A ROW has broken out between the National Trust and an animal welfare charity after hunting licences were issued for Wimborne's Kingston Lacy estate.

The League Against Cruel Sports has written to managers of the estate in a bid to convince them to block the move.

However, representatives of the National Trust said the 'new' licences follow a review of existing trail hunts, and no wild animals will be hunted on their land.

Chris Luffingham, the charity's director said: “Kingston Lacy is a local treasure which showcases English nature at its best.

"Allowing a hunt to trample across the land, taking part in an activity which many people believe involves the killing of animals, completely goes against that philosophy.

“With over 85 per cent of the public opposing all forms of hunting wild animals with hounds – including a considerable number of National Trust members and visitors to properties like Kingston Lacy – it is high time the conservation body provided protection to wildlife by stopping licensing hunting on its land.”

According to the League, horses, hounds and followers with the Portman Hunt are being granted free access to stretches of Kingston Lacy.

“It’s sad that this licence has been issued, but now it’s been done, the National Trust estate need to show their members and the public how they will ensure that animals are safe on their land," Mr Luffingham said.

"We need to hear from them as to exactly how they will prevent foxes being killed by the hunt.”

Representatives from the National Trust say they have brought in measures to ensure hunts don’t kill animals on their land.

These measures include 'spot checks' on the hunts to ensure they are acting legally. However, the League says members of hunts will be given 24 hours' notice of a spot check.

“Giving hunts 24 hours’ notice that they will be watched is like telling a burglar which house is being staked out by the police. It’s a nonsense and reflects the half-hearted and ineffectual way in which the National Trust has approached this serious problem,” said Mr Luffingham.

Hunting wild animals was outlawed in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004.

A spokesperson from the National Trust said: "The law does allow what is known as trail ‘hunting’ to continue.

"This activity involves people on foot or horseback following a scent along a pre-determined route with hounds or beagles. It effectively replicates a traditional hunt but without a fox being chased, injured or killed.

"The Trust does license trail ‘hunts’ in some areas and at certain times of the year, where it is compatible with our aims of public access and conservation.

"We believe the overwhelming majority of hunts act responsibly, and we hope our clear, robust, and transparent set of conditions will allow participants to enjoy this activity in compatibility with our conservation aims."