The Countryside Alliance (CA) reported a loss of £232,000 in 2006 at its AGM in London last week, and called for an urgent increase in membership.

At the same time it urged the hunting community to be more vigilant, following a second successful prosecution by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).

Chief executive Simon Hart urged each member to “introduce a friend” to help the CA continue its rural campaigning and support of hunting.

“Fund-raising for the £3.5million we need each year is becoming increasingly difficult. If every member brought in one new member, our problems would be solved,” said Mr Hart . “We need recurring income.”

The CA has pledged to pay half of the estimated £40,000 needed for Quantock Staghounds to appeal their guilty verdict delivered last week.

CA president Baroness Mallalieu said the hunting community has to be extremely careful about the public perception of its conduct.

She said District Judge Parsons’ statement that the Quantocks’ Richard Down and Adrian Pillivant were “disingenuous in their attempt to deceive him” had left a “window of opportunity for our opponents to put pressure on the police”.

Stephen Lambert, chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations (CHA) and Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA), told H&H: “We’re coping with the present situation but with difficulty in some quarters because of the constant harassment in certain places. The only long-term solution is for the Hunting Act to be repealed.”

Despite its funding problems, the CA has 106,000 members — an all-time high. But there were calls from the floor for the annual subscription fee of £50 to be reduced to make membership more affordable.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (21 June, ’07)