The Hunting Act 2004 has made it illegal (except under certain exemptions, always requiring the landowner’s specific consent) for anyone intentionally to allow a dog to chase or hunt a wild mammal. This covers most wild mammals, including deer, foxes, otters and hares. The legal position does allows hunts to operate by following a predetermined course on which hunts can lay a trail - known as drag hunting.
What is Somerset Wildlife Trust’s position on field sports?
The main purpose of Somerset Wildlife Trust’s work is to conserve, enhance and restore wildlife habitats and populations of species across the UK. It is therefore our charitable objects that define our perspective on field sports and hunting. We do not allow field sports on our nature reserves except in rare instances where other people control the shooting or fishing rights. We do not allow the hunting of any animal with dogs on any land that we own. Applications made for consent to lay a drag or scent trail across our nature reserves are also refused.
Campaigning against field sports on animal welfare grounds is not within our own charitable remit, but we do appreciate that for many people, “welfare” and “conservation” combine to form part of their own personal values in terms of how they wish society to live alongside the natural world. We raise concerns, and sometimes oppose aspects of field sports, in the wider countryside where they have a damaging impact on the conservation of populations of wild plants or animals, or fragile habitats. For example, recently as part of the Wildlife Trust movement we have supported proposals to phase out the use of lead ammunition in shooting, and raised concerns about the impact of moorland management (for grouse shooting) in the uplands.
What can you do?
We encourage members that feel strongly on the issue of field sports, to contact their MP with their views. The Trust manages over 1700 hectares of land, so it is hard for us to know what’s happening on every reserve 24/7. If you witness hunting with dogs on our land – or any other wildlife crime - please notify us and the police immediately, and help us ensure our nature reserves remain the preserve of wildlife. Click here for more information about how to report a wildlife crime.