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Cornwall councillors speak up for hunting

Another bid to end trail hunting on council-owned land is likely to be rebuffed, with members highlighting hunts’ contribution to rural life

Trail hunting is a major contributor to the rural economy in areas such as Devon and Cornwall

Cornwall Council is likely to rebuff a petition seeking to have trail hunting banned on its land following a vote on 19 January. The official result will not be announced for several weeks, but commentators suggest it is “quite clear” which way it is likely to go.

Speaking against the petition, Conservative councillor David Harris said: “Trail hunting is a pursuit of all types of people and a major contributor to the rural economy.” His position was backed by independent councillor Paul Wills — “proudly wearing” a Cornish hunting tartan tie for the occasion — who said he believed in “the tradition and the right of people to carry out lawful pursuits in their everyday activities”.

He asked: “If we ban lawful activities such as trial hunting on council land, do we also ban lawful activities such as rambling, horse riding and cross-country running?”

Councillor Wills proceeded to make a staunch defence of Cornish hunts and condemned attempts by “pressure groups” to dictate council policy. Representatives of the council’s political party groups each spoke in turn, with even the Green Party representative speaking against a ban. Only Labour members gave any support for the petition, with the lukewarm suggestion that a public consultation be launched.

A council spokesman told Shooting Times: “The council recognises that the trail-hunting issue generates strong feelings on both sides of the debate. Government has enacted legislation on the matter and we would expect all local hunts to abide by the law. Anyone who has concerns regarding any potentially illegal activities taking place should contact the police for them to investigate.

“Members recognised that any decision on whether to ban trail hunting on Cornwall Council-owned land is an executive decision. The council leader will take on board the opinions aired by members during the debate to determine next steps.”

Trying to pressure councils into banning hunting on their land has been an increasingly popular tactic of groups seeking to capitalise on the fallout of the trial of Mark Hankinson (News, 27 October 2021). Last year, Cheshire West and Chester Council voted to ban hunting on council-owned land. In November, councillor Alison Dalziel proposed a similar motion at a meeting of North Northamptonshire Council; her motion was defeated. Bolsover District Council also rejected a proposed ban, as did the town councils of Ledbury, Battle and Oakham.

So far, Sleaford and Keswick are the only town councils to have passed a ban that has had any effect.