Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: A very Happy New Year to all members and supporters. We emerge from 2013 wind and rain lashed but in good spirits, with plenty to do and to look forward to in 2014. I am keen to give you a brief overview of our year ahead and urge you enjoy some festive fieldsports photography on our Facebook page.
First of all, on hunting, the latest on the RSPCA in The Times. Our report has found that four out of five hunt prosecutions by The Society have failed, burdening the taxpayer by £70,000, possibly more, in costs. We will continue to speak up and hold the Society to account on what we see as its politically motivated campaign and I am grateful for the many statements of support I have received from you following my interview with the Telegraph on this recently,
Our campaign for repeal of the Hunting Act continues, with our promotional work on hunting sitting alongside that. Hunting Newcomers Week was a huge success in 2013 and we hope it will be an even bigger hit this year with hunts continuing to open their doors and explain their activities to as wide an audience as possible. This year will also see many events take place to mark the Centenary of the start of the Great War and we will be announcing a commemoration of our own shortly, so please stay tuned.
On shooting we have a busy year in prospect. The issue of lead shot continues to be a hot topic, with the Lead Ammunition Group (on which I sit) set to release its findings in three reports charting the potential effects of lead ammunition on human, wildlife and livestock-to-human health. As well as these reports the updated PACEC report will be published. This will update the 2006 shooting and conservation report which found that shooting contributes £1.6bn to the rural economy. We are one of the groups backing and funding this report and look forward to bringing you the results in due course- it will be a key tool in our promotion of the benefits of shooting to the economy and conservation. This year will also see the Commonwealth Games and we wish all those hoping to represent England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all the very best of luck in shooting disciplines. Hopefully our own National Shooting Week, set to run in late May with the backing of the British Shooting Sports Council, will inspire some newcomers and possibly find the competitors of the future.
This is of course just the tip of the iceberg on shooting, as our team attending The Great British Shooting Show at Stoneleigh next month will tell you. The fate of “Bowland Betty” will also feature in our year, and I will report on our meeting with Natural England in due course. Finally, our Game-to-Eat campaign is soaring and the roll-out of spiced Indian game dishes to restaurants across the country will delight the taste buds of thousands. Meantime, please continue to use game in your cooking, it is versatile, healthy and you will never be wanting for recipes when you visit our dedicated website www.gametoeat.co.uk.
Fishing 4 Schools, Falconry 4 Schools and Casting for Recovery UK & Ireland will continue the educational strand of our work and I will be able to tell you more about our plans in due course; they include boosting our educational literature.
Our broader agenda work will see us cement our impressive credentials on mobile phone signal and broadband. On 14th January all phone networks will join us at a round table at Parliament, to be chaired by Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister responsible for broadband, to talk about extending coverage to rural areas. This will be a vital meeting and will cast us as honest brokers with no interest, other than yours, at heart. Similarly our discussions with the key players on broadband roll-out will continue, with us fighting your corner for superfast broadband. We will be looking at alternative technologies to achieve roll-out and will update you as we go.
With the Countryside Alliance Awards now kicking into high gear (our judges will be braving all conditions to assess the contenders) it only remains for me to urge you to use and support your local shop, pub, Post Office, butcher, farm shop and other small businesses and producers. Let’s celebrate our entrepreneurs and ensure a vibrant rural sector with farming and community life at its heart.
This was very much a whistle-stop tour only touching the surface of our work in 2014. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this year at one or more of the many events we will be attending. With best wishes for a happy and healthy 2014.
Our Facebook page is packed with seasonal photography to enjoy – please send more direct to the account or to [email protected]
Follow us on Twitter:
General account: @CAUpdates
Campaigns team: @CACampaigns
Our “Rural Oscars”: @CAAwards
Director of Campaigns, Tim Bonner: @HuntingTim
Animal welfare consultant Jim Barrington: @jimbarrington
Countryside Alliance Ireland: @CAIreland
Scottish Countryside Alliance: @ScotCountryside