By Ben O’Rourke
A handful of League Against Cruel Sports supporters waved banners and shouted slogans as members of the National Trust made their way into the organisations annual general meeting at Harrogate convention centre on Saturday.
LACS was hoping they would vote for a ban on trail hunting on Trust land, which they did. However, so few members bothered to vote for the ban, it was basically insignificant and is non-binding. Fewer supported the ban than did in 2017, the last time the Trust voted on the issue.
“Approximately 2% of the National Trust members decided to even vote on this issue, so it’s really not a matter of concern to the 6 million members,” said Polly Portwin of Countryside Alliance.
That didn’t stop the LACS group from hugging each other and jumping around in excitement, relishing their apparent victory.
The fact the vote was even held is seen as the latest phase of “wokeness” by the trust, which has seen membership fall off and volunteers esign because of its obsession with trying to be politically correct. The trust’s original aim was to “preserve our historical and natural places”, but increasingly it’s being accused of bending a knee to political groups and writing its own version of UK history, putting the personal lives of influential people above the contributions they made to society.
As a result, the board of the National Trust to end its system of licences for hunts on its land. The Countryside Alliance says only a few hunts will be affected by a ban. As of 2020, one pack had a licence to trail hunt on National Trust land. In 2019, 14 packs were licensed. The National Trust confirms that drag hunting will continue to be permitted and packs can continue to apply for licences. And, as the vote shows, few people care.
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner says: “The National Trust’s decision breaks a fundamental principle. The charity claims to be ‘for everyone, forever’ but by prohibiting a legal activity it has decided it is actually just for those who its board approves of. The inability of trustees to differentiate between the legal use of hounds and the governance of hunting is extremely regrettable and breaks the basic principle of access to National Trust land for legitimate activities.”
Meanwhile, inside the AGM, the issue of volunteers led to heated exchanges, according to the Telegraph. The paper says around a quarter of the Trust’s 65,000 volunteers have quit because they felt the charity abandoned and ignored them.
A resolution demanding more respect for volunteers was narrowly dismissed, with the charity claiming there were no legal grounds for enforcing the measure since technically volunteers are not employees.
The charity blamed the pandemic for falling volunteer numbers, which it insisted were inflated due to a clerical error a few years ago.