RSPCA1Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes: In the 14 months since the RSPCA’s extraordinary prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt it has rarely been out of the headlines. The Alliance took the lead in raising concerns about the methods and motivations for its prosecutions, but many others have followed. Last week we met Stephen Wooler who has been commissioned by the RSPCA Council to carry out a review of the RSPCA’s prosecution function as a result of all the media scrutiny. We have submitted our views to him, which we will publish in due course. If you have been involved in an RSPCA prosecution and would like to respond to the review all the details and a link to the consultation form can be found here. 

This week the RSPCA announced that Chief Executive Gavin Grant had left with immediate effect because of health concerns. We wish Mr Grant a speedy recovery, but cannot ignore the opportunity his departure and Stephen Wooler’s review could create to refocus the Society.

Mr Grant was certainly outspoken and said some very inadvisable things about hunting, the badger cull and racing in particular, but he was a symptom of a deeper malaise within the RSPCA rather than the root of its problems. The RSPCA’s membership is now tiny, somewhere around 20,000, and its council is ‘elected’ by a few hundred of those members. The vast majority of people who donate money or pledge legacies to the RSPCA have no say in how it is run.

The RSPCA now has an opportunity to reject the political agenda which has increasingly masked the brilliant work for animal welfare that most of its staff are focussed on most of the time and signal that it is solely concerned with welfare of animals. Let us hope that it takes it.