In 2004 the passing of the Hunting Act made fox hunting illegal. Since then hunts have claimed to be following artificial scent trails rather than deliberately hunting wild mammals. This is nothing but a lie.

Trail hunting is a smokescreen used as a means to continue to illegally hunt wild foxes. Indeed, in November 2020 hunting official Mark Hankinson along with other senior hunters spoke of this ‘smokescreen’ during a Hunting Office webinar which was leaked to the public. You can read more about these now infamous webinars at the bottom of this page.

In 2022 Protect the Wild released the ‘A Trail of Lies’ animation to expose this smokescreen once and for all. Narrated by Chris Packham, the film documents key moments in the campaign to end fox hunting for good.

However, don’t just take our word for it.

In 2021/22 we supported the Hunt Investigation Team in two ground-breaking exposés in which both the Beaufort Hunt and VWH Hunt proved beyond any doubt that ‘trail hunting’ is nothing but a lie.

The Beaufort Hunt hound shooting exposé

The footage secured from the investigation is the first time that a hunt has ever been caught on camera shooting their hounds, but this is not to say that the incident is a one off.

It is yet further proof of the ‘trail hunt’ lies. If hunts were genuinely following trails there would be no need for them to kill young hounds in this manner.

Read more about this investigation here.

The VWH exposé

On January 5th, 2022, Protect The Wild supported the Hunt Investigation Team (HIT) with their first investigation of the year, which saw the Vale of White Horse Hunt deliberately and intentionally hunting a fox. The below footage is what was captured (not graphic).

You can read more about this investigation here.

The leaked Hunting Office webinars

November 2020
HSA release leaked Hunting Office webinars
October 2021
Mark Hankinson found guilty of telling others how to illegally hunt
July 2022
Mark Hankinson wins his appeal against the conviction

“it’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating”

In November 2020, the Hunt Saboteur Association released leaked webinars hosted by the Hunting Office (the central organisation which is delegated to run the administrative, advisory and supervisory functions of the Hunting Associations)

The now infamous videos showed showed Hankinson, who was then Director of the Masters of Fox Hounds Association, encouraging fellow hunters to break the law. In one video, Hankinson admitted how trail hunting could be used as a smokescreen for fox hunting. He said:

“it’s a lot easier to create a smokescreen if you’ve got more than one trail layer operating and that is what it is all about, trying to portray to the people watching that you’re going about your legitimate business.”

Another participant in the webinars, Phil Davies (Countryside Alliance police liaison officer) said the following:

“Now you know more about hunting than the saboteurs or courts will know but what it [laying a trail] will do is create that smokescreen or that element of doubt that we haven’t deliberately hunted a fox, so if nothing else you need to record that and it will help us provide a defence to huntsman.”

“what it will do is create that smokescreen or that element of doubt that we haven’t deliberately hunted a fox”

Following the public release of the webinars, Mark Hankinson, was charged with intentionally encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence under the 2004 Hunting Act, contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007 and was found guilty following a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

In this case Judge Tan Ikram, deputy chief magistrate for England and Wales, said the following:

“…all the words of the others are relevant because it tells me something about the events he was speaking at and the ‘overall agenda’ in which he was also speaking. I do make clear that the Defendant is to be judged wholly on what he said but others’ words , in my view, provide context to what he said.”

“In my judgment, he was clearly encouraging the mirage of trail laying to act as cover for old fashioned illegal hunting. Whilst he didn’t use overt words, he implied it again and again.”

“Perhaps most incriminating is his direction and advice that trail laying has to be ‘as plausible as possible.’ The only reasonable interpretation of those words leads to the conclusion that a need to make something plausible is only necessary if it is a sham and a fiction.”

“It was clearly advice and encouragement to commit the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog. I am sure he intended to encourage the commission of that offence.”

“it was clearly advice and encouragement to commit the offence of hunting a wild mammal with a dog”

At the appeal hearing, Judge Gregory Perrins agreed that Hankinson’s words could be construed to mean he was instructing hunts how to break the law. However, he was not satisfied that there was enough evidence to suggest Hankinson fully intended this meaning, and his conviction was ultimately overturned.

Following the judgement, Protect the Wild CEO Rob Pownall said:

“Today’s judgement is incredibly disappointing, but when it comes to the sham that is trail hunting and public opinion of the sick pastime of fox hunting, nothing has changed. We will continue to expose those who break the law and persecute wildlife, and we hope that landowners and decision makers continue to see trail hunting for what it is.”