CAMPAIGNS: Outfoxing the anti-hunt lobby - Public Awareness

Hunting is an emotive issue. Organisations such as the League Against Cruel Sports criticise ’chasing animals to exhaustion and then tearing them apart’. Hunt supporters, however, see fox-hunting as a form of pest control and a necessary part of conserving the countryside.

Hunting is an emotive issue. Organisations such as the League

Against Cruel Sports criticise ’chasing animals to exhaustion and then

tearing them apart’. Hunt supporters, however, see fox-hunting as a form

of pest control and a necessary part of conserving the countryside.



The BFSS also promotes outdoor pursuits such as fishing, shooting and

hunting.



At the end of last year the society expected that the government was

likely to change - and anticipated the presence of a large anti-hunting

majority in the House of Commons.



On 16 June 1997, Michael Foster, Labour MP for Worcester, introduced a

Private Member’s Bill to ban all hunting with dogs. The Bill is due for

its second reading on 28 November.



Objectives



To promote the interests of its 80,000 full members and to protect their

right to hunt with hounds. The BFSS also wanted to show the breadth of

its support and promote a rational discussion about the issues.



Tactics



On Boxing Day 1996, at hunting meets around the country, the BFSS

launched a 900,000-postcard campaign addressed to Tony Blair, urging him

to leave the countryside alone. As a long-term strategy, the society

also urged its members to write to the press and to lobby MPs.



In the run-up to the General Election, every candidate received a ’Focus

on the Facts’ information pack. The pack highlighted the economic impact

on rural communities of banning hunting. It claimed that thousands of

jobs could be lost, including those of saddle makers and hotel

workers.



With the help of event specialist Pace Setters, the society organised a

rally on 10 July in London’s Hyde Park. It adopted the slogan ’The

Countryside Counts’ which aimed to widen the hunting issue to a town

versus country debate. The Government’s urban majority in Westminster

was portrayed as bullying the rural minority.



Labour peer Baroness Mallalieu was the key speaker at the rally, but

celebrities such as actor Jeremy Irons and naturalist David Bellamy

voiced their support.



A delegation delivered a message of protest to 10 Downing Street.

However, the day’s highlight was the arrival of marchers from Cornwall,

Wales, the Scottish Borders and Cumbria.



Results



BFSS estimates that over 115,000 supporters attended the rally.

High-profile supporters included Tory leader William Hague and former

champion jockey Willie Carson. Except for the Mirror, the tabloids came

out in favour of the rally.



The actress Paula Hamilton being bitten by a ferret made an irresistible

picture story. The broadsheets took up issues such as civil liberties,

and the Guardian reported a downturn in government support for Foster’s

Bill.



The society estimates the event was mentioned on 120 radio and TV items

on the day.



Verdict



Widening the issue from hunting to the countryside was a smart move and

probably doubled the numbers who attended the rally. Focusing arguments

on civil liberties and threats to the rural economy also worked well and

helped to win over journalists such as Polly Toynbee. However, if

Foster’s bill does progress to the Lords, it may be the political

process that eventually squashes it.



Client: British Field Sports

Society (BFSS)

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: The Countryside Counts

Timescale: Ongoing from December 1996

Cost: pounds 60,000 for the rally



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