Ben Wallace stepped in to defend the hunts as he prevented animal rights activists from following them due to security concerns.
The Secretary of Defense personally terminated an agreement to pass information to the League Against Cruel Sports about where hunting activities were taking place on Department of Defense land.
In a letter to the charity, Mr Wallace said his department would no longer notify them of trail hunting activities due to ‘safety’ concerns and ‘intimidating’ behavior and clothing.
The Department of Defense said it “takes seriously our duty of care to all users of the Defense domain” and must “ensure that those who choose to frequent our lands for recognized legal are not intimidated or have their safety compromised”.
A decision welcomed by pro-hunting activists
The move was welcomed by pro-hunting campaigners who said the minister was right not to facilitate a “vindictive” campaign by “vigilantes”.
Hooded saboteurs regularly attempt to disrupt hunts and in recent months there have been several convictions for attacks on bystanders.
The Department of Defense had a memorandum of understanding to pass information on hunting locations to animal rights groups, who then monitor their activity.
The deal was put in place during the last Labor government in 2009 and was updated in August 2020.
But earlier this month, just before Boxing Day, the biggest day on the hunting calendar, Mr Wallace personally wrote to the League to end the deal.
Letter from Secretary of Defense cites protesters’ behavior
The letter, seen by ITV news, cited “security concerns as well as the behavior of protesters and their dress which intimidates other users”.
It is understood that the letter came without warning and with immediate effect.
The League has campaigned to ban trail hunts on MoD land, saying it is a ‘smokescreen’ for illegal fox hunting.
They had called on their supporters to personally petition Mr Wallace and claim he had ignored ‘thousands’ of emails.
Last season, 23 hunts were issued with licenses to use 10 of the armed forces’ sites, Freedom of Information requests showed.
The League says the Secretary of Defense’s decision casts a “veil of secrecy” over the Hunters’ actions.
Chris Luffingham, the campaign group’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘We do not acknowledge the behavior he has accused us of while monitoring the hunts.
“We have always complied fully and diligently with the Memorandum of Understanding and have received no advance communication of apparent concerns from the Department of Defense or Mr. Wallace’s office.
“In contrast, the League has recorded incidents in which MoD-licensed fighters have exhibited misbehaviour.”
They said they regularly shared evidence of wrongdoing by hunts with the MoD but were “ignored”.
The league asks for a reversal of decision
The League has now written to Mr Wallace asking him to explain his comments and asking him to reconsider his position and ban the hunts.
A MoD spokesperson said: “”Trail and drag hunting are legal activities and all organizations wishing to hunt while trailing or dragging on Defense Land must hold a MoD registered license and comply with comply with the law. “
Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The law is for the police and the authorities, not the vigilantes.
“[The League] has a long history of wasting police time with false allegations and wasting judicial resources with failed private prosecutions. The MoD is absolutely right not to facilitate its vindictive campaigns against the hunts.”