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Update from the MFHA Chairman

Further to my recent announcement that following a period of consultation, a revised governance structure is being introduced to improve the sustainability of hunting with hounds, I am writing to give you more information about these proposed changes to the governance of hunting.

A new Governing Body will be responsible for setting the standards and rules to which all members and member hunts must adhere. In addition, a separate Regulatory Authority will administer all regulation and disciplinary matters for members and member hunts, in accordance with the rules set by the Governing Body.

The development and delivery of this new Governing Body for all hunting activities continues and I wish to focus on the restructure. This one particular area is incredibly important in successfully correcting the perception of hunting and creating more opportunities to promote hunting and all the good it does in the countryside and rural community.

The restructure aims to ensure that hunting can be open and positive about its activities and provide consistency across all hunts while offering reassurance to other stakeholders, such as institutional landowners. It will be possible to openly demonstrate how hunting can adapt to meet the changing demands of modern society and correcting the misconceptions that exist surrounding our lawful activities.

Hunting’s reputation relies on every one of us upholding high standards and, with this in mind, the new Governing Body will be initiating a program of accreditation for hunts wishing to be registered with the organisation. This is not a new concept in the workplace, professional or any sporting spheres and will ensure members and registered hunts are operating to appropriate levels.

The new accreditation system will be introduced to validate the high standards of hunting activities in the field and animal welfare in hunt kennels, whilst individuals will have to show competency and professional conduct, undertaking training as required.

The accreditation process will work to specific criteria and standards with the differences in size, structure and type of hunt taken into consideration. The focus will be on each individual hunt’s viability, leadership and sustainability.

Assessment will be in the form of kennel visits, meetings with hunt staff and hunt officials, plus field visits to observe hunting operations. Only those operating to the appropriate high standards will be accredited, upholding our mantra that ‘nothing less than excellent is acceptable’ at all times.
Hunts will be assessed by experienced and knowledgeable members of the hunting community who will have been briefed to ensure they all assess to the same standards and criteria. Hunts should be able to demonstrate that they are viable and sustainable in areas such as: Team and Leadership, Kennel and Hound Management, and Hunting activities.

Initially this may seem somewhat daunting and intrusive, however, the implementation of accreditation standards is a constructive step forward for hunting; it is not to trip up any hunts or catch anyone out but is purely to uphold the highest standards and ensure the sport can move forward effectively and positively. More information will follow in the coming weeks about the practicalities of the process. We will be working hard over the coming months to get this initiative underway; the process will be an ongoing one and we will be working with hunts over the coming months and throughout next season.

Andrew Osborne
MFHA Chairman
                                                                                                                                                            Published:  8th April 2022

 

Update from the MFHA Chairman 

Hunting is both the most extraordinary and frustrating of activities. Whether running a day’s hunting, a hunt or the Masters of Foxhounds Association (and I have now done all three) nothing ever seems to be straightforward, but when things do work out the results make all the pain of delivering them rapidly fade away. Very few things can equal the glory of a wonderful pack of hounds taking their line across country, but we must not forget either the key role that hunts play in the management of the countryside and the life of rural communities. 

That is why, despite the huge challenges that have faced hunting over the years, we have always fought to retain its essence. And that is also why hunting has adapted to address the existential threats that it has faced whether it was the coming of the railways, the invention of barbed wire, or the Hunting Act, all of which were seen by some as ‘the end’ of hunting. That is also why, despite the challenges it faces at the moment, I am certain that hunting can adapt to meet the changing demands of society and the modern countryside and that it has a bright future.

The most urgent challenge facing us is perception that not all hunting activity is legitimate and that not all hunts are operating to the highest standards. That perception could in future lead to further legislation restricting trail hunting and other use of hounds, and it is also having a practical impact right now on hunting’s relationship with institutional and private landowners, the police and politicians. It is clear that we need a change in the way hunting is run to give all stakeholders confidence that we are operating legitimately.

To that end we have carried out a consultation with members and a review. It has been suggested and widely accepted that the hunting associations should step back from the overall governance and supervision of hunting. Instead, we are aiming to have two separate organisations.

Firstly, a single inclusive new body to undertake governance of all hunting activities. This Governing Body will be responsible for setting the standards and rules to which all members and member hunts must adhere. 

Secondly, a separate Regulatory Authority to administer all regulation and disciplinary matters for members and member hunts, according to the rules set by the Governing Body. 

Membership of the Governing Body will be inclusive and representative of the whole hunting community and all associations ,all hunts, huntsmen and kennel huntsmen will be invited to join. Hunts, huntsmen and kennel huntsmen will be assessed and accredited to validate the high standards of hunting activities in the field and animal welfare in hunt kennels. 

This is not a new idea. A detailed plan to create an Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting was developed in the 1990s in the face of the political challenges hunting faced then. That proposal was overtaken by the Hunting Act but the principle was kept alive, not least by the late Brian Fanshawe my predecessor as master and huntsman of the Cottesmore Hounds who was a tireless promoter of high standards and credible regulation.

We are currently updating that model to fit with the demands of post-ban hunting and predominantly the regulation of trail hunting. The principles are clear; hunts must not only operate to the highest standards both in kennels and in the field, but they must be able to show that they are doing so. This may sound complicated and bureaucratic but, in reality, it need be neither; we cannot realistically argue that we need to be tested before we drive a car or accredited to use a chainsaw, whilst just allowing anyone to take a pack of hounds out into the countryside. Our reputation relies on every one of us upholding high standards and we simply cannot leave that to chance any longer. Our mantra must be that ‘nothing less than excellent is acceptable’.

Importantly, correcting the perception of hunting will not only ease the immediate challenges facing us. It will also create an opportunity to promote hunting and the good it does in the countryside. With our colleagues at the Countryside Alliance, we will be able to focus more resources on more proactive and promotional public relations. We need to get off back foot. It will be possible to communicate openly about hunting activities and work in hunt kennels, and to highlight all the environmental good that hunts do and the positive impact hunts have within the countryside. In time this may even put us in a position where we can start to unroll the legislation that has done so much harm to wildlife, the countryside and rural communities. 

Our goal is the protection, promotion and preservation of our core values, and the continuation of the sport we all love, for many years to come. If we get this right the Masters and huntsmen of today will be paving the way for a new generation to carry hunting on into a new era, hunting will continue to be an intrinsic part of the modern countryside and hounds will still be the glue that binds together so many rural communities.

It is our intention to take our plans to the hunting association AGMs in early summer, so structures are in place for the start of next season.

Andrew Osborne

Chairman MFHA and Council of Hunting Associations

Published:  11th March 2022

Update from the MFHA Chairman 

I wanted to take the opportunity to update all members of the MFHA, and the wider Hunting community about plans we have been working on recently.  As all supporters of hunting know, the infiltration and subsequent misrepresentation of a trail hunting webinar and the prosecution of a Director has been used to try and cause great harm to our way of life. On behalf of all of the Hunting Office team, I would like to apologise to all Hunts and members for the fallout that has resulted. Having taken over the Chairmanship in June of this year, it has been extremely difficult to move forward with my fundamental goal of ensuring that our sport can continue in this ever-changing world.

We have been working hard since then to plan the way forward, and the purpose of this email is to share these plans with you. I have met face to face with over 150 huntsmen to discuss the way forward. This has been extremely constructive and, being an ex-huntsman myself, we have been able to talk in detail about the challenges of hunting hounds in the 17 years since the Hunting Act came into force. Since those initial meetings, I set up three consultation meetings in London where a broad swathe of people from the hunting world met to discuss the way forward. These meetings not only involved members of the MFHA, but also Hunt Chairmen, Secretaries, Subscribers from the AMHB, MBHA, MDHA, MMHA, CCFP, CA board members and a number of senior and junior Hunt Staff.

The general consensus was that there is a need for change in the areas of hunting governance, and the perception of our hunting activities. Therefore, as a matter of urgency, I am in the process of setting up a review to evaluate and make recommendations about the governance of hunting with hounds and the perception of hunting activities, to make sure hunts are in a position to offer reassurance to landowners and other stakeholders that they are operating within the law.

The review will look at the potential for a new governing body, which will have authority and effective jurisdiction over its members, and ensure that the rules are appropriate, acceptable and enforceable. I believe there will always be a role for the MFHA and the other Hunting Associations, but the new body should be separate from them.

I believe that all hunts should be accredited members of this new organisation, as well as the Masters and other Hunt Officials. I also think it is time to bring Hunt Staff into such a membership, so they are stakeholders too. One of hunting's biggest assets is the many thousands of people who participate in our sport from all walks of life - it is time that we all played a part in the future of hunting with hounds.

Hunting with hounds has always held a key role within the countryside and the management of that countryside, especially in the modern world. It is essential we do not lose sight of this core principle, and the review will look at how the hunting community can better explain and promote all the good it does in the countryside.

I hope that the review panel will be able to report back to the Hunting Associations as soon as possible, at which point we can, with the approval of our members, act upon its recommendations and all move forward to preserve, promote and protect the sport we all love.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Osborne

Published 12th December 2021

Further attempts to ban trail hunting on council owned land fail 

Further attempts by anti trail hunting activists to pressure local councils into stopping trail hunting or traditional boxing day meets on their land have failed.  Battle Town Council have confirmed that the East Sussex and Romney March will be able to host their Boxing Day meet in the town, even after they received pressure from activists to prevent the meet from taking place.

Herefordshire Town Council also received emails from activists trying to prevent the traditional festive meet, however last week the Council voted against a move to stop the Ledbury Hunt from meeting in Ledbury town; the meet will therefore go ahead as it has done for many years on Boxing Day.  

 Councillors in North Northamptonshire recently voted overwhelmingly against a Labour-backed motion to ban local hunts from accessing council-owned land for their lawful trail hunting activities.

Anti trail hunting activists are routinely targeting local councils, to try and prevent lawful trail hunting or traditional festive meets which attract huge numbers of local supporters and are a huge part of the rural community. 

Please Click Here to take part in the Countryside Alliance e-lobby to write to your local councillors urging them to protect the future of trail hunting on council land.

Click Here for the full story on the Countryside Alliance website

Published 9th December 2021

 

Statement from the Hunting Office

Today the National Trust board has informed us of their decision not to issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.  This decision is hugely disappointing, considering 98% of the Trust members did not participate in the vote to ban trail hunting at the AGM earlier this year.  The board's decision to prevent a lawful and legitimate activity comes as a result of an engineered campaign by opponents of trail hunting to bully landowners into stopping a lawful activity carried out by the rural community.

Hunts have had access to National Trust land for generations and the decision goes completely against the core mantra of the National Trust 'for everyone, for ever'.

We hope that we can maintain an open dialogue with the Trust and have further consultation following the review which we are currently conducting.

Published on 25th November 2021

 

Boxing Day Meets 2021

As Boxing Day falls on a Sunday this year, hunts across the country will be holding their traditional Boxing Day meets on Monday, 27th December 2021.  These festive meets always attract large crowds and we want to ensure that anybody who wishes to show support for hounds is aware that hounds will meet on the Bank Holiday Monday this year.   

Hunts across the whole country look forward to welcoming local residents and supporters to their annual festive meets, after being unable to do so last year due to Covid restrictions.  Once again families and local communities can enjoy the spectacle of hounds at the traditional meets all over the country.

Published 24th November 2021

 

Statement from the Hunting Office

“Today the Hunting Office was informed of Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) decision not to issue licences for trail hunting on its land.  It is disappointing that NRW didn’t consult with the MFHA before making this decision however, we hope that further consultation may be possible following the review that we are currently conducting.”

Published 18th November 2021 

 

Trail Laying Organisation - Shooting Times Aricle 

Harry Beeby, Master and Huntsman of the Oakley, writes about his experiences organising the trail laying for a day's trail hunting. 

"We have a number of options with regards to how the trails are laid.  Mostly they are laid from horseback or on foot, but we also have the ability for them to be laid from a quad..........Arable land can differ quite considerably. There are many variables - how recently the ground has been cultivated, whether it has been sprayed and so fourth.  I prefer not to know where a trail has been started from, nor the exact route the trail-layer has taken, as it detracts hugely from the business of finding and hunting it....."

Click Here to Read Full Shooting Time Article

Published 10th November 2021

MFHA Chairman Interview in Country Life

We hope supporters may have noticed an interview with new MFHA and Hunting Office Chairman Andrew Osborne in Country Life in October, in which he discusses his hopes for hunting as well as the challenges it faces, and his own long lover affair with field sports.  Thank you to the Fernie kennels for being the venue for the lovely photograph which accompanied the article.

"Despite the challenges huntsmen face trying to keep hounds ‘who haven’t read Hansard’ hunting legally, Mr Osborne still considers it the best job in hunting.  He should know; there are few hunting jobs he hasn’t done, including being a master and field master, amateur huntsman, hound judge and – since May – chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA)……

Click Here to read the full interview with MFHA Chairman, Andrew Osborne, which appeared in the October issue of Country Life magazine.  

Published 2nd November 2021

Hunting Office Statement

"On Saturday, National Trust members voted to ban trail hunting and hound exercise on Trust land.  The vote is non-binding and the National Trust board of trustees has stated that they are satisfied hunts have been complying with the licence requirements and agree that trail hunting is a lawful and legitimate activity.  Although less than 2% of Trust members engaged with the vote, this result is disappointing considering hunts have had access to Trust land for many years, and it goes against one of the Trust’s cores purposes of protecting the nations heritage ‘for everyone, for ever’.  However, in practice, only a few packs have the potential to be affected by a ban and the whole hunting community remains in support of those packs.   

The Hunting Office will continue to make sure hunts are in a position to offer reassurances to landowners, and other stakeholders, that they are conducting legitimate trail hunting activities and operating within the law.  Over 8,000 more members voted to support trail hunting than voted to support it in a similar vote in 2017, indicating that support for trail hunting under licence is stronger than before.  Trail hunting and hound exercise are lawful and legitimate activities and a huge part of the rural community, they should be considered in the same way as any other lawful activity taking place on Trust land.  We will continue working to make sure all landowners are reassured that hunts are complying with any licences in place". 

Click Here for the Countryside Alliance's response to the National Trust Vote 

Updated 1st November 2021

Statement from the Hunting Office 

"Yesterday, Mark Hankinson resigned as Director of the MFHA. Mr Hankinson is still considering an appeal, however, following the judgment and considering the length of time any appeal process may take, he decided that he was unable to continue in the role. The Hunting Office team and the wider hunting community thank him for his many years of dedication to hunting with hounds".

Published 19th October 2021

Statement from the Hunting Office 

“Mark Hankinson, the Director of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, was today found guilty of charges brought against him.
This verdict is hugely disappointing however we are considering an appeal. The Masters of Foxhounds Association is aware that this outcome raises concern over the perception of our lawful trail hunting activities and as a result, we will be setting up a review which will be conducted to ensure that hunts are in a position to offer reassurances to all landowners and other stakeholders that hunts are operating within the law.”

Published 15th October 2021

Presentations for Tim Easby and Lord Mancroft

Tim Easby has thanked all those who contributed towards his leaving present, having been presented with a painting of his whippet “Wafer”.  Tim stepped down as Director in 2020, having lead the Hunting Office team for over 10 years. He served hunts and hunting tirelessly - always assisting, advising and, above all, supporting staff, masters and hunt officials. 

Tim said “I cannot begin to thank you all enough for this wonderful painting of our whippet - ‘Wafer’, it will always remind me of over ten happy years at the helm of hunting.  Thank you so much for your most generous donations towards this wonderful painting and for keeping this great sport alive and well”. 

Lord Mancroft retired from the Chairmanship of the MFHA in May this year and was presented with a painting of his beloved hunter “Pee Jay” by Andrew Osborne, at the MFHA conference this week.  Lord Mancroft said “Serving the hunting community as MFHA Chairman has been an honour and I sincerely thank the very many people who have helped and supported me".

Published 30th July 2021

Distinctions for all apprentices completing in 2021

Archie Bramwell becomes the third apprentice to complete his Apprenticeship in 2021 gaining a Distinction at his End Point Assessment.  Archie joins Harry Mayo and William Hand, who also received distinctions earlier this year. 

The Hunting Office Bursary Scheme, run in conjunction with Haddon Training, aims to recruit and train young people wishing to pursue a career in hunting.  The National Diploma in Animal Care is a Level 2 Apprenticeship and a recognised national qualification.  Participating hunts provide a thorough grounding which offers a practical, structured and supportive framework for apprentices to gain the appropriate skills and knowledge at the start of their hunting careers. 

Published: 28th July 2021