CAMPAIGNS: Lobbying; Creatures win small comfort

Client: RSPCA

Client: RSPCA



PR team: In-house public

affairs, press and publications departments

Campaign: Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill

Timing: November 1995 to April 1996

Cost: Around pounds 150,000



In recent years, the RSPCA had noticed an increasing number of offences

against wild animals, but had no legal grounds to take action against

offenders. Two previous versions of the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill

had been brought before the Commons, in 1992 and 1995, but had failed to

become law.



‘In the past Bills had included a request to ban hunting with hounds,

but there is a clear majority in the Lords who did not support this. The

Bills failed because they did not have the support of the bloodsports

lobby,’ says Kate Parminter, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, who

led this latest campaign.



Labour MP Alan Meale took up the Bill last year with the backing of the

RSPCA.



Objectives



To push through a Bill to give wild mammals legal protection for the

first time in the UK.



Tactics



Because previous Bills had been thrown out due to lack of support from

the bloodsports lobby, it was decided this time to exclude fox hunting.



Extensive lobbying was carried out with briefings to all MPs and the

Lords, and one-to-one meetings with those expressing an interest. An

exhibition was staged in the Commons illustrating the cruelty the Bill

sought to alleviate. The RSPCA, The League of Cruel Sports and Meale

held negotiations with ministers and others, such as the British

Fieldsports Society, which allowed a Bill to be put forward which was

acceptable to a number of parties.



‘We were able to build on the fact that we are a credible organisation

which the Government turns to for advice. This helped enormously when it

came to lobbying,’ says Parminter.



The RSPCA also looked for public support with advertisements in national

broadsheets and leaflets mailed to 30,000 supporters asking them to

write to MPs. Information packs were placed in 200 RSPCA branches in

England and Wales, outlining how people could help by contacting their

MP. The RSPCA press office provided regional case studies to the media

including that of Kelvin the Hedgehog who was rescued after being spray

painted by children and was then used by the RSPCA as a symbol of the

campaign.



Results



The campaign generated considerable press, radio and TV coverage.

Parminter and other RPSCA spokespeople appeared on the BBC’s Six O’Clock

and Nine O’Clock News and Countryfile; the ITN lunchtime news; various

children’s programmes; Radio 4’s Today and Parliament Today as well as

regional TV and radio - a result which Parminter claims as second only

to that achieved by the publication of its annual national cruelty

statistics which invariably get blanket coverage.



The Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill was given Royal Assent on 29 February

1996 and declared law on 29 April.



Verdict



A well co-ordinated media and public awareness campaign that made good

use of a highly emotive issue. Using specific case studies enabled the

RSPCA to tap into public sympathy and galvanise a surprisingly

sentimental British press.



While getting the bloodsports lobby on side might be criticised by

purists as a compromise, it showed an understanding of the realities of

parliamentary lobbying and was a key to the campaign’s success.



Parminter believes the campaign has also given extra impetus to the

RSPCA brand and has enabled the RSPCA to extend its role to that of a

wildlife police force.



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