TRAIL hunting on council land looks set to be halted while borough chiefs weigh up its longterm future.

The practice – which is designed to replicate a traditional fox hunt but with a scent instead of a live animal – could be temporarily prohibited if Cheshire West and Chester’s ruling cabinet gives the move the green light when it meets on Wednesday.

Traditional fox hunting with hounds and riders was outlawed in 2005, but the tradition has been kept alive by substituting live foxes with a scent which is followed along a pre-determined route by hounds, as well as hunt participants on foot and horseback.

Although legal, the practice has proven extremely divisive, with an interim report to the council outlining very differing views.

It said the League Against Cruel Sports had provided reports of incidents in Cheshire West and Chester of foxes being chased/killed, hounds being killed on the road, an attack by hounds on a domestic dog, trespassing by the hunt onto private land and worrying sheep.

But The Countryside Alliance told the report authors that trail hunting is legal, supported by many, and is providing direct employment, utilising and supporting local businesses and professional services that contribute to the local economy.

The council established a cross-party working group to examine the impact of trail hunting in the borough, with the group’s final report set to be delivered to the cabinet in November.

But its initial findings are that trail hunting presents ‘a risk to both wild and domestic animals’.

The cabinet is now being urged to introduce a ‘pause’ on the practice while a public call for evidence is launched this month, where residents, businesses and partner organisations will be invited to contribute their views. A final report will then be submitted to cabinet.

The interim report said: “To pause the activity of trail hunting on council owned and controlled land will contribute to reducing this risk.

“No alternative reasonably practicable measures have been identified which would reduce the risk in the intervening period.”

It added: “It is recommended that the pause remains in place until the full report on trail hunting is presented to cabinet in November 2021 following a public call for evidence to be made during September 2021.

“This will enable full evidence and risks associated with the activity to be presented, together with any alternative control measures to mitigate the risk that have been identified.”