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
‘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
To push through a Bill to give wild mammals legal protection for the
first time in the UK.
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
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.
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.