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Tim Bonner: The ‘new’ RSPCA turns its back on extremism

The RSPCA has come a long way in the last few years and last week it revealed its first rebrand for 75 years. It has renamed itself the ‘new’ RSPCA, which is a fairly blatant admission that there was a lot wrong with the ‘old’ RSPCA. Just as ‘new’ Labour was carefully crafted to separate itself from the excesses of the hard left, you don’t call yourself ‘new’ unless you want to distance yourself from what has gone before.

On the one hand the RSPCA’s acceptance that it had taken entirely the wrong path is gratifying for those of us who have stuck our heads above the parapet for the last 15 years and been proved right about everything from its political priorities to its governance and of course its obsession with private prosecutions. On the other, it’s fairly galling that many of those who consistently abused us for daring to criticise the previously unimpeachable RSPCA are now happily celebrating the ‘new’ RSPCA with reformed governance, a sensible political agenda and a commitment to ending private prosecution.

Standing apart from the fray, however, there is something quite amusing about the RSPCA appointing Chris Packham, who works so hard to project his trendy, radical brand, as its President just as it reverts to being exactly the sort of sensible establishment organisation that he is usually so contemptuous of.

The rebrand itself is fluffy, largely uncontroversial and is clearly the next step in detoxifying the RSPCA’s brand after spending hard years on internal reform. Its strap line, ‘For Every Kind’, has a hint of speciesism about it but given public attitudes to animals it probably tested well with the focus groups. ‘Kind’ is a word we all want to be associated both with the care of animals as well as with the treatment of people, which is an area that the RSPCA has fallen down in so badly in the past.

A logo featuring a line up of animals is interesting in that it is quite obviously dictated by opinion research rather than welfare concerns. I can’t remember the RSPCA ever saying much about deer and their only significant welfare issues relate to poachers, but Bambi gets centre stage with the RSPCA, presumably because they poll well with the public. On the other hand, fish (which poll badly) don’t get a look in at all despite current issues with river pollution and huge welfare issues in the salmon farming sector, much of which is RSPCA assured. So perhaps what the RSPCA is really saying that it is ‘For Every Kind’ of animal that is cute and fluffy.


It would be churlish to stray too far from the main point, however, which is that the RSPCA has been on a long journey from the dark days of extremist leadership and a ruling council controlled by animal rights activists. This rebrand, which feels very much like a relaunch, is another very significant step. There are a few of us who stood up to the radical element from 2010 onwards and initiated this change. I am very proud of the role the Countryside Alliance has played in putting a British institution back on the right path.

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