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Hunting hounds off our National Nature Reserve, Benacre, Suffolk UK

This petition had 6,256 supporters

We the undersigned respectfully request that the management of Benacre Estate, Suffolk, seat of the Gooch family, refrain from exercising their sporting rights when they invite the Waveney Harriers or any other pack to hunt with their hounds on the National Nature Reserve within.

The Benacre Estate and Hall is situated between the A12 and the North Sea and has to be the most easterly estate in England.  Within this idyllic landscape are two picturesque broads, or lakes, which together with ancient woodland, heath land and reed bed, are managed by Natural England. A branch of Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) as a National Nature Reserve (NNR) on behalf of the taxpayer.  The rest of the estate is managed by Mr Edward Vere Nichol, son in law of the matriarch Lady Gooch.  It is unfortunate for the wildlife concerned that in the agreement drawn up between Natural England and the estate, the estate was allowed to retain the sporting rights within the NNR.  They are therefore fully within their rights to invite the horse riders of the Waveney Harriers, together with their hounds to hunt within the reserve, which they do on several occasions during the hunting season.

We, the supporters of Norfolk and Suffolk against Live Quarry Hunting (NSALQH), believe that there should be no place for hunting, legal or illegal, within our national nature reserves.  The public has constantly shown in poll after poll that they are by and large against hunting with hounds.  We endeavoured to discuss those points with Mr Vere Nichol but he has chosen to ignore our polite and respectful emails on this matter.   We must not forget that an all party group of MPs passed a law to ban hunting with dogs in 2004.  Few if any had heard of trail hunting, (not to be confused with drag hunting).  Nor did they expect the wildlife to be accidentally chased and sometimes killed at almost every hunt meet in the future.

With the estate management refusing to communicate with us, we were regrettably left with no alternative but to launch a campaign of protest against this particular hunting issue.  To avoid any misunderstanding with local residents or estate workers we thought it fair to explain the facts on a leaflet and hand them around at local venues.  Two of our supporters went to Covehithe church in good time to meet the worshippers for the 9 am service on Easter Sunday.  This church was chosen because we were informed that the nearby Benacre church is now privately owned by the Gooch family.  They did their peaceful and polite canvassing from a public place and left just before the service started.  The response from the congregation was mixed but was very positive from passers by.  On returning to their parked car, which was some distance off but still within sight of the church, they were amazed to see a convoy of cars arrive at some speed.  It appeared to be the estate manager followed by two police cars and finally, the estate game keeper. They came to a halt outside the church and entered the grounds.   It was a stark reminder to the NSALQH team that freedom is such a fragile thing and that we must jealously protect it from those who would abuse it.

The same leafleting exercise was later carried out at the nearby Wrentham council meeting and was on this occasion received in a civilised manner.  There was then a delay to the campaign of some weeks while Natural England referred some very basic questions from us about their working relationship with the estate to their Freedom of Information Legal Services department/Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

With that lengthy process over and with still no joy from the estate management, we moved forward by having a presence at the Vegan Animal Rights march in London on Saturday 2 September and on the following day at the Burston rally in Norfolk.  The public there were very supportive of our cause and generally astonished that such a thing could be happening on a tax payer funded National Nature Reserve.  We suspect that this may be a nation-wide scandal and a policy that Natural England and the civil service needs to take another look at.  It is unlikely that we shall ever be privy to the scale of the problem from such a tight lipped bunch of civil servants.

The purpose of this petition is to make Mr Vere Nichol, the estate manager, fully aware of the strong ground swell amongst the general public when it comes to animal abuse in whatever form it takes.  The very presence of 30 or more loose hounds in any wild winter environment can have dire consequences on most of the fauna.  Public money should not be part of this kind of equation.

Please show that you care and sign the petition and please alert your friends to it.

If you should wish to contact the Benacre estate yourself then please be frank but polite even if you are outraged by this revelation.  If you are not polite, you may do harm to the cause.  Mr Vere Nichol can be contacted via the Benacre Estate website and by email at, or by post to Benacre Hall, Beccles NR34 7LJ.

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