IFAW axes Shandwick to bring PR in-house

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has brought its

campaigning PR function in-house following the emergence of a major

client conflict within its retained agency, Shandwick.



The global animal rights NGO terminated its relationship with Shandwick

last month upon discovering that the PR firm's Tokyo office was working

for the Japanese government on a public affairs brief to promote

commercial whaling operations.



Though whaling is an accepted and popular practice in Japan, it stands

in direct opposition to the animal welfare body's key principles. While

Shandwick's UK public affairs team, led by CEO Colin Byrne and associate

director Steve Docherty, was working for IFAW on the unconnected issue

of promoting anti-fox hunting legislation, the charity decided that as a

global organisation it could not work with a PR agency which was working

for supporters of whaling elsewhere in the world.



A group of IFAW executives meeting in London last week - including

several country heads and global CEO Fred O'Regan - are understood to

have raised the issue of Shandwick as part of discussions about whaling.

The meeting is thought to have heard a contribution from Tony Banks, the

high-profile Labour MP for West Ham and renowned animal rights

supporter.



A Shandwick source said the agency had fallen victim to its own global

network. 'Whaling is not an issue we would ever take on over here, but

there are cultural specificities in different countries,' he said. 'The

agency regrets no longer working for IFAW, but is not unduly concerned

at the impact of the loss on its balance sheet,' he added.



Shandwick Tokyo is still thought to be working for the Japanese

government, having represented it at last year's International Whaling

Commission meeting in Adelaide, Australia.



IFAW has decided not to hire an agency in Shandwick's place, but is on

the verge of hiring a new head of campaigns to run both the anti-fox

hunting work and the body's attempts to secure an international ban on

whaling. This person will head a six-strong team.



Ben Stewart, spokesman for IFAW, said: 'We will not take on another

agency right now, but haven't ruled it out for future projects.'



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