CAMPAIGN: End Hunting on MoD land

Yesterday Protect the Wild launched a new petition-based campaign and a new animation: End Hunting on MoD (Ministry of Defence) Land. Within two hours our social media posts had been viewed almost 50k times, and by midday this morning over 5000 people had already signed our petition to the MoD calling on them to stop issuing ‘trail hunting’ licences and allowing hunts on their land.

Just as we did for last month’s animation “The Shooting Industry: It’s not just hunts that kill foxes” (which went viral and was viewed over a million times in its first three days), we thought that writing a blog post explaining why we launched this campaign would be of interest to our audience. An audience we’re proud to say is expanding every week!


Why are we targeting the MoD? A two-part answer.

Part One

So far the most frequent response from viewers of the new animation has been surprise that the MoD allows hunting on its land. Isn’t, many people ask, hunting banned, and why on earth is the MoD involved with it at all?

The simple answer to that first question is yes, hunting with hounds was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act 2004, but an exemption was shoehorned into the Act by pro-hunt parliamentarians which allowed so-called ‘trail hunting’.

In this version of hunting – which didn’t exist prior to the hunting ban and was only developed by hunts to buy time while they fought a losing battle for repeal – hunts (which look very like the hunts of old) take out packs of hounds (which look very like the packs of old) to follow a trail of artificial (but animal-based) scent across the countryside. Trails are almost never (if ever) laid, and while the dogs are not meant to chase animals – whoops, accidents happen. Especially when a pack of hounds that have been trained to chase foxes ‘happen’ to come across a fox…

Trail hunting is almost entirely discredited now (the leaked Hunting Office ‘smokescreen webinars’ saw to that), but it is currently still considered a ‘lawful activity’. So, hunting is banned, but not banned, and the MoD must follow the law…but we’ll come to that.


Charles Carter of RAH is told to return to kennels after chasing a fox

Charles Carter of RAH is told by police to return to kennels after chasing a fox on 13 November 2021. Photo by Salisbury Plain Monitors


Part Two

Now, clearly it takes a space far larger than a garden to accommodate a bunch of riders, a pack of hounds, and a febrile scruff of supporters who follow along to help the hunt make a kill. Which brings us to the second part of the answer. Hunts need land, and the MoD has land coming out of its ears. In fact, according to the governmentThe Ministry of Defence is one of the largest landowners in the country, operating over an estate approximately equal to 1.4% of the UK land mass“.

Which is a vast area but of course does leave a lot of land NOT operated over by the MoD. But most of the UK land mass is not suitable for hunting of course. Hunts need large, open areas, away from the public (who mostly detest hunting), and where foxes are plentiful (and hunts chase foxes no matter what they say). Land operated by an organisation like the National Trust, perhaps, which owns almost 2,500 km2 /970 sq mi of land and 780 miles of coastline?

After the publication of the ‘smokescreen webinars’ major landowning charities and public bodies like Forestry England, Natural Resources Wales, and the aforementioned National Trust all stopped issuing licences for so-called ‘trail hunting’. With the realisation that hunts were routinely breaking the law, and the Hunting Act making landowners liable for law-breaking, many farmers have stopped allowing hunts access to their land too.

Charles Carter and the RAH, Salisbury Plain. Photo by Salisbury Plain Monitors


Which makes the land that’s still available to hunts very important indeed. And one major landowner is still holding out. The Ministry of Defence.

Despite ample video evidence, report after report, and the first-hand observations of many sab groups and monitors (and special mention must go here to the Salisbury Plain Monitors and the Salisbury Plain Hunt Sabs (formerly known as the Moonrakers)) who have documented in detail law-breaking by Charles Carter and the notorious Royal Artillery Hunt), the MoD is still issuing licences for so-called ‘trail hunting’ on its land.

In fact, defence chiefs issued licences to 23 hunts to ‘trail hunt’ on 10 of the Armed Forces’ sites during the 2021/2022 season, and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) gave out 19 grants to hunts in the season before the pandemic struck, 26 in 2019 and 21 in 2018. The RAH even had their kennels refitted at taxpayers’ expense!

We think it’s time the MoD (to paraphrase their own recruitment slogan) realised their potential, looked at the evidence, stopped supporting illegal hunting, and banned the hunts from their land.



The petition


Our petition (which has been signed by another 400 people since I started this post) is a straightforward call to action: End Hunting on MoD Land.

The email it generates is not – as some people may have expected – going to Ben Wallace MP, the Secretary of State for Defence, but to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the DIO. Why? Mr Wallace has never shown any interest in stopping fox hunting, and in December last year he terminated a memorandum of understanding between the League Against Cruel Sports and the MoD which allowed for monitoring on Salisbury Plain.

Ironically, Wallace cited ‘security concerns as well the behaviour of protesters and their attire which is intimidating to other users’ as a reason. Ask the many dog walkers and members of the public who frequently come across the RAH and other hunts whether it’s monitors or the hunt which is the more intimidating, and the answer is clear.

So who is the DIO? They are ‘the estate expert for defence’. In other words, they manage the land the MoD operates on. And some members of staff are – as redacted emails clearly show – not impressed by the antics of the hunts they have been told to allow on to the estate…



It seems even the DIO has picked up on the term ‘smokescreen’ and is applying it to hunts using its land.

In truth, we have some sympathy for the DIO. Whatever our/your feelings are about the military, soldiers on the whole do have regard for concepts such as ‘honour’ and pride in what they stand for. Having a scoundrel like Charles Carter running over sabs, creeping around the Plain, and hunting illegally under the name of the Royal Artillery must be (to put it mildly) galling.

So sending tens of thousands of emails castigating the DIO for allowing something even they clearly don’t agree with just so the likes of Charles Carter and his cronies can act like the law doesn’t apply to them – well, that could just prod a decision-maker or two into action.

Talk about low-hanging fruit…



The animation

Once again, creating the animation (which you can see on Instagram or in full here) was a team effort. Working closely with artist and sound editor Ben Sinclair we sketched out ideas for a highly-focussed 45-second video which would highlight the role the MoD plays in facilitating or allowing illegal hunting to take place by licencing ‘trail hunting’ on their land.

We wanted to be explicit without being graphic. Shocking without being gratuitous. To send a powerful message to both the public and the military about what the reality of ‘trail hunting’ really is: law-breaking and cruelty.

We think that’s what we achieved, and are delighted that naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham has found time in an incredibly busy schedule to narrate the short script we’ve written. It takes guts to put your head above the parapet, and we’re very grateful to him.



What do we hope to achieve?

A MoD ban on hunts is entirely achievable.

Even though the RAH are yet again out on Salisbury Plain right now (and it’s one of Europe’s most important grasslands, let’s not forget, covered with SSSis and SACs, and full of declining ground-nesting birds like Skylarks which hunting and shooting lobbyists are so desperate to be associated with) the so-called hunting ‘season’ is just about over across the UK.


Now is precisely the time we need to persuade the MoD and the DIO that it would be entirely wrong to issue licences for 2023/2024.

Fewer and fewer people believe the lies that hunts tell. There is masses of evidence proving law-breaking, assault, vandalism of vehicles, and discourtesy to the general public readily available to anyone who wants to see it.

Hunts like the RAH do NOT have the right to act as if the Hunting Act or conservation of important sites and the biodiversity found there can be (literally) trampled over.

Together let’s convince the MoD and the DIO to do the right thing, step up, and rid their land of the scourge of hunting once and for all.