The Ministry of Defence is allowing fox-hunting across nature reserves on its land which contain rare plant species and environments.
Many Sites of Special Scientific Interest are on ministry land and hunting is permitted across 18 of them. Twenty- three packs have been granted licences to hunt on MoD land during the current season. Sites of Special Scientific Interest are designated to protect rare species and environments.
According to the League Against Cruel Sports and Alan Meale, Labour MP for Mansfield, who carried out the research, 10 of the SSSIs to be hunted are in the Otterburn Training Area in Northumberland. The sites include Linbrigg, a refuge for Jacob's ladder, a rare flowering plant; Barrow Burn, a meadow rich in rare species; and Durtrees Burn, a streamside meadow.
English Nature, which draws up management plans for SSSIs in consultation with landowners, said: "If a hunt was accompanied by a large number of horses, surface disturbance to sites might occur."
Mr Meale said: "How can you justify hunting on these sites when they are clearly intended as nature reserves? It's completely wrong and totally contrary to their spirit."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence defended hunting on nature reserves. …