National Trust criticised after hunting licence issued at Sussex site

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The National Trust is being urged to cancel its controversial new hunting licence issued for the Woolbeding Countryside by a leading animal welfare charity to 'prevent wild animals being chased and killed by hounds."

The League Against Cruel Sports said it had written to management of the Woolbeding Countryside Estate in a bid to persuade the conservation body to block those seeking to hunt wildlife on its land. They also asked the estate to explain how they are going to prevent hunts from killing animals on their land.

A National Trust spokesperson said: "Hunting wild animals was made illegal in England and Wales in 2004; National Trust land is no exception. We licence trail hunting under certain conditions designed to allow participants to take part in this activity where they are compatible with our conservation aims.

“Anybody who uses our land must comply with the law, regardless of whether they do so under our licence conditions or under rights retained when the property was transferred to the Trust.

“Any potential breaches in our licensing regime are taken very seriously. We may suspend or revoke licences when we suspect conditions have been broken or where we have lost confidence in a trail hunt’s ability to adhere to the conditions.”

Chris Luffingham, director of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "The Woolbeding Countryside estate is a local treasure which showcases British nature at its best. Allowing a hunt to trample across the land, taking part in an activity which many people believe involves the killing of animals, completely goes against that philosophy.

"With over 85 per cent of the public opposing all forms of hunting wild animals with hounds — including a considerable number of National Trust members and visitors to properties like the Woolbeding Countryside — it is high time the conservation body provided protection to wildlife by stopping licensing on its land."

In a letter to the National Trust, the Leagues cites how horses, hounds and followers and being granted free access to parts of the area which includes a nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The League said that monitoring by wildlife protection organisations have revealed how hunts granted access to National Trust estates are pursuing fox, hare and deer 'under the guise of following a trail.'

Chris added: "It's sad that this licence has been issued. But now it's been done, the National Trust estate need to show their members and the public how they will ensure that animals are safe on their land. We need to hear from them as to exactly how they will prevent foxes being killed by the hunt.

"Giving hunts 24 hours' notice that they will be watched is like telling a burglar which house is being staked out by the police. It's a nonsense and reflects the half-hearted and ineffectual way in which the National Trust has approached this serious problem."