The League Against Cruel Sports (LACS) is relocating from central London to Godalming, Surrey, amid suggestions that the group has money problems and plummeting membership.
Former LACS director-turned hunting supporter Jim Barrington says that in 1995 it had 18,000 members now LACS spokesman Barry Hugill says it has just 4,500.
“Membership is not as high as it was before the Hunting Act,” Mr Hugill told H&H.
At an extraordinary general meeting on 26 April, LACS members agreed to amalgamate the LACS Ltd with its charity arm, The League Trust. Mr Hughill said this is in common with many other groups taking advantage of changes made under the Charities Act 2006.
LACS also made a number of staff cuts before Christmas, including head of legal and political affairs Mike Hobday, who had been very involved in campaigning for a hunting ban.
It is selling St Nicholas’ Priory, at its Baronsdown deer sanctuary on Exmoor and, in July, will be moving to Godalming, a move that the Countryside Alliance (CA) feels proves LACS is in trouble.
“We have twice as many members in Devon as it has in the whole country,” said CA spokesman Tim Bonner. “If you look at its accounts it relies very heavily on legacies to keep it going and, if membership is dwindling, it follows that legacies will, too.”
Accounts presented to LACS’ annual meeting in July 2007 show a hole in the organisation’s coffers of almost £1million.
LACS’ charity arm, The League Trust, recorded income of £182,060, but outgoings of £616,776 and £538,830 owed to creditors. LACS Ltd recorded £237,679 profit.
But Mr Hughill, who is shortly to retire, denies LACS has money problems and says the move from Southwark is a positive one.
He said: “Our present offices can best be described as a charming Dickensian slum. We are in a position where we can buy new offices in Godalming.”
But Mr Barrington believes LACS has become a victim of its perceived success.
He said: “LACS has been geared up to [securing] a hunting ban and, now the Hunting Act is here, people think ‘job done’ and move on.”
Mr Barrington added that the LACS HQ — bought in 1980 for £80,000 — was mortgaged in 1997 to allow the group to support MP Michael Foster’s failed Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill.
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (22 May, ’08)