NATURAL Resources Wales (NRW) has banned trail hunting on its land after a senior huntsman was convicted of using the sport as a “smokescreen” for illegal fox hunting.

The Government-sponsored body, which manages large swathes of countryside and forest, follows in the footsteps of the National Trust, whose members voted to impose a ban in late October.

Trail hunting sees horse riders and hounds follow a pre-laid scent and is an alternative to fox hunting, which was banned in 2005.

Mark Hankinson, director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, told members of the Hunting Office that trail hunting could be used a “smokescreen” for a banned hunt, in two webinars in August 2020.

His illicit advice was exposed after saboteurs sent footage to police, and he was convicted of encouraging or assisting others to commit an offence after a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on October 15.

Hankinson was ordered to pay £3,500 in fines and court costs.

On Thursday, NRW said trail hunting would no longer be allowed on its land after its board decided not to renew the arrangement it had with the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

A spokesman for NRW said it had “lost confidence” in the association, and did not have the resources to ensure trail hunting was not being used as a cover for illegal activity.

Trail hunting had been suspended on NRW land since November 2020 after police began their investigation into Hankinson.


Dominic Driver, head of land stewardship for NRW, said: “We have carefully considered the court ruling and our role before coming to a decision at the board meeting, which we held in public session.

“The board has decided not to renew our agreement with the Masters of Foxhounds Association.

“The outcome of the court case against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organisation’s ability to ensure its activities are carried out within the law and terms of its agreement.

“In order to assure ourselves properly that trail hunting on our estate wasn’t being used as a cover for illegal activity, we would have to invest in skills and resources that we currently don’t have, to police it properly.

“Given what has historically been a minor use of the land we manage, this does not represent good use of our limited resources.

“As all trail hunting was managed under the same agreement, all trail hunting activity on the NRW-managed estate will end with immediate effect.”