What is it?
The Sly Ones campaign features three photographs of men in red fox-hunting attire who have been given fox-like makeovers. Their demeanour is sinister and snooty as they look down their noses and grasp their riding crops. The images, created pro bono by the agency J Walter Thompson, are captioned "It’s not the foxes who are sly". The campaign has been run in the national press and promoted by IFAW digitally on its website and social media, including a blog by Philip Mansbridge, UK director of IFAW, on The Huffington Post website.
The campaign, which was launched on 5 May, was timed to coincide with this week’s general election and marks 10 years since the Hunting Act 2004 – which prohibited the hunting of wild animals with dogs in England and Wales – came into force in early 2005.
What does the charity want to achieve?
It believes that foxes are still being hunted illegally and is calling for the act to be strengthened to stop hunts from flouting the law.
What has been the impact so far?
The campaign images and Mansbridge’s blog have been shared widely on social media – one tweet reached more than 106,000 people, IFAW said, and the campaign announcement on Facebook reached more than 25,000 people, with 1,900 clicks on the post. It has prompted debate on Twitter and Facebook, and a spokeswoman for IFAW says it is pleased that many people have weighed into the debate on Twitter – both for and against.
The pro-hunting campaign group the Countryside Alliance has accused IFAW of resorting to bigotry and stereotypes in its snooty images of posh hunters, and a group of local newspapers in south-west England has launched polls asking whether the campaign uses crude class stereotypes or is clever (with about 70 per cent of respondents so far voting for the latter).
What the charity says
"As we campaign for a strengthening of the Hunting Act, we wanted an impactful advert to highlight the fact that many hunts continue to flout the law and are slyly getting away with it," said Mansbridge.
"The Hunting Act is a vital piece of wildlife legislation, but with hunts continuing to illegally chase or kill foxes and evade prosecution, it is time for the act to be amended to make it more effective.
"With many hunts using a false alibi of trail hunting and other dubious tactics to get around the law, we wanted an image to reflect that and make people think about what is really going on."
Third Sector verdict
To continue the vulpine imagery, this is a wily and cunning campaign. IFAW says it is not a campaign about class but about abiding by the law; but it does play on a caricature of the snooty upper classes. It slyly brings a "them and us" element into the issue, but in doing so it has triggered debate.
The campaign is fox-like in both its intelligence and cruelty. It has reignited an issue that people outside active animal welfare and hunting circles might have thought ended with the introduction of the Hunting Act a decade ago. These images have helped hunting stalk back into the public consciousness.