The Countryside Alliance
|Legal status||Non-profit organisation|
|Purpose||Protect Rural interests|
|Main organ||Countryside Alliance Board|
The Countryside Alliance (CA) is a British organisation promoting issues relating to the countryside such as farming, rural services, small businesses and country sports, aiming to "Give Rural Britain a voice". With over 100,000 members, the group was named the 'most inspiring political personality' of the last ten years by Channel 4 News in 2008.
The Countryside Alliance was formed on 10 July 1997 from three organisations: the British Field Sports Society, the Countryside Business Group, and the Countryside Movement. The Alliance was formed to help promote and defend the British countryside and rural life, both in the media and in Parliament. Since then, the Alliance has campaigned on a number of issues which they believe are important to rural Britain, some of the most prominent of which are listed below:
- Against the passing of the 2004 Hunting Ban, and lobbying for its repeal
- Against the closure of rural post offices
- Supporting shooting and deer stalking across the British Isles, by campaigning against additional regulations and negative press coverage.
- Encouraging customers and supermarkets to stock food from British farms
- Calling for better broadband connections for homes and small businesses in the countryside
- Organising educational talks and trips to the countryside for schoolchildren
- A "Game-to-Eat" campaign aiming to popularise game as a meat of choice
- Fishing4Schools, an initiative aimed to help children with special educational needs by taking them angling
- Falconry for schools
- Supporting small rural businesses through the Countryside Alliance Awards scheme
- Chairman - Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall - the Alliance's head office is located in Kennington in Hoey's constituency.
- Deputy Chairman - Lord Mancroft, Conservative peer
- Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Countryside Alliance Foundation - Lieutenant General Sir Barney White-Spunner KCB, CBE
- The Board of the Countryside Alliance:
- Johnnie Arkwright
- Nick Bannister
- Simon Hart, Conservative MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, was also the Chief Executive for the CA from 2004-2010
- Baroness Golding, Labour Peer and former Labour MP
- Mark Firth
- Stephen Lambert
- Sally Merison
- David Reynolds
- David Seymour
- Bill Tyrwhitt-Drake
- The Hon. Tim Vestey, eldest son and heir to fellow CA member Samuel Vestey, 3rd Baron Vestey, Master of the Horse to Elizabeth II
- Charlie Wilson
- Lizzie Salmon
Hunting with hounds
The Alliance states 'the countryside is enriched by country pursuits, whose participants should be free from prejudice and discrimination.'
The Alliance has long defended hunting and shooting, especially hunting with hounds, opposing the legislation (the Hunting Act 2004) which came into effect (in England and Wales) in February 2005. Amongst other causes, the Scottish Countryside Alliance campaigns against the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act 2002, which prohibited hunting north of the border. In 2002, the Alliance organised the Liberty & Livelihood March, then the largest ever demonstration in British history, with almost half a million people marching through London to demonstrate against the proposed ban. The Countryside Alliance mounted a series of legal challenges to the Hunting Act 2004 which were not met with success.
Following the first conviction under the Act on 4 August 2006, the Alliance reaffirmed its belief that legislation was "illogical and unclear" and vowed to support the appeal against the conviction, which was later successful.
Critics of the Alliance claim that this is the sole focus of the organisation, a claim it denies, saying that this campaigning is a response to the (previous) government's "preoccupation with the issue". On BBC Newsnight on 18 November 2014 Anne Mallalieu stated "What's actually happened to the foxes...because of the growth of commercial shooting...foxes are being shot at night by lampers...people with bright lights shooting them with guns.."
The organisation has held fundraising rock concerts under the banner "Countryside Rocks" which have attracted support from stars including Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, The Who's Roger Daltrey, Procol Harum's Keith Reid, Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton and Genesis' Mike Rutherford.
Conflict with the RSPCA
In a 2013 interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Alliance's Executive Chairman Lieutenant General Sir Barney White-Spunner called the RSPCA a "sinister and nasty" organisation and urged Alliance members to stop donating to it. The RSPCA responded by saying: "Sir Barney White-Spunner's interview shows once again how far out of touch he and his colleagues at the pro bloodsports Countryside Alliance are with the reality of public opinion in this country."
- "Rock legends fight hunt ban".