A motion that proposed banning trail-hunting on council-owned land has been sent to a committee instead of being debated by councillors.

Labour and Green Party councillors were hoping to have their motion on banning trail hunting on council-owned land debated at a full meeting of North Yorkshire Council but instead, it was sent to a committee for further discussion.

The motion, proposed by Scarborough councillor Rich Maw, claimed that trail hunts are used as “a loophole to carry on hunting foxes and other animals” but was opposed by the Countryside Alliance which described it as “anti-rural”.

However, at the meeting on Wednesday, July 19, Cllr David Ireton, chair of the council, ruled that the motion would be referred to the corporate and partnership overview committee.

Cllr Maw said that before the motion returns to the council for a debate he would be “keeping pressure on councillors and groups so they are completely aware of what trail hunting is and how devastating it is to rural communities.”

The hunting of foxes with dogs was banned in the Hunting Act 2004 but the law does allow for trail hunting, which is intended to replicate traditional fox hunting.

Around 30 activists from York, Sheffield, Teesside, Hull, and West and East Yorkshire attended the meeting at County Hall in Northallerton and staged a demonstration in support of the motion.

Although the motion was not debated, questions sent in by members of the public were read out at the meeting.

A council officer read out a question from Hugh Maynall, who said: “With the cubbing season less than a month away, organised rural crime gangs are poised and ready to hunt and kill foxes with hounds intentionally and illegally.

“Hunts across North Yorkshire routinely use the myth of trail hunting as a smokescreen for these wildlife crimes.”

A question submitted by Sue Hawthornthwaite stated: “If this proposal is passed, how do the hunts intend to ensure that their hounds and terriermen do not stray on council land in pursuit of a fox?

“Will they break a habit of a lifetime and call the hounds back, and who will enforce this and how?”

Responding to the issues raised, Cllr Gareth Dadd, the council’s executive member for finance and assets, said: “I’m not wishing to prejudice any debate that will come to this chamber, but I will say that I do believe we need further advice on how – if the camber was minded to implement the ban – it could be enforced, and the difficulties that could pose .”

Ahead of the meeting, the motion saw opposition from the political campaign group the Countryside Alliance which criticised it as “anti-rural” and a “colossal waste of time”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, an activist who wished to remain anonymous said: “As an active hunt saboteur from North Yorkshire, as a group of monitors, hunt saboteurs, and the general public, we turned up today to support the motion.”

He said: “These councillors represent everyone here and their constituents, and they need to put their foot down and make the right choice and ban trail hunting on all council-owned land.

“I think they’re more bothered about the legal implications of tenancies on farms and properties than they are about actually banning trail hunting.”

The activists were hopeful that the decision to send the motion to a committee before it returns to the council for a vote could have a positive effect on its chance of succeeding.

However, the proposal is also likely to see opposition from groups in support of trail hunting which argue that it is an outdoor sport that should not be restricted.