Ever heard the joke about the pressure group that put out a press release, got a major broadcaster interested and then turned down the press opportunity because they were too frightened to debate an animal welfare charity? No, let me tell you about it...
So today the Countryside Alliance sent out this email from their press office
Surprise, surprise the organisation that didn't want Parliament to reflect the overwhelmingly will of the people and ban hunting with hounds is now saying that the Hunting Act should not be properly enforced. That's ok. We are very happy to have that debate (again!) We even put out our own press release.
As you can see in bold from their email they were eager for press opportunities, "for more information or to arrange interviews please call the Countryside Alliance press office". Well unfortunately, for the Alliance the press isn't too keen on one sided propaganda and quite likes to facilitate balanced debate.
ITV Central rang our office and asked if we had seen the Countryside Alliance release? We had; lots of friendly journalists forward their press releases to us (occasionally with comment). Then they asked whether we had anyone based in the Midlands who was willing to debate with a representative from the Countryside Alliance tomorrow? We had just the man, Professor John Cooper QC, Chairman of the League is a Wolverhampton man so we gladly told Central News we would participate.
That should have been ITV happy as they booked the segment, the Alliance should be happy because they got some serious press coverage out of what was basically a recycled statement and we're happy to defend the Hunting Act and promote our positive relationships with the police and others in the criminal justice system at any opportunity. But wait...
... they pulled out. They actually pulled out of their own press opportunity.
I can only assume what they sent round was so weak that even they knew it couldn't stand up to scrutiny. What's more I don't think Central News will be keen to be messed around again the next time a Countryside Alliance press release lands in their Inbox.
Now for the added cherry of irony, provided by James Barrington, the Countryside Alliance's 'Animal Welfare Consultant'. Yesterday, he took to his blog to respond to our challenge to engage in a grownup debate, saying he'd like to have a grownup debate.
Barrington blogged, "So why not a 'grownup debate' on the... Hunting Act? Why
not a 'grownup debate' on the alternatives to hunting?... Why not a 'grownup debate' on a wild mammals welfare
Well Jim, you might want to ask your Countryside Alliance paymasters those questions. I'm sure even you can appreciate how hard it is to engage in 'grownup debate' with an organisation that won't even debate its own press releases.
Oh and while you're doing that perhaps you can you use your animal welfare credentials to help me out because I can't work out whether the Alliance are big chickens or scaredy cats?