The area marked on the map, around Hatchmoor, is public access land. It is also a regular haunt for the Torrington Farmers Hunt, which has hunted on it several times recently, on Boxing Day 2022 and on other occasions since. On Boxing Day they were seen chasing a total of five foxes there. So what can people do about fox hunting on public access land?
About fox hunting on Public Access Land at Hatchmoor
By hunting on the land outlined, the Torrington Farmers Hunt breaks at least four of the government’s Public Access Land restrictions, covered by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. The law restricts what people can do on open access land.
This is what you can’t do on the land at Hatchmoor, or on any access land:
- Ride a horse or bicycle
- Drive a vehicle (except mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs)
- Bring an animal, other than a dog
- Play organised games
- Hang-glide or paraglide
- Use a metal detector
- Run commercial activities on the land
- Trade or sell
- Charge other visitors for things they do on your land
- Film, photograph or make maps
- Remove, damage, or destroy any plant, shrub, tree or root with intent
- Light, cause or risk a fire
- Damage hedges, fences, walls, crops or anything else on the land
- Leave gates open, that are not propped or fastened open
- Leave litter
- Disturb livestock, wildlife or habitats with intent
- Post any notices
- Commit any criminal offence
These restrictions apply unless the landowner has given permission to do something on the list, or someone already has the right to do it.
Obviously nobody can give the Torrington Farmers Hunt – or anyone else – permission to commit a criminal offence, which means there’s no way they can legally hunt foxes on this land. Nor can the hunt claim to ‘already’ have the right to do it – nobody has a prior right to commit crime.
Incidentally, they have also been warned not to trespass on nearby land controlled by Torrington recycling centre. But they do it anyway.
By hunting foxes on this piece of Public Access Land, Torrington Farmers Hunt members definitely break four of the restrictions and potentially break a fifth:
1. Ride a horse or a bicycle – definite
2. Bring an animal other than a dog – definite
3. Damage hedges, fences, walls, crops or anything else on the land – potential
4. Disturb livestock, wildlife or habitats with intent – definite
5. Commit any criminal offence – definite
About public access enforcement
The government website says our local ‘Access Authorities’ are Devon County Council and Torridge District Council. They both oversee local access rights in line with the law, and advise the public and landowners about access problems.
What Devon County Council says
As Devon County Council said recently in response to a different hunt-led query: “Please be aware that Devon County Council does not support illegal activities.”
We have clear evidence showing the TFH using this land to commit wildlife crime. So we have contacted the relevant councils along with Natural England’s Open Access centre for their feedback.
What you can do about fox hunting on public access land
If you would like to add your voice to our protest you can write to Natural England at firstname.lastname@example.org, to Devon County Council, and to Torridge District Council.
It’d also be great if you could share this post to help other local communities stop fox hunt crime on public access land near them.
Thank you from the foxes x