For a time I was an active member of Friends of the Earth and supported all they did. I then moved house and job and my membership lapsed. That is something I regretted as I felt I should be do more for the environment and that Friends of the Earth was one of the best organisations doing that.
That remained the case until March 2014 when I went to a meeting organised by RAFF (Residents against Fracking; Fylde) at Inskip (10 miles from Preston). I was unimpressed with the low level of accuracy in the presentation. i challenged some of this and to my surprise the local FoE activist supported the speaker in the inaccuracies. In two minutes my respect for FoE evaporated. RAFF also handed out a leaflet Shale Gas; the Facts which they withdrew after a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Over the next 15 months I saw how FoE worked on local communities stirring them up against fracking. During the run-up to the hearings in Preston on Cuadrilla’s bid, they organised sessions for public speaking. We listened to these at the hearings. Those speaking could present themselves well, but the content was dire.
And so to October 2015. This leaflet
was included in (i.e.paid for) in various magazines and papers – Private eye, Sunday Times , Simple Things with possibly some others.
It was an appeal for funds and gave a highly inaccurate presentation of fracking.
The television programme ended up with Tony Bosworth’s daft ideas that sand is carcenogenic, portrayed mischievously by this elusive Backing Fracking (BF).
Soon after we put in a complaint to ASA and Ipsos and are awaiting a judgmnet.
It seems that others (Cuadrilla?) have done the same, but Friends of the Earth argue that it was not their charitable wing but their Limited Company which did this.
Whatever the legalities of the issue, it does seem that this green NGO should clearly remove one of the “r”s from its name.
Here’s another blog on it
Below is the article form the Times today 29th January 2016
FRIENDS OF THE EARTH SCANDAL.
Ben Webster Environment Editor The TIMES newspaper.
Published at 12:01AM, January 29 2016
The Charity Commission is considering closing a loophole in charity law that allowed a green group to raise money by making allegedly false claims in a political campaign against fracking.
Friends of the Earth, a registered charity, avoided restrictions on political activity by claiming that its antifracking campaign was being carried out by a non-charitable company called Friends of the Earth Limited.
The commission said the use of such similar names could confuse the public and damage public trust in charities.
Last year Friends of the Earth was accused of scaremongering to raise money by suggesting that sand used in fracking could cause cancer. It distributed thousands of leaflets seeking donations to help it fight plans by “the government and big companies desperate to frack the UK”.
It sought to justify a claim in the leaflet that fracking used toxic chemicals by stating that it required sand, which contained “significant amounts of silica which is a known carcinogen”. Cuadrilla, which is appealing against the rejection of its applications to frack in Lancashire, complained to the Charity Commission that the leaflet caused “unfounded fear” and resulted in “donations being diverted from more worthy charitable causes”.
Neil Robertson, the commission’s head of operations, replied that it could not take action because the leaflet had been published by a non-charitable body, Friends of the Earth Limited.
Mr Robertson wrote that Friends of the Earth, the charity, had engaged in an anti-fracking campaign until last year but the trustees had decided that it should withdraw “on the basis that it was becoming a more politically sensitive issue”. Since June, the campaign had been carried out “solely by Friends of the Earth Limited”. He said that other charities had non-charitable campaign bodies and this needed to be investigated. “We realise that this can cause confusion to the public and could pose a reputational risk to charity.”
Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla, said: “It is deplorable that a recognised charity is now choosing to distance itself from a misleading and fear-inducing fundraising leaflet by hiding behind its non-charitable associate. The public has had enough of charities which abuse the fundraising process. We urge the Charity Commission to investigate the fiction that this charity is no longer involved in campaigning against fracking. It is a sham.”
Friends of the Earth said that Cuadrilla’s complaints “seem to be designed to stifle debate and intimidate local opposition”.
In 2014, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a charity which questions whether man-made emissions are causing dangerous climate change, created a separate non-charitable campaigning body, the Global Warming Policy Forum. Benny Peiser, the director of both bodies, said the forum was created at the suggestion of the Charity Commission, which was frustrated by having to deal with complaints against the foundation by a climate change campaigner