Countryside Alliance Director of Campaigns Tim Bonner writes: The RSPCA may have shed both its Chief Executive and its deputy Chief Executive in the last few months, but the controversies continue. This week The Times reported on last year's RSPCA AGM, the minutes of which have only just been made available to members (read The Times report here. NB it is a subscription website.) At the meeting, members debated a motion demanding that the RSPCA continues with its increasingly radical agenda and the proposer and seconder spoke out against the 'Freedom Food' scheme through which millions of farm animals are assured higher welfare standards. The motion was essentially an attack on farming and meat eating with the proposer claiming that "the RSPCA has no business sanitising death on this industrial scale". These were not just the views of an extremist minority within the RSPCA membership. Dr Richard Ryder, ex Chairman and perennial RSPCA council member, spoke in favour of the motion and despite most of his 25 fellow council members being present just four people voted against the motion.
Gavin Grant, the outspoken and calamitous Chief Executive who left in February, may have embodied the extremism of the RSPCA, but he was a symptom, not the cause. The fact is that as the RSPCA's membership continues to fall (it is now below 25,000) the influence of organised radicals within it becomes stronger. The society now looks to be in total chaos. It has no Chief Executive, its deputy Chief Executive has also left "with immediate effect" and it has not even started the public process of replacing either. Its deputy Chairman delivered a scathing report to its council on leadership, management and strategy last year and it awaits an internal report on the future of its irreconcilable roles as campaigning organisation, animal welfare inspector and criminal prosecutor. Meanwhile despite very public statements claiming that donations had "skyrocketed" in the wake of its prosecution of the Heythrop hunt it is becoming clear that the exact opposite was true. Both donations and legacies (on which the RSPCA relies hugely) were down sharply in 2013 as the public turned its back on the Society's agenda from political prosecutions to attacks on farming and racing.
The RSPCA has reached a crossroads and needs to decide whether it is more concerned about the welfare of animals or the philosophy of animal rights. We all hope it chooses the right path but if, as looks increasingly likely, it chooses the wrong one then it must be honest about its aims and remove itself from the enforcement of laws it does not support. It will also continue to have a fight on its hands as the Countryside Alliance, and many other right thinking people, will not stand by and see animal rights extremism go unchallenged.