A petition seeking to remove the Chairman of Kent Wildlife Trust has hit 4,500 signatures since its launch on June 17, following an outcry over his past connections to hunting.

Michael Bax, a former High Sheriff of Kent, took up the role at the beginning of April 2014, but recently the appointment has been condemned after it was discovered he had been joint master of the Blean Beagles – a hare-hunting group he was a member of from 1971 until 2005.

It was also disclosed that the property entrepreneur has allowed a pheasant shoot to take place on wooded land he has owned near his Ashford home for the last decade.

The revelation has incensed some paying members of the Kent Wildlife Trust, who say his association with blood sports is at odds with his chairmanship.

Member Tom Fitton, who set up the petition on the Care2 petitions website, said: “We pay our fees to provide sanctuaries for wildlife from hunters, yet they are given top positions in the trust.

“Bax does not represent the views of Kent Wildlife Trust’s membership who pay their membership fees to protect wildlife, not slaughter it for pleasure.”

The Trust itself has twice put out statements in defence of its chairman, but has acknowledged the ‘considerable concern’ expressed by many people.

It says Mr Bax, himself a member of the Trust for three decades, has a ‘deep interest in wildlife matters’ and manages his own farm with wildlife foremost in mind.

Furthermore, it argues the Trust ‘maintains a neutral position on field sports’, stating this is ‘fundamental to what we do’.

The Trust added: “We hope that out long-held neutral position on field sports will allow many people, who might not always come together, to unite under the common cause of working to stabilise nature, which is currently in crisis.”

Hunt Details: Blean Beagles