The Countryside Alliance
|Legal status||Non-profit organisation|
|Purpose||Protecting rural interests|
|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:
The alliance states that "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, one of the largest demonstrations 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..."
In September 2002, the Countryside Alliance organised a march in central London to promote the interests of rural Britain. The British National Party had called for its members to join the march and support the countryside; however, the Countryside Alliance issued the following statement: "Everything we stand for is the opposite of what they believe in." Over 300,000 people were in attendance, including Iain Duncan Smith, Vinnie Jones, Edward Fox, Clarissa Dickson-Wright, Richard Foulds, Earl Spencer, and Michael Marsham, 7th Earl of Romney.
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.
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." The Alliance has also criticised the RSPB and called for the sacking of TV presenter Chris Packham.