According to an essay by the UK land rights campaign, This Land is Ours, the Countryside Movement, one of three orgaisations that went on to form the Countryside Alliance was created in 1995:
- The Countryside Movement claims to be concerned about all rural issues, and its formation coincided with the publication of the Government's Rural White Paper. Fronted by mild-mannered Sir David Steel, the Movement presented a plausible case for an umbrella organisation to lobby the corridors of power on issues like rural unemployment and housing. So what went wrong?
- The Times immediately identified the Movement as a front for hunting, shooting and land-owning interests. The Scotsman called it a Trojan horse for the promotion of bloodsports. Even the Daily Telegraph carried an article ten days after the launch criticising the Movement for promoting conflict between town and country by exaggerating urban ignorance. The Guardian did a demolition job, publishing extracts from confidential minutes of meetings held from June 1995. These unceremoniously exposed the real reason for establishing the Countryside Movement and identified the source of its considerable funding. Animal rights campaigners were threatening the 'rural economy', meaning the vested interests of hunts, game shoot providers, landowners, farmers and agro-industry. According to the Guardian, Max Hastings, then editor of the Daily Telegraph, warned of the danger of being seen as the 'haves' against the 'have-nots', at the inaugural meeting on 21 June. He stressed the importance of tempting environmental groups to join and the need to campaign on non-controversial issues to draw in wide support. Alan Kilkenny, PR consultant for Lowe-Bell Communications, and Michael Sissons, pro-hunt journalist, wrote the proposal document for the new Movement.
- The Countryside Business Group (CBG), a fund-raising body, would provide the finance. A multi-million pound advertising campaign was planned. Bartle Bogle Hegarty (of Levi's jeans fame), were persuaded to undertake the advertising account. This caused raised eyebrows. Launching an IFAW campaign around five years ago, John Hegarty (of Bartle Bogle Hegarty) had pledged that he would never work for a pro-field sports organisation. The Peterborough column in the Daily Telegraph reported much ponytail shaking amongst staff at the agency, who would have preferred an alternative account with the RSPCA.
Board of Countryside Movement, July 1996
- Executive Chairman: Sir David Steel MP | Ken Ball (NatFed Anglers) | The Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos (Hywel Davies) | Hugh Duberly (former president of Country Landowners Association) | David Evans (director general of NFU) | Frederick Forsyth (pro-shooting and angling novelist) | Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE (BFSS, but Survival International say this is not their own president) | Candida Lycett Green | Matthew McCloy | The Earl Peel (Game Conservancy Trust) | John Rennie (identified by Andy Johnson of Squall as a former head of MI6) | Michael Sissons (pro-hunt journalist) | John Swift Duke of Westminster.
- Danny Penman Lobby group to step up battle in the countryside Fighting the activists: Bloodsports enthusiasts launch pounds 3.5m advertising campaign to counter growing influence of animal rights movement The Independent, Friday, 17 November 1995