BWSBarney White-Spunner, Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance, wishes a very happy, healthy and sporting New Year to all members and supporters: This year will be very significant for us all; February will mark 10 years since the Hunting Act came into force in England and Wales and, because of the way the hunting world has conducted itself in the past decade, if there is a favourable result in the General Election in May, there could be a real opportunity to establish a sound and permanent future for hunting.  Media coverage of Boxing Day meets reported a 250,000 turnout across the country, showing the strength of support hunting still enjoys and we round up some of the highlights in the following story. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to our Facebook gallery too.

We must also be mindful of all the other challenges facing the countryside, not least the growing threats to shooting from those who regard it as in some way cruel and elitist. To counter the criticism I would urge everyone who supports shooting to read the 2014 Value of Shooting report and never shy away from repeating the statistics: shooting is worth £2 billion to the UK economy; shooters spend £2.5 billion each year on goods and services; shooting supports the equivalent of 74,000 full time jobs and is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area. Read the report here. We must all be on the front foot for shooting and take every opportunity to talk about the benefits it brings to the countryside.

Ahead of the General Election we have laid out our key priorities for all candidates in our General Election Manifesto which is broad in scope. The Manifesto lists digital communications, food & farming, wildlife management, rural communities and rural services as its five headings, with statistics and detail for each. You can download the document here – it forms a blueprint for our campaigning work this year. Our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Ireland will also be campaigning on these and other devolved political issues and we will keep you updated on their work.

We are extremely grateful for the help and generosity of our supporter base, not least those who actively campaign and raise funds for us, including the hardy souls taking part in the Virgin Money London Marathon in April.

We will need all the support we can muster over the next year and if you would like to join as a member click here for more information.

Happy New Year

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