Grant Shapps is anti-hunting. Will he do the right thing and ban fox hunting on MoD land?

On 31 August, Grant Shapps was appointed as the new defence secretary. Protect the Wild is urging Shapps to use his power to ban hunting on Ministry of Defence (MoD) land.

A number of major landowners, such as the National Trust, have already banned hunting from taking place on their land. They have acknowledged that hunts consistently break the law, murdering foxes and other wildlife. Yet under former defence secretary Ben Wallace, the MoD refused to do the same.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) is an operating arm of the MoD, and is responsible for the MoD’s estate. It grants trail hunting licences on Salisbury Plain to the Royal Artillery Hunt (RAH) and the Tedworth Hunt, which chase foxes, and the Wiltshire and Infantry Beagles, which chase hares.

A minister against fox hunting

Under Wallace, the MoD was likely never going to change its stance and ban hunting. As we previously covered, former army officer Wallace has previously defended “the right of people to hunt foxes“. He has been complicit in hiding the illegal activities of the Royal Artillery Hunt (RAH), which describes itself as “the only remaining military hunt in the UK”.

But will anything change under Shapps? For a start, the man isn’t a former military officer, so likely doesn’t have the same affiliation with the military officers who ride with the RAH.

While Shapps has voted in support of the badger cull, he has been publicly vocal about being against fox hunting. Back in 2017 he tweeted:

Indeed, back in 2015, Shapps indicated that he would rebel against an attempt to repeal the Hunting Act under the David Cameron government. And then in 2017, when Theresa May proposed holding a vote to making fox hunting legal again, Shapps said:

“It’s absolute insanity to start talking about passing and changing fox hunting laws, what an Earth was that about?”

We urge Shapps to actually look at the evidence

As defence secretary, Shapps has overall responsibility for the MoD, so presumably has a say in what the DIO’s policies are on the use of MoD land. Unlike his predecessor and his colleagues, we urge him to actually look at the evidence that is being presented clearly to him.

In May 2023, MP James Cartlidge, who works as a defence minister for the MoD, sent us a letter in response to our petition, which urges the MoD to ban hunting. He said:

“Whilst I understand the concerns of raised by your members, I can confirm that the terms of the MoD licence are clear, that only trail hunting and drag hunting carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Act are permitted; anything else, including the hunting of foxes with dogs would be a breach of licence but, more importantly, contravene the Hunting Act 2004. Licences are not issued for any activities that would contravene the hunting Act…”

We have clearly shown Cartlidge and the MoD that licences ARE being issued for activities that contravene the Hunting Act, but they are choosing not to listen to us. In typical politician fashion, they ignore the question – which is, why are they continuing to allow illegal hunting? – completely.

Hunt Saboteurs and monitors have shown time and time again that illegal hunting is consistently happening on MoD land. There’s eye witness evidence, as well as plenty of photo and video evidence (see here, here, or here, as just a few examples). Shapps and his department have a duty not to ignore this evidence, especially as the public pays their wages, and particularly because hundreds of thousands of public money was spent on refurbishing the RAH’s kennels.


royal artillery hunt salisbury plain


Protect the Wild spoke to Salisbury Plain Monitors, a group on the ground which captures evidence of illegal hunting on MoD land. We asked them whether Shapps should take action and ban the RAH and other hunts. The group stated:

“Most major landowners have stopped ‘trail hunting‘ as it is known as a smokescreen for illegal hunting. The MoD Police and CPS considered evidence of illegal hunting as sufficient for prosecution against the Royal Artillery Hunt on Salisbury Plain. The hunt repeatedly admits killing foxes ‘by accident‘ following our evidence. Numerous times police action has been taken, including for breach of byelaws for chasing deer. On top of this, Royal Artillery Hunt dogs are either out of control, a danger to the public, or are blatantly hunting. For credibility Grant Shapps needs to take action and stop this abuse.”

Urge Shapps to take action

It is clear that the MoD has until now ignored the evidence right under its nose. But with a minister in charge who is opposed to fox hunting, there is hope for change. On top of this, Protect the Wild has already reported on how the DIO is becoming more and more frustrated with the Royal Artillery Hunt’s use of MoD land.

Join us to urge Shapps and the MoD to make the correct choice. Please sign the petition, calling for the DIO to stop issuing trail hunting licences to the RAH and other hunts. Almost 25,000 people have signed so far: help us get to 30,000.