The Charity Commission has said the Countryside Alliance does not meet the threshold for charitable status because it is not “established for exclusively charitable purposes”.
In a decision published yesterday, the Commission said that promoting the consumption of game is not charitable and said the Alliance’s educational material relating to hunting, shooting and fishing is not balanced enough.
The Alliance said it is “disappointed” and is considering an appeal.
The Commission said it recognises the work that the Countryside Alliance does to protect and promote “rural life” and represent "the interests of people in the countryside”, but that not all of its proposed objects are charitable.
"Having given full and detailed consideration to the application, the Commission has concluded that the Alliance does not meet the legal test for being a charity as it is not established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit. Consequently it cannot be registered as a charity," the Commission said.
The Alliance indicated its intention to become a charity in 2014 and its members voted in support of the plan in March 2015. Discussions took place between the Alliance and the Commission last year which led to the Alliance submitting revised objects.
Promotion of game not exclusively charitable
The Commission concluded that the Alliance’s object to promote game was not “exclusively charitable” because “it appears that the primary result of the furtherance of this purpose is private benefit accruing to those commercially involved in the production of game for eating”.
It refers to the Alliance’s 'game to eat' campaign, with information about where to buy and how to cook game.
The Commission also expressed concern about the object to “preserve, protect and promote the heritage and practice of activities relating to wildlife, the countryside, wildlife management including hunting, shooting and fishing together with the management of the natural environment”.
It said it has never recognised this purpose as charitable before, adding: “The Commission considers that this purpose is not exclusively charitable because it is uncertain in scope, too broad to be exclusively charitable and does not fall within the scope of any of the descriptions of purposes,” it said.
Educational material unbalanced
The Commission also said that the Alliance’s educational materials relating to hunting and shooting were not balanced enough.
“The material appears to amount to promotion of these activities rather than balanced educational material.”
The Commission also said that the object to “relieve need and disadvantage, particularly in relation to rural economies and communities”, is unclear.
From Governance & Leadership
Alliance: ‘There is a fundamental problem with the law'
The Countryside Alliance said it was considering appealing the decision and is concerned that the law “discriminates against activities which clearly should be charitable”.
In a statement, Tim Bonner, chief executive, said: “The Countryside Alliance is disappointed that, whilst the Charity Commission recognises the important work we do protecting and promoting rural life and representing the interests of people living and working in the countryside from all backgrounds, it does not believe that it is possible to bring such work within the legal definition of a charity.
“Our legal advisors interpreted the law very differently, but if the Charity Commission is correct it exposes a fundamental problem with charity legislation.
“It cannot be right that the law discriminates against activities which clearly should be charitable and which the Charity Commission itself recognises as important work which is beneficial to society, whilst bestowing the advantages of charitable status on activities which have far less public benefit. We will consider an appeal in order to clarify the law.”