#WhatTheFox? Protecting the Hunting Act from an imminent threat

In early 2014, The Federation of Welsh Farmers’ Packs and the Countryside Alliance were pushing the Conservative-led Government to amend the 2004 Hunting Act and permit a full pack of hounds to draw out a fox to a waiting gun; an amendment that the League believed would effectively make the Act null and void, and see hunting return through the back door.

On 01 March 2014, Freshwater was commissioned by the League to help fight this threat.

By the 26 March, the threat was quashed.



million people reached through paid advertising

Front page

of the Sunday Times secured, as well as coverage in the Observer, Independent and Express


successfully quashed within just three weeks

Freshwater worked alongside the League Against Cruel Sports to devise an integrated campaign to fight a threat against the 2004 Hunting Act, in the form of a proposed amendment, which would make it legal for a pack of hounds to draw out a fox to a waiting gun.

A Statutory Instrument (SI) was required to make the amendment and, as an SI can be passed by government within a matter of days, Freshwater started working straight away to develop a strategy which could be mobilised quickly. We also designed a creative that would resonate with the League’s supporters, the wider animal rights community and with the general public and Parliamentarians.

Our campaign strategy had three core pillars; to quickly raise awareness of the imminent threat on a mass scale; to mobilise support from existing League supporters and activate support from the general public, and to work with key supportive MPs and stakeholders on a lobbying campaign.

The League’s campaign imagery typically focused on gruesome images. Freshwater recommended a different approach to capture attention and appeal to a mass audience. The new graphic-led #WhatTheFox concept was bold and translated well across multiple platforms, keeping the fox at the forefront of all campaign collateral while widening the appeal outside of traditional animal-lovers.

Paid-for advertising was strategically planned to ensure little wastage, and focused on reaching right-leaning media audiences through titles such as the Telegraph and the Evening Standard.

Media relations provided a cost-effective way of delivering complex messaging to a wide audience, and free or low-cost political blogs were targeted for editorials.

A comprehensive content plan for social media regularly kept supporters updated and enthused through various channels, driving sign-ups to the e-campaign database. We created a Twibbon with a clever #WhatTheFox call-to-action that included an auto-tweet directed @David_Cameron using the hashtag whenever the Twibbon was added to an individual’s Twitter profile.

From the Twibbon page, visitors could change their Facebook cover photo to the #WhatTheFox campaign banner, send a set tweet or Facebook update and add a widget to their own website.

We directed supporters to Tweetminster to make it simpler for supporters to find their local MP on Twitter and contact them about the threat.

We also developed a suite of briefings tailored to celebrity supporters, existing supporters and the public, with motivating arguments and clear calls-to-action.

Freshwater also designed print adverts for national newspapers, encouraging readers to tweet selfies with the adverts.

We simultaneously worked closely with the in-house League team to utilise existing political relationships effectively. Our public affairs specialists leveraged our connections to rally UK-wide political support and provided key arguments surrounding the issue.

We audited MPs and Lords who might be sympathetic to the campaign, assisted in drafting political briefings and asked MPs to share the message with friends and family to tap into peer networks.

Our team also provided comprehensive political monitoring, including monitoring parliament, PMQs and Business Questions as well as TheyWorkForYou.

The advertising campaign reached 2.2 million people, the Twibbon generated 462 supports and 885 Facebook shares, Facebook likes increased by 76% during the campaign period and Twitter followers increased by 14% during the campaign period.

We secured coverage in a number of national media titles, including the Express, the front page of the Sunday Times and the Independent. Following the announcement on 26 March that the Bill would not be amended in this Parliament, a further tranche of coverage came.

However, most crucially, our activity led to a direct question about the potential changes to the Hunting Act being posed to then Prime Minister David Cameron, who responded:

“Proposals were made on a cross party basis to the Environment Secretary about an amendment to the Hunting Act that would help, in particular, upland farmers deal with the problem of fox predation of their lambs. That letter has been received and is being considered…but I regret to say I don’t think there will be Government agreement to go forward.”

The threat was averted and the amendment was not made.




League Against Cruel Sports

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