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
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.'