Update from the National Trust’s AGM

Members of the League – who are also members of the National Trust – put forward a resolution to the Trust’s Annual General Meeting earlier today, calling on the Trust to publish on its website the dates, times and locations of all sporting activities (including hunting) licensed to take place on National Trust land. This would bring the Trust in line with the Ministry of Defence and the Forestry Commission, for example, both of whom provide us with the information we need to ensure we can observe hunts on their land.

And if evidence were needed of the importance of this resolution, consider this: the traditional hunting season is barely two weeks old and already we have passed one file to the police concerning illegal hunting on National Trust land and one more file is in preparation. Don’t believe for a second that the hunts are behaving themselves.

Our Chief Executive, Douglas Batchelor, proposed the motion and it was seconded by Ivor Annetts. Both spoke passionately from the floor of the AGM (you can watch online here – jump to the ‘Members resolution’ chapter point). Another League staff member, sat elsewhere in the hall, was very aware of mixed opinions present. The entire row behind him applauded vigorously when Douglas finished speaking, whilst the couple in front remarked “facking vegans” as he left the stage [he’s not a vegan, by the way].

Laurie Magnus, the Trust’s Deputy Chairman, then responded on behalf of the board, and stated that the Trust is very clear that illegal activity is not allowed on Trust land. But he then lost the point, and started to make all manner of odd comments about NT staff and volunteers being arbiters of the law, when the resolution said nothing of the sort. Perhaps it’s because he has a supporter base in the hunting community, evidenced by a pro-bloodsports group who urged its members to vote for him in the NT elections.

There then followed an opportunity for members of the Trust to comment on either side of the debate. Comments were almost entirely negative and almost all missed the point completely. A show of hands led the Chairman (pro-hunt) to conclude that the motion had been ‘comprehensively rejected’ although it then went to a vote. The results of that vote, announced later in the day, were that of the 29,000 member votes cast on the matter, there were only 500 more votes against than in favour. The Chairman’s 6,000 or so proxy votes were added to those against the resolution. The total number of votes represents roughly 1% of the National Trust’s membership.

But all is not lost for the League and indeed, the new licence for hunting on National Trust land changes things considerably as information now has to be provided to any member of the public who requests it. You can read the full details on the League website, but essentially the story is that whilst the resolution process was in planning, other members of the League’s staff were engaged in dialogue with the National Trust through which a change in the licence was agreed, and hence, regardless of the fact that the resolution was lost, we still now have a right to the information we have requested.

The challenge – and it is a challenge – is for us to collate that information from various sources on a weekly basis. But we won’t be resting on our laurels. The process of gathering that information starts on Monday. And you can be assured that we will build a dossier of evidence of hunts taking place on National Trust land outside of the licence conditions – and we’ll be back at the National Trust in future years to show this and demand action to stop hunters riding roughshod over National Trust rules in the same way that many of them do the law.

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