Friends of the Earth reported to the Charity Commission


Environmental charity, Friends of the Earth, accused of spreading wilfully misleading cancer claims about fracking.


  • Fundraising leaflets deemed to contain misleading information
  • Communities are being frightened into opposing shale
  • SMEs in the supporting supply chain are under threat

According to this article in the Sun newspaper, Friends of the Earth is being taken to task over claims made in fundraising leaflets distributed in the UK earlier this week.

Cuadrilla has reported the NGO to both the Charity Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority, with chief executive Francis Egan quoted as saying “It is irresponsible and shameful that a charity such as Friends of the Earth should use misleading and scaremongering statements to encourage members of the public to part with their hard earned money. The leaflet appears to be wilfully misleading.”

Sections of communities across the UK are being frightened into opposing the safe and responsible exploration of shale gas after being presented with claims about health scares and property blight – with campaigners deliberately pressing these buttons because they know that doing so is sure to elicit an emotional anti-fracking response.

“It is irresponsible and shameful that a charity such as Friends of the Earth should use misleading and scaremongering statements”

Francis Egan

Portraying risks as certainties, right now

In reality, groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace are opposed to shale gas extraction because it’s a fossil fuel linked to the threat of climate change. But they know that climate change often appears as a nebulous concept or far away threat, and that stirring-up anti-fracking sentiment in British villages based on climate fears alone would be an uphill struggle as a result, so they rely on creating a sense of immediacy by portraying local risks to air, water, landscape and health impacts as being significant and unavoidable.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that when Greenpeace undertook a telephone campaign in Lancashire to canvass support for its campaign to block underground access, callers asked residents how they felt about the idea of companies drilling and fracking under their homes – phrased deliberately, perhaps, in order to create the false impression that the activity occurs close to the surface rather than at depths of a mile or more.

In many ways, the anti-fracking campaign has much in common with the anti-nuclear campaigns of the past, which played on our natural human instinct to fear the things we cannot see, hear, feel or touch and which could have a detrimental impact on our own health and that of our families. More recently, campaigns against new nuclear power plants have centred on costs rather than health fears after decades of safe operation have shown those fears to have been misplaced and overplayed.


The real and immediate risks

Meanwhile, manufactured opposition to shale gas is threatening jobs in the supply chain SMEs that support the industry.

That’s the most real and immediate risk right now.

Whilst operators and licence holders, together with their investors, may have deep enough pockets to weather the delays, small supply chain companies don’t share that luxury, with some already being forced to make redundancies.

These are companies that have worked hard to flourish over several decades, in an industry dominated by big players like Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger.

It would be a tragedy if this army of small companies, and the people they employ in communities across the UK, were to fail as a consequence of misleading and inaccurate information spread deliberately to halt the progress of onshore shale gas in Britain – especially considering that even Friends of the Earth itself acknowledges a lasting role for natural gas in home heating to at least 2050.