In April 2014, the Kent Wildlife Trust in South East England appointed Michael Bax as its Chairman. However, it was not until March 2017 that it was discovered that he had served as both ‘Joint Master’ and ‘Huntsman’ for a hare-hunting group, the Blean Beagles, from 1971 until at least 2005. (Kent Wildlife Trust claim 2005 is when he left the Blean Beagles, but hunt directories suggest he was still serving as Joint Master until 2016)
Bax’s business partner, Stuart Sillars, is still listed as both ‘Joint Master’ and ‘Huntsman’ for the Blean Beagles, a position he has held since 1996. Sillars was caught on film and photographed with a pack of hunting beagles as recently as March 2017.
Bax has also allowed a pheasant shoot on his land since 2007. This destructive bloodsport (to use the term ‘sport’ lightly; in real sport both sides have an equal chance) has already lead to the extinction of the European Wildcat across England and Wales, and brought the Hen Harrier to the verge of extinction in England.
Another of Bax’s business partners, Charles Tassell of the group Rural PLC, serves alongside Bax on Kent Wildlife Trust’s board.
The Brown Hare is listed as an endangered species across the UK. The Wildlife Trusts state that this is due to a ‘dramatic decline in numbers’ and that ‘shooting and coursing have… had an impact’. According to the Hare Preservation Trust, the UK population of brown hares has declined by 80% since 1880.
I consider there to be three conflicts of interest in relation to Bax’s Chairmanship of Kent Wildlife Trust:
- Allowing a pheasant shoot on his land whilst serving as Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust
- Having a business partner serve as both Joint Master and Huntsman of a hare-hunting group whilst Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust
- Having a business partner work alongside him as a trustee whilst Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust
In addition, there is the injustice of the Trust asking well-intentioned people to donate and pay for membership in the name of protecting wildlife, while at the same time allowing a man who has spent more than forty years of his life decimating local wildlife to serve as Chairman.
Polling by the League Against Cruel Sports showed 88% of the British public are against hare-hunting, and 91% are against hare-coursing.
A petition has been running since 17th June calling on Kent Wildlife Trust to cut their ties with Michael Bax. More than 4,000 people have signed it already. Please add your name as well:
We need sincere conservationists in these positions, not hunters invested in killing animals for ‘sport’. Let’s take a stand against entryism by those who wish to destroy wildlife!
Featured image credit Kelly, CC BY-NC 2.0 / rotated