summer is identical to that described by ex-Masters of Foxhounds Association Director Mark Hankinson in the infamous leaked Hunting Office webinars.
Hankinson repeatedly urged his audience of hunt masters to overtly and performatively lay trails in front of the hounds and huntsman if the police or sabs were in attendance. He said,
“I think the most important thing that we need to bear in mind is that if you’ve got saboteurs out with you in any shape or form, we need to have clear visible plausible trail laying being done throughout the day. I don’t think it’s good enough just to have your huntsman ducking and diving trying to just give them the slip and leaving it at that, we need to have very clear evidence of trail laying.”
“A lot of people in the past have tried to say, ‘Oh, we laid trails earlier’ or ‘we laid them the day before’ – in a situation where you’ve got saboteurs out or antis or whatever that’s not really going to work too well. We need to have clear and visible trail laying going on on the day and it needs to be as plausible as possible.”
And, most famously…
“It’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating, and that is what it’s all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business.”
Another webinar presenter, ex-police officer and master of the Chilmark & Clifton Foot Beagles Paul Jelley, specifically recommended that hunts hold a pre-season ‘trail hunting’ display for the purposes of producing evidence. He said:
“Something we used to do with the Beagles when I was in charge, hold a trail laying session right at the start of the season. No other reason, do it as part of a fund raiser, a social event or something, lay a trail around a couple of fields, let your hounds go, hunt it, record it but ideally have a few independent people, not necessarily hunting folk. Invite the local policemen along, you know, local farmers who aren’t hunting folk. You can use them in evidence if you happen to go to court later on in the year.”
Warning: Graphic Image
Thus, far from being evidence of the legitimacy of trail hunting, the BHSA videos show that hunts are still trying to promote performative trail laying as a smokescreen for fox and hare hunting.
An HSA spokesperson commented,
“With the BHSA being run from the same place, by the same people as the discredited Hunting Office, it is no surprise that they are peddling the same failed strategy of promoting so-called trail hunting. They don’t seem to realise that nobody believes their lies anymore – not the National Trust, not the Forestry Commission, not United Utilities, and certainly not Scottish Government, who specifically banned trail hunting in their recent Hunting with Dogs (Scotland) Bill. Everybody now knows that ‘trail hunting’ is a lie – a smokescreen to hide the hunting of foxes and other wildlife.”