Chief Executive Tim Bonner writes:
In the last 5 years front page news stories about the tribulations of the RSPCA have become so commonplace as to be unremarkable. This week the Times and Telegraph have reported the loss of another Chief Executive whilst the Sun has asked questions about its Chairman’s role in the purchase of property and employment of family members. We should not, however, let familiarity cloud the depth of the crisis within this iconic organisation.
The RSPCA should be entirely a force for good protecting the welfare of individual animals and promoting good practice and husbandry with the support of sensible and proportionate regulation where necessary.
Instead it has increasingly become a battlefield on which the advocates of ‘animal rights’, a philosophy in which the interests of humans and the welfare of individual animals are subservient to a campaign to give political rights to non-human species, wrestle for control with those who seek to address the practical issues of animal welfare amongst pets and other domestic animals.
This has been allowed to happen by a governance structure which is utterly dysfunctional. The RSPCA has a large and unwieldy board of trustees largely elected by a small and shrinking membership. Trustees propose each other for re-election and are constantly recycled. Ex-Chairman and, by his own description ‘inventor of the modern animal rights movement’ Richard Ryder has, for instance, been on the council permanently since 1972.
A ‘governance review’ ordered by the Charity Commission was published last week and, like so many other ‘independent’ RSPCA reviews, does little but justify the RSPCA’s activities and offer sticking plasters to cover gaping wounds. It may well have been this toothless review which persuaded the Chief Executive, Jeremy Cooper, to walk away. Mr Cooper dared to apologise for the Society’s excesses and state that it was not a political organisation in his only interview when he was appointed last year, but was immediately forced to retract by the RSPCA council. He has not talked to the media since and his departure is no surprise at all.
One thing is clear to those of us who have predicted the continued fall of the RSPCA: it is utterly incapable of curing itself. It will be down to the Charity Commission and the Government to force through change, and if history tells us anything it is that things will have to get even worse for the RSPCA and the animals it is supposed to protect before they act.
Follow Tim on Twitter @CA_TimB