TRAIL hunting could be outlawed on National Trust land across Hampshire, including large parts of the New Forest.

The New Forest Hounds (NFH) has a licence to hunt on trust-owned commons in the Forest but calls for a nationwide ban will be debated at the organisation’s annual meeting on October 21.

Trail hunting was introduced in the Forest after hunting with dogs was banned more than ten years ago.

The practice involves hounds chasing an artificial scent laid by hunt supporters and has proved popular, with the traditional Boxing Day meet at Boltons Bench, Lyndhurst, drawing a huge crowd.

Supporters of the proposed ban, including the league Against Cruel Sports (LACS), claim foxes are still being killed in parts of Britain because some hunts are failing to comply with the law.

They have also raised concerns about the “negative environmental impact” of trail hunting.

The trust owns several commons north of the Forest but most trail hunting takes place on land owned by the Forestry Commission.

Graham Ferris, joint-master of the NFH, said: “While National Trust land does not represent a huge part of the area we hunt, we have never had a problem in the past and I really do not see a logical reason for the trust to ban legal trail hunting.

“It would be a pity after centuries of hunting in the north of the Forest for this ban to come into force.”

In a statement the trust said: “Our first priority is always to protect conservation and access on our land. Members will have the opportunity to discuss trail hunting and vote on the matter at the charity’s annual meeting in October.”

LACS chief executive Phillipa King,welcomed the possibility, said: “The groundswell of public opinion against the National Trust allowing hunting is already massive and growing by the day.”

But the upcoming vote has angered the Countryside Alliance and the Master of Foxhounds Association.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the alliance, said: “Hunting existed long before the National Trust and there has been no suggestion that it has any impact on conservation. In fact, if the trust is interested in the conservation of the countryside, maintaining traditional activities such as hunting should be a priority.”