Hunting on Exmoor: FAQ

Do you allow fox hunting on your land?

Absolutely not. The Hunting Act (2004) made it illegal to hunt wild mammals with dogs in England and Wales. This law does not apply to trail hunting, where packs follow a scent along a pre-determined route instead of a live animal.

The annual license we provide, permits one local pack of hounds to trail hunt on 1,665 hectares (2.4% of the National Park) of the 5,000 hectares of land owned by us. Through this we require that activities are legal, responsible and in line with our statutory responsibilities towards the National Park, as we would for any other organised activity taking place on our land.

All other forms of hunting with hounds that take place in the National Park come under exempt hunting and are not licensed or otherwise authorised by the National Park Authority - stag hunting is one example of this. For more information see below.

Why does hunting go on elsewhere in the National Park?

The vast majority of trail hunting and exempt hunting that takes place on Exmoor is outside of our control.

This is because the hunting rights on Exmoor are owned separately from the land and almost all are in private ownership. This means exempt hunting and trail hunting can legally take place across much of the National Park without prior permission or knowledge of the National Park Authority or relevant landowner.

Exempt hunting is very different from trail hunting in that exemptions to the Hunting Act are used by various hunting groups to operate on Exmoor within the law – stag hunting is one example of this.

What is your response to recent media reports about illegal hunting?

You can see our previous responses to  media reports in 2020 and 2021 here.

You’ve seen the Hunting Office webinars, why haven’t you suspended your trail hunting licence?

We work closely with Avon & Somerset Police and Devon & Cornwall Police, the two law enforcement bodies that operate in the National Park, and to date have not been made aware of any legal allegations on Exmoor relating to this case or our licensee.

The hunting rights on Exmoor are almost exclusively in private ownership, meaning hunting groups are under no legal obligation to work with us on these matters. Their continued willingness to do so is a sign of shared goodwill towards the National Park, something we rely on across many aspects of our partnership work.

We aim to keep open communication and maintain good working relationships with all of the hunting groups that operate on Exmoor, regardless of whether their ‘country’ (the land on which they operate) includes the 7% of land owned by ENPA.

Whether engaged in trail hunting or other ‘exempt’ forms of hunting, like stag hunting, most such groups recognise the significance of National Park status and are willing to work with us to resolve areas of conflict. This includes minimising impact on other users of public rights of way, as well as on the natural and historic environment of the National Park.

What further action are you taking following the Hunting Office webinars to ensure no illegal activity is taking place on your land?

Our trail hunting licence agreement exists solely between Exmoor National Park Authority and the Exmoor Foxhounds. We have been carefully considering the terms of this licence before renewal to reassure ourselves that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure lawful activity on our land.

We have met in person with our licensee to discuss options for strengthening future licence agreements. As a result, the licence for the coming season will in addition include:

  • - A requirement to use a non animal-based scent
  • - The ability for us as the landowner to suspend activities at any time
  • - The need for regular monitoring by our ranger team.

Following the announcement of the police investigation into the Hunting Office webinars, we also contacted all hunting groups on Exmoor to remind them of our statutory duty to the National Park and its users and ask for their ongoing consideration. Our teams continue to be available to assist with any matters relating to their legal activity within the National Park.

How do you deal with reports of illegal activity in the National Park?

We take any reports of illegal activity very seriously. It is not within our statutory role to enforce the law, but we will always support the police and other stakeholders as best we can. This applies to the National Park as a whole, regardless of whether or not the claims relate to land or assets we own.

We maintain a constructive working relationship with the various hunting groups operating on Exmoor, as well as representatives from other interest groups. This enables us to raise any matters of concern directly with the organisation involved.

Investigating alleged crime is a police matter and anyone who suspects that hunting is taking place illegally, or is witness to unacceptable intimidating behaviour, should report it to the police. The same applies for any organised activity in the National Park.

Do you receive any money from trail hunting on Exmoor?

We charge a nominal licence fee of £50 to help offset our administration costs in preparing a trail hunting licence.

Why can’t you just ban hunting, don’t you care about animal cruelty?

We absolutely do care. Reports showing animals suffering are distressing to everyone and we do not condone or support any form of animal cruelty in the National Park.

Our work caring for the National Park involves working in partnership across a range of stakeholders, making it vital to maintain an objective view and consider the interests of all parties. This often means seeking the common ground between those who live here, work here and visit, which we know can sometimes seem impartial or uncaring.

Our aim is to find a positive balance, but we can only do so within the existing legal framework and our statutory purposes set out by Government.

How does your decision not to suspend licenced trail hunting fit with the statutory purposes of National Parks and the Sandford Principle?

Exmoor National Park Authority has the following two statutory purposes:

  • To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park.
  • To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.

In carrying out these purposes the Authority has a duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the national park.

Where there is conflict between these two purposes that cannot be reconciled, the first purpose takes precedence (known as ‘the Sandford Principle’).

These two purposes underpin all of our work and the decisions we make, including those about licensing activities on our land. Trail hunting comes under this category and provides a legal alternative for those who wish to participate in a traditional country activity.

Nature conservation entails managing land use by humans in a way that protects and restores ecosystems and biodiversity. Trail hunting does not conflict with this and minimising impact on the environment is a clear requirement of any licensed activity on our land.

Where can I find information about Member’s Interests?

Under Exmoor National Park Authority's Code of Conduct, Members are required to register personal interests, for example: membership of bodies to which the Authority has appointed them; membership of bodies exercising functions of a public nature (eg Parish, District or County Council); membership of any organisation directed to charitable purposes; or membership of any organisation whose principal purposes include the influence of public opinion or policy or which might create a conflict of interest in carrying out the duties of a Member of Exmoor National Park Authority.

Under national rules, Members are also required to register their disclosable pecuniary interests, i.e. their business interests, for example their employment, trade, profession, contracts which they or any company with which they are associated have with the Authority, and wider financial interests they might have (for example investments and assets including land and property within the National Park).  Members have a disclosable pecuniary interest if they or their spouse or civil partner has a pecuniary interest as described above; however there is no requirement to differentiate between those pecuniary interests that relate to the Member personally and those that relate to their spouse or civil partner. The declaration of pecuniary interests ensures that the public can have confidence that Members are putting the public interest first and not benefiting the financial affairs of themselves or their spouse or civil partner.

Details of Members' interests can be found on each individual Member page - available to view here.