The National Trust has suspended all trail hunting on its land. More foxes will be killed as a result of this decision that is destroying our culture and liberty, argues Angus Milne.

Not content with taking pot-shots at Churchill, the National Trust has now turned its attention to another great British institution: the fox hunt.

The Independent reports that the National Trust, along with Forestry England, will no longer be allowing trail hunts onto their territory. Supposedly the reason is a video clip of retired police officers advising trail hunts how to circumvent the law. Animal rights activists are delighted.

Spectators who think that this is simply a natural decision taken to safeguard wildlife should not be so reassured. This move has nothing to do with animal welfare but is the result of a vicious totalitarian streak which is on the march.

Monitoring trail hunts to ensure the law is being followed has never been to do with saving foxes; but is an exercise in intimidation and coercion. 'Hunt monitors' clad in balaclavas and para military uniform shadow hunts; videoing hunt-followers and their children and in many cases trying to provoke a violent confrontation. Some monitors bring a hunting horn to draw hounds away from the huntsman, risking traffic accidents and unintended illegal hunting by doing so. Others scream abuse at hunters and grab their horses. The aim is to cause enough distress to force the hunt to pack up early and go home.

It is telling that now, after attacking its properties' former owners under the charge of 're-evaluating our history of slavery and colonialism' the National Trust has turned its eye to the fox hunt. In many ways the ban on fox hunting was the precursor to the same authoritarian ideology gathering steam today.

The lack of genuine interest in animal welfare was betrayed by the lack of nuance and understanding of the countryside that the passing of the 2005 Hunting Act revealed.

Reports showed that a fox suffered a quicker and more humane death killed by a pack of hounds than by a gun or poison. Gunshot often fails to kill a fox outright and it ends its days bleeding out, poison results in prolonged agony.

Further to this, reports show that more foxes are killed after the ban than before it. This is because before the ban a handful of foxes were usually left by gamekeepers and farmers in anticipation of the hunt. Now they have no motivation to spare any fox on their patch.

The conservation promoted by the hunt should also encourage any true naturalist. Hunters who bought woods and coppices typically left them to flourish, rather than clearing them out and selling the wood. They did this to encourage wildlife and provide better sport. In doing this they allowed the unfettered development of ecosystems ? providing a sanctuary for wild birds and other creatures.

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So, the romantic notion that the hunting ban was supposed to promote harmony with nature does not stand up to reality.

The reason the anti-hunting lobby wanted the sport banned was contempt for hunters. Phrases like 'one in the eye for the toffs' and the visceral hatred aimed at those who hunt reveal an ambition to subjugate a vilified group, not promote genuine conservation and animal welfare. It is an instinct shared by the hard left today: the focus is on destroying 'villains' not helping victims.

Many are disgusted at the idea that a person could find pleasure in a pastime that results in an animal's death. The pleasure is not derived from the death itself, but the thrilling and all-encompassing pursuit. The stresses and difficulties of life cease to exist and there is nothing but the chase.

But, the crucial point about the 2005 Hunting Act is not that the disgust felt by the anti-hunt lobby was misplaced, but that it could be enshrined in law. In doing this, the relationship between every British citizen and the state was subtly altered. Westminster had just passed a law that was ultimately based on disgust and prejudice towards another group in our society. In doing so parliament grievously overstepped its bounds.

Throughout history political thinkers have focused on the question of what it means to be free. A recurring theme – picked up at times such as The English Civil War and the American Revolution – is that to be free you cannot be subject to another person's arbitrary will. If another can interfere with you as they please, you are not free.

Writing during the French Revolution, Frédéric Bastiat articulated this in The Law. For the law to be legitimate, it must be derived from man's rights to life, liberty and property. It cannot be passed on the whim of one group.

The law has long been used for more than the minimalist purposes Bastiat encouraged, but the principle has remained that it should safeguard our rights, not enforce factional interests.

The passing of the 2005 Hunting Act saw a faction use the apparatus of the British parliament to legislate on the basis of their own prejudice.

Fast forward to today and more and more of us live under the threat of arbitrary coercion. Today's totalitarians operate on the presumption that they are fighting for the downtrodden; be they racial minorities, women or trans-people. In reality they carve people into group identities and then determine who is to be punished.

Before the recent assault on western civilisation, British hunts were already enduring this ugly game. Whether you were an NHS worker, Army officer or labourer; if you hunted, you were placed into that group of privileged white oppressors on horseback and considered fair game.

The National Trust's mission is first and foremost conservation. It should have nothing to do with this current movement that seeks, not to conserve, but to tear down western culture. A welcome step would be to see the Trust stand firm against the mob and refuse to 'problematise' British history, and to invite the trail hunt back onto its lands.

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