Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
RSPCA official charity logo
Founded 1824
Founder Richard Martin, William Wilberforce, Reverend Arthur Broome
Focus Animals
Location
Area served
England & Wales
Key people
Michael Ward (Interim CEO, June 2017-)
Revenue
GBP £132.8m (2012)[1]
Employees
1,667 (2011)
Website http://www.rspca.org.uk

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is a charity operating in England and Wales that promotes animal welfare. In 2012, the RSPCA investigated 150,833 cruelty complaints,[2] it is the oldest and largest animal welfare organisation in the world[3] and is one of the largest charities in the UK, with 1,667 employees (as of 2011).[4] The organisation also does international outreach work across Europe, Africa and Asia.[5]

The charity's work has inspired the creation of similar groups in other jurisdictions, starting with the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in 1836), and including the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1839), the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1840), the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1866), the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1882), and various groups which eventually came together as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia (1981), the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) (1997) – formerly known as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Hong Kong) (1903–1997).

The RSPCA is funded primarily by voluntary donations; in 2012, RSPCA total income was £132,803,000, total expenditure was £121,464,000.[6] Its patron is Queen Elizabeth II.

History[edit]

A painting of the trial of Bill Burns, showing Richard Martin with the donkey in an astonished courtroom, leading to the world's first known conviction for animal cruelty, after Burns was found beating his donkey. It was a story that delighted London's newspapers and music halls.

The emergence of the RSPCA has its roots in the intellectual climate of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century in Britain where opposing views were exchanged in print concerning the use of animals, the harsh use and maltreatment of animals in hauling carriages, scientific experiments (including vivisection), and cultural amusements of fox-hunting, bull-baiting and cock-fighting were among some of the matters that were debated by social reformers, clergy, and parliamentarians.[7] At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was an unsuccessful attempt by William Johnstone Pulteney on 18 April 1800 to pass legislation through England's Parliament to ban the practice of bull-baiting;[8] in 1809 Lord Erskine (1750-1823) introduced an anti-cruelty bill which was passed in the House of Lords but was defeated in a vote in the House of Commons.[9] Erskine in his parliamentary speech combined the vocabulary of animal rights and trusteeship with a theological appeal to biblical passages opposing cruelty.[10] A later attempt to pass anti-cruelty legislation was spearheaded by the Irish-born parliamentarian Richard Martin and in 1822 an anti-cruelty to cattle bill (sometimes called Martin's Act) became law.[11]

Martin's Act was supported by various social reformers who were not parliamentarians and an informal network had gathered around the efforts of Reverend Arthur Broome (1779-1837) to create a voluntary organisation that would promote kindness toward animals. Broome canvassed opinions in letters that were published or summarised in various periodicals in 1821.[12] Broome organised a meeting and extended invitations to various reformers that included parliamentarians, clergy and lawyers, the meeting was held on Wednesday 16 June 1824 in Old Slaughter's Coffee House, London. The meeting was chaired by Thomas Fowell Buxton MP (1786-1845) and the resolution to establish the society was voted on, among the others who were present as founding members were Sir James Mackintosh MP, Richard Martin, William Wilberforce, Basil Montagu, John Ashley Warre, Rev. George Bonner, Rev. George Avery Hatch, Sir James Graham, John Gilbert Meymott, William Mudford, and Lewis Gompertz,[13] the organisation was founded (without the "royal" prefix) as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Broome was appointed as the society's first honorary secretary,[14] the foundation is marked by a plaque on the modern day building at 77–78 St. Martin's Lane.[15]

The society was the first animal welfare charity to be founded in the world;[16] in 1824 it brought sixty three offenders before the courts.[17] It was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840 to become the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as it is today,[18] the origins of the role of the RSPCA inspector stem from Broome's efforts in 1822 to personally bring to court some individuals against whom charges of cruelty were heard.[19] Broome employed and personally paid the salary for an inspector to monitor the abuse of animals at the Smithfield Market,[20] the inspector hired by Broome, Charles Wheeler, served in the capacity of an inspector from 1824-1826 but his services were terminated when the society's revenue was exceeded by its debts. The accrued debts led to a suspension of operations when Broome as the society's guarantor for debts was imprisoned.[21] When operations resumed there was some divided opinions in the Committees that steered the society about employing inspectors, which resulted in a resolution in 1832 to discontinue employing an inspector, the permanent appointment of a salaried inspector was settled in 1838, and the inspector is the image best known of the organisation today.[22]

Broome's experience of bankruptcy and prison created difficulties for him afterwards and he stood aside as the society's first secretary in 1828 and was succeeded by the co-founding member Lewis Gompertz.[23] Unlike the other founder members who were Christians, Gompertz was a Jew and despite his abilities in campaigning against cruelty, fund-raising and administrative skills, tensions emerged between him and another committee member, the tensions led to the convening of a meeting in early 1832 which led to Gompertz resigning.[24] His resignation coincided with a resolution adopted in 1832 that "the proceedings of the Society were entirely based on the Christian faith and Christian principles."[25]

Alongside the society's early efforts to prosecute offenders who maltreated animals, there were efforts made to promote kindly attitudes toward animals through the publication of books and tracts as well as the fostering of annual sermons preached against cruelty on behalf of the society, the first annual anti-cruelty sermon that was preached on behalf of the society was delivered by Rev Dr Rudge in March 1827 at the Whitechapel Church.[26] In 1865 the RSPCA looked for a way to consolidate and further influence public opinion on animal welfare by encouraging an annual "Animal Sunday" church service where clergy would preach sermons on anti-cruelty themes and the very first sermon was delivered in London on 9 July 1865 by Rev. Arthur Penryhn Stanley (1815-1881), the Dean of Westminster,[27] the "Animal Sunday" service became an annual event in different church gatherings in England, which was later adopted by churches in Australia and New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and it was the forerunner of the "pet blessing" services that emerged in the 1970s.[28] In the twentieth century the RSPCA widened the horizons in the public domain by promoting an annual "animal welfare week."[29]

During the second half of 1837 the society sponsored an essay-writing competition with a benefactor offering a prize of one hundred pounds for the winning entry, the terms of the competition stipulated:

"The Essay required is one which shall morally illustrate, and religiously enforce, the obligation of man towards the inferior and dependent creatures--their protection and security from abuse, more especially as regards those engaged in service, and for the use and benefit of mankind-on the sin of cruelty--the infliction of wanton or unnecessary pain, taking the subject under its various denominations-exposing the specious defence of vivisection on the ground of its being for the interests of science--the supplying the infinite demands on the poor animal in aid of human speculations by exacting extreme labour, and thereby causing excessive suffering--humanity to the brute as harmonious with the spirit and doctrines of Christianity, and the duty of man as a rational and accountable creature."[30]

There were thirty-four essays submitted and in December 1838 the prize was awarded to the Congregational minister Rev John Styles.[31] Styles published his book-length work, The Animal Creation; its claims on our humanity stated and enforced, and all proceeds of sale were donated to the society.[32] Other contestants, such as David Mushet and William Youatt, the society's veterinarian, also published their essays.[33] One entrant whose work was submitted a few days after the competition deadline, and which was excluded from the competition was written by the Unitarian minister William Hamilton Drummond and he published his text in 1838, The Rights of Animals: and Man's Obligation to Treat Them with Humanity.[34] This competition set a precedent for subsequent RSPCA prize-winning competitions.

The role of women in the society began shortly after the organisation was founded, at the society's first annual meeting in 1825, which was held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on 29 June 1825, the public notice that announced the gathering specifically included appropriate accommodation for the presence of women members.[35] Several women of social standing were listed as patronesses of the society, such as the Duchess of Buccleuch, Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, Dowager Countess Harcourt, Lady Emily Pusey, Lady Eyre and Lady Mackintosh;[36] in 1837 the novelist Catherine Grace Godwin (1798-1845) described in her novel Louisa Seymour an incident where two leading female characters were aghast at the behaviour of a driver abusing a horse pulling a carriage that they subsequently discussed the problem of cruelty with other characters one of whom, called Sir Arthur Beauchamp, disclosed that he was a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.[37] In 1839 another female supporter of the society, Sarah Burdett, a relative of the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts and a poet, published her theological understanding of the rights of animals,[38] however it was not until 12 July 1870 that the RSPCA Ladies' Committee was established.[39] Through the Ladies Committee various activities were sponsored including essay-prize competitions among children, and the formation of the Band of Mercy as a movement to encourage children to act kindly toward animals.[40]

In the nineteenth century the RSPCA fostered international relations on the problem of cruelty through the sponsoring of conferences and in providing basic advice on the establishment of similar welfare bodies in North America and in the colonies of the British Empire,[41] the RSPCA celebrated its jubilee in June 1874 by holding an International Congress on Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Queen Victoria delivered a letter of congratulations to the RSPCA on its anniversary.[42] Although the society was founded by people who were mostly Christian social reformers, and in 1832 presented itself as a Christian charity concerned with welfare as well as moral reform, the RSPCA gradually developed into a non-religious, non-sectarian animal welfare charity.[43]

The RSPCA lobbied Parliament throughout the nineteenth century, resulting in a number of new laws, the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 amended Martin's Act and outlawed baiting. There was a public groundswell of opinions that were divided into opposing factions concerning vivisection, where Charles Darwin (1809-1882) campaigned on behalf of scientists to conduct experiments on animals while others, such as Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) formed an anti-vivisection lobby.[44] The stance adopted by the RSPCA was one of qualified support for legislation,[45] this qualified support for experiments on animals was at odds with the stance taken by Society's founder Broome who had in 1825 sought medical opinions about vivisection and he published their anti-vivisection sentiments.[46] It was also a departure from the 1837 essay-competition (discussed above) where the essayists were obliged to expose "the specious defence of vivisection on the ground of its being for the interests of science." In 1876 the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed to control animal experimentation. In 1911 Parliament passed Sir George Greenwood's Animal Protection Act, since that time the RSPCA has continued to play an active role, both in the creation of animal welfare legislation and in its enforcement. An important recent new law has been the Animal Welfare Act 2006.[47][48]

During the First World War the RSPCA provided support for the Army Veterinary Corps in treating animals such as donkeys, horses, dogs and birds that were co-opted into military service as beasts of burden, messengers and so forth,[49] the RSPCA's centenary in 1924 and its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 1974 were accompanied by books telling the society's story.[50] Since the end of the Second World War the development of intense agricultural farming practices has raised many questions for public debate concerning animal welfare legislation and the role of the RSPCA, this has included debates both inside the RSPCA (e.g. the RSPCA Reform Group) as well as among ethicists, social activists and supporters of claims for animal rights outside of it concerning the society's role in ethical and legal issues involving the use of animals.[51]

Animal welfare establishments[edit]

RSPCA centres, hospitals and branches operate throughout England and Wales; in 2012 RSPCA centres and branches assisted and rehomed 55,459 animals.[52]

Hospitals[edit]

In 2013 the society owned four animal hospitals, Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Putney (south London) and the Harmsworth Memorial Hospital in Holloway (north London),[53] and a number of clinics which provide treatments to those who could not otherwise afford it, neuter animals and accept animals from the RSPCA inspectorate.

Centres[edit]

RSPCA animal centres deal with a wide range of injured and rescued animals, working alongside its inspectorate, volunteers, and others to ensure that each animal is found a new home.

In 2013 the society had four wildlife centres at East Winch (Norfolk), West Hatch (Somerset), Stapeley Grange (Cheshire) and Mallydams Wood (East Sussex), which provide treatment to sick, injured and orphaned wild animals to maximise their chances of a successful return to the wild.[54]

Organisation and structure[edit]

National organisation[edit]

At the national level, there is a 'National Control Centre', which receives all calls from members of the public, and tasks local Inspectors, some information AWOs or ACOs to respond to urgent calls.[55]

Additionally the £16 million[56] 'National Headquarters' located at Southwater in West Sussex houses several general 'Departments', each with a departmental head, consistent with the needs of any major organisation. The current Chief Executive Officer is Jeremy Cooper[57] who replaced the previous Chief Executive Officer Gavin Grant who left in February 2014.

Regions[edit]

There are five 'Regions' (North, East, Wales & West, South & South West, South East), each headed by a Regional Manager (responsible for all staff and RSPCA HQ facilities) assisted by a Regional Superintendent who has responsibility for the Chief Inspectors, Inspectors, AWOs and ACOs. The Regional Managers are expected to have a broad understanding of operations throughout their regions.

Branches[edit]

A RSPCA shop in Bramley, Leeds.

RSPCA branches operate locally across England and Wales. Branches are separately registered charities operating at a local level and are run by volunteers, some RSPCA branches are self-funding and raise money locally to support the animal welfare work they do. They find homes for about three-quarters of all animals taken in by the RSPCA. RSPCA branches also offer advice, microchipping, neutering and subsidised animal treatments; in 2013 there were also about 1000 RSPCA shops.

Groups[edit]

Each Region of the RSPCA contains 'Groups' of Inspectorate staff. A Group is headed by a Chief Inspector, each Chief Inspector might typically be responsible for around 8 or more Inspectors, 3 Animals Welfare Officers (AWOs) and 2 Animal Collection Officers (ACOs), working with several local Branches. There are also a small number of Market Inspectors across the country.[58]

Inspectorate rank insignia[edit]

RSPCA Inspectorate rank insignia
Rank Animal
Collection Officer
Trainee Inspector Inspector Chief Inspector Superintendent Chief Superintendent Chief Officer
Insignia Rspca-02a.JPG Rspca-03a.JPG Rspca-04a.JPG Rspca-05a.JPG Rspca-06a.JPG Rspca-07a.JPG Rspca-10a.JPG
All ranks within the Inspectorate wear a white shirt with obvious RSPCA logo on the left breast. All ranks, except Animal Collection Officers, are provided with a formal uniform for use at special occasions such as Court hearings and ceremonial occasions, during major rescues, specialist teams of Inspectorate staff may opt for a more casual dark blue polo shirt with RSPCA embroidered logo. Note: a new rank of Animal Welfare Officer has recently been introduced.

Mission statement and charitable status[edit]

The RSPCA is a registered charity (no. 219099) that relies on donations from the public. The RSPCA states that its mission as a charity is, by all lawful means, to prevent cruelty, promote kindness and to alleviate the suffering of animals.

RSPCA inspectors respond to calls from the public to investigate alleged mistreatment of animals, they offer advice and assistance to improve animal welfare, and in some cases prosecute under laws such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Animals rescued by the RSPCA are treated, rehabilitated and rehomed or released wherever possible.[59]

The RSPCA brings private prosecution (a right available to any civilian) against those it believes, based on independent veterinary opinion, have caused neglect to an animal under laws such as the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the society has its own legal department and veterinary surgeons amongst the resources which facilitate such private prosecutions. All prosecutions are brought via independent solicitors acting for the RSPCA, as the association has no legal enforcement powers or authority in its own right.

Legal standing and inspectors' powers[edit]

In 1829 when the first recognisable police force was established in England,[60][61] they adopted a similar uniform to that of RSPCA inspectors who had been wearing uniforms since the charity's beginning in 1824, this has led to similarities in the RSPCA rank names and rank insignia with British police ranks, which has led some critics (such as Chris Newman, chairman of the Federation of Companion Animal Societies)[62] to suggest an attempt to "adopt" police powers in the public imagination.

An RSPCA inspector may also verbally caution a member of the public, similar to that used by the police, i.e. "You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence"; this may strengthen the perception that the RSPCA has statutory powers. When Richard Girling of The Times asked about their lack of powers, a spokesman for the RSPCA said "We would prefer you didn’t publish that, but of course it's up to you".[62] Chris Newman claimed that the RSPCA "impersonate police officers and commit trespass. People do believe they have powers of entry";[62] however, he did not produce any evidence of such impersonation of police officers, and the society strongly deny the charge of impersonation.

Sally Case, former head of prosecutions, insisted that RSPCA inspectors are trained specifically to make clear to pet-owners that they have no such right, they act without an owner’s permission, she says, "only if an animal is suffering in a dire emergency. If the court feels evidence has been wrongly obtained, it can refuse to admit it".[62]

One recent trial was halted and charges relating to nine dogs were thrown out of court after District Judge Elsey ruled that they had been wrongly seized and that the police and RSPCA acted unlawfully when they entered private property and seized the animals.[63]

While the Protection of Animals Act 1911 provided a power of arrest for police, the British courts determined that Parliament did not intend any other organisation, such as the RSPCA, to be empowered under the Act and that the RSPCA therefore does not possess police-like powers of arrest, of entry or of search (Line v RSPCA, 1902). Like any other person or organisation that the law deems to have a duty to investigate – such as HM Revenue and Customs and Local Authority Trading Standards – the RSPCA is expected to conform to the rules in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 so far as they relate to matters of investigation. RSPCA officers are trained to state, following giving the caution, that the person is "not under arrest and can leave at any time".

The Animal Welfare Act 2006[64] has now replaced the Protection of Animals Act 1911, and it empowers the police and an inspector appointed by a local authority, such inspectors are not to be confused with RSPCA Inspectors who are not appointed by local authorities. In cases where, for example, access to premises without the owner’s consent is sought, a local authority or Animal Health inspector or police officer may be accompanied by an RSPCA inspector if he or she is invited to do so, as was the case in previous law.[65]

Following a series of Freedom of Information requests in 2011, to police constabularies throughout England and Wales[66] it was revealed that the RSPCA has developed local information sharing protocols with a number of constabularies, allowing designated RSPCA workers access to confidential information held on the Police National Computer (PNC), although RSPCA workers do not have direct access to the PNC, information is shared with them by the various police constabularies which would reveal any convictions, cautions, warnings, reprimands and impending prosecutions. Information regarding motor vehicles can also be accessed, the Association of Chief Police Officers released a statement clarifying that the RSPCA had no direct access to the PNC, and that in common with other prosecuting bodies, it may make a request for disclosure of records. This indirect access does not include any information that the RSPCA does not need in order to prosecute a case at court.[67]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

Fund-raising in Scotland[edit]

The RSPCA has been criticised by the Scottish SPCA for fund-raising in Scotland and thereby "stealing food from the mouths of animals north of the border by taking donations intended for Scotland."[68] The RSPCA insists that it does not deliberately advertise in Scotland but that many satellite channels only enabled the organisation to purchase UK-wide advertising; in a statement, the RSPCA said it went "to great lengths" to ensure wherever possible that adverts were not distributed outside England and Wales, and "Every piece of printed literature, television advertising and internet banner advertising always features the wording 'The RSPCA is a charity registered in England and Wales'". "All Scottish donors, who contact us via RSPCA fundraising campaigns, are directed to the Scottish SPCA so that they can donate to them if they so wish."[68] The Scottish SPCA changed its logo in 2005 to make a clearer distinction between itself and the RSPCA in an attempt to prevent legacies being left to its English equivalent by mistake when the Scottish charity was intended.[69]

Sheep slaughter[edit]

In September 2012 the RSPCA euthanized 40 sheep, based on the decision of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency,[70] and were accused of using the photographs to further their campaign against animal exports.[71]

The RSPCA stated that they were present at the request of the Port Authority, Thanet District Council, to ensure that animal welfare laws were fully implemented in the operation headed up by DEFRA,[70] the animals were all checked by several independent vets including two Defra vets, and the decisions on the day to slaughter the sheep was taken by Animal Health, and not by RSPCA inspectors.[72]

However, the National Farmers' Union said that it "still leaves many questions to be answered, by both AHVLA and the RSPCA", and that "The NFU also still has questions about why the method of slaughter used resulted in so much blood in the photographs",[73] the RSPCA responded to this by stating that the amount of blood shown in the photographs was caused by ‘moving the dead bodies to an area where they were piled up pending collection for disposal’.[72]

Badger culling and politicisation[edit]

The RSPCA's opposition of a badger cull has been commented upon; in 2006 there was controversy about a "political" campaign against culling, with the Charity Commission being asked to consider claims that the charity had breached guidelines by being too overtly 'political'. The charity responded saying that it took "careful account of charity law and the guidance issued by the Charity Commission".[74]

Slaughter of sacred cow[edit]

On 13 December 2007 the RSPCA unlawfully trespassed onto Bhaktivedanta Manor Hindu temple and unlawfully slaughtered the sacred cow Gangotri, the cow was under veterinary care and was recovering from an illness.[75] 200 people protested at the RSPCA headquarters about the killing, and the RSPCA was sued by the Hindu monks of Bhaktivedanta Manor Hindu temple. On 13 December 2008, the RSPCA admitted culpability, apologized for the killing of Gangotri, and donated a pregnant cow to the sanctuary representing a symbol of reconciliation.[76]

Heythrop Hunt[edit]

In 2012, the RSPCA spent £326,000 on a successful magistrates’ court prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt, the charity reported: "We believe that this was the first ever prosecution of a traditional hunt as a corporate body. The Heythrop Hunt pleaded guilty to four offences of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on four separate occasions." The huntsman and hunt master involved also pleaded guilty to the same offences.[77] The relatively large amount spent in securing a prosecution (£6,800 in fines were imposed) led to criticism by the trial judge, who was later investigated for his comments,[78] the media and some MPs, who accused the charity of breaching its "duty of prudence",[79] the RSPCA said in response that "the overwhelming support from our supporters and the public confirms that the vast majority of people are right behind us. They want us to speak out and stand up for all animals – farm animals, pets, animals used in research and wildlife – by bringing those who abuse them to justice."[80]

Allegations of discrediting of witnesses[edit]

On 7 August 2013 the BBC Radio 4 Face the Facts radio program broadcast an episode called "The RSPCA – A law unto itself?"[81] The program presented a number of cases of where the RSPCA has sought to hound vets and expert witnesses who had appeared in court for the defence in RSPCA prosecutions; in one case it sought to discredit the author of the RSPCA Complete Horse Care Manual (Vogel) after he appeared as an expert witness for the defence team in an RSPCA prosecution.[82] The RSPCA later released a statement saying that this is untrue and that they do not persecute vets and lawyers who appear for the defence and as defence experts. There have been thousands of lawyers taking defence cases against the RSPCA and they have only ever made a complaint about one.[83]

Deputy chairman raises concerns over 'political' allegations[edit]

In September 2013 the RSPCA deputy chairman Paul Draycott said that 'too political' campaigns threatened the charity's future and could deter donors.[84] Draycott said that the RSPCA could go insolvent "We have spent months discussing where we want to be in 10 years time, but unless we develop a strategy for now we won't be here then"; in response the chairman Mike Tomlinson said "The trustee body continues to place its full support behind the RSPCA's chief executive, management and all our people who do such outstanding work". The accusations of politicization remain unsubstantiated.

Paul Draycott also warned that the RSPCA fears an exodus of "disillusioned staff" with "poor or even non-existent management training and career paths" for employees; in response the RSPCA’s chief executive, Gavin Grant denied suggestions in the memo that there was "no strategy" in some areas, stating that there was no difficulty in attracting trustees or serious internal concerns about management.[85]

Whistleblower suicide and Charity Commission investigation[edit]

In May 2013 former RSPCA employee Dawn Aubrey-Ward was found hanged at her home when suffering from depression after leaving the animal charity.[86] Aubrey-Ward had been a whistleblower against RSPCA bad practices, the RSPCA subsequently had a meeting with the Charity Commission over its approach to prosecutions.[87]

Advertising standards violation[edit]

An advertisement published by the RSPCA in the Metro newspaper said: "The UK Government wants to shoot England's badgers. We want to vaccinate them – and save their lives." But more than 100 people complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), saying the use of the term "exterminate" was misleading. The advertising standards watchdog judged that the advert was likely to mislead the general public who had not taken an active interest in the badger cull saying, "The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the RSPCA not to use language that implied the whole badger population in the cull areas would be culled in future advertising."[88] An RSPCA spokesman said it "welcomed" the judgement of the ASA to dismiss three of the areas of complaint about their advert but "respectfully disagreed" with the complaint which had been upheld.[89]

Small animal shelters[edit]

In November 2013 the RSPCA was accused of instigating police raids on small animal shelters with insufficient evidence that animals were being mistreated, the owners claimed that they were being persecuted because of their "no kill" policy of only putting animals down if they cannot be effectively treated.[90] The RSPCA stated that their inspectors will offer advice and guidance to help people improve conditions for their animals, and it only seeks the help of the police where it considers there is no reasonable alternative to safeguard animal welfare,[91] the RSPCA also stated that whilst a few of their own branches operate "no kill" policies themselves,[90] that many of its branches still puts down excess animals, with the RSPCA killing half of the animals that enters its care.[92]

Countryside Alliance criticism[edit]

In December 2013 the Countryside Alliance stated that the RSPCA had moved away from its role of promoting animal welfare and was now interested only in animal rights. General Sir Barney White-Spunner said that the RSPCA has turned into a "sinister and nasty" organisation and urged members of the Countryside Alliance to stop donating to the RSPCA the "once great institution".[93] White-Spunner also said that RSPCA inspectors have been given intrusive powers with no proper basis in law; in response, the RSPCA accused the Countryside Alliance of being out of touch with public opinion and denied that it had departed from its original remit.[94]

Comparison to the holocaust[edit]

In June 2014 RSPCA campaigner Peta Watson-Smith compared the conditions livestock are brought up in across the country to that of the Jews during the Holocaust, the comments were condemned by countryside campaigners and Jewish groups.[95] In 2015 Peta Watson-Smith was elected to the RSPCA ruling council saying more money should be spent prosecuting farmers, at the same election the RSPCA members also voted to give a seat on the ruling council to Dan Lyons, who has previously called for pet owners to sit an exam.[96]

Cat euthanasia, false prosecution, media errors and an apology[edit]

In August 2014 it was reported that, following a review by the Crown Prosecution Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions had exercised her powers to take over and drop all charges brought by the RSPCA against the owners of a cat for causing it suffering due to having matted fur and being thin,[97] it was reported that the RSPCA euthanised the cat because its hair was too long.[97] A spokesman for the charity said it had been concerned for the cat's welfare,[97] the owners claimed that the RSPCA had refused to defer the euthanasia to allow their children to say good-bye to the pet they had owned for 16 years, a claim initially denied by the RSPCA on BBC radio.[98] The family accused the RSPCA of lying over the facts of the case to try and justify its actions;[99] in October 2014, the family met with senior RSPCA staff and their Independent Reviewer Stephen Wooler CB.[100] They presented a recording taken at Wendover Heights Veterinary Surgery on the day the cat was euthanised;[101] in November 2014, the RSPCA issued the following apology to the owners of the cat: On 16 May 2013, an RSPCA inspector responded to a call from a member of the public concerning ‘Claude’, an elderly cat belonging to Mr and Mrs Byrnes. Claude was removed from the family home and euthanased by a vet the following day against the wishes of Mr and Mrs Byrnes, the RSPCA acknowledges that the way in which it intervened in taking Claude from his home and the subsequent treatment of Mr and Mrs Byrnes at that time was disproportionate and insensitive and fell short of the standards of compassion the public are entitled to expect of the RSPCA. Specifically, the RSPCA accepts that its decision not to defer euthanasia so that Mr and Mrs Byrnes’ children could say goodbye to the pet cat they had known their entire lives caused great and unnecessary distress to the whole family; in November 2013, the RSPCA began legal proceedings against Mr and Mrs Byrnes. They were individually charged with two offences under section 4(1) (unnecessary suffering) and section 9(1) (duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare) of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Following a review of the charges by the Crown Prosecution Service, in August 2014, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) exercised her powers to take over and discontinue the prosecutions because they failed to meet the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, the RSPCA accepts that it failed to apply the evidential and public interest tests correctly prior to bringing legal proceedings against Mr and Mrs Byrnes and that it was wrong to have commenced prosecutions against them. The decision of the DPP to discontinue the prosecution received widespread media attention in August 2014, the RSPCA acknowledges that it made a number of unfortunate errors in its public responses to this coverage which could have been understood to cast doubt on the correctness of the DPP’s decision to discontinue the prosecutions. The RSPCA accepts that the cumulative effect of these errors presented Mr and Mrs Byrnes in an unfavourable light to the public, the RSPCA sincerely apologises to Mr and Mrs Byrnes and their family for the mistakes made in its original intervention, in its incorrect decision to prosecute them and for the errors in its media responses and for the resulting upset and deep distress caused both to them and their children.[102]

A review marked “confidential” carried out by Stephen Wooler, a former chief inspector to the Crown Prosecution Service, concluded that the cat "Claude" had been removed without any lawful authority and that "Respect for due process and the rights of individuals was largely absent.” [103]

Wooler report[edit]

In October 2014 the RSPCA Council set up an independent review of the society's performance so that it might listen to and learn from any feedback, including criticism and complaints, the report that followed, conducted by Stephen John Wooler CB, highlighted the unique remit of the RSPCA as a successful prosecuting animal welfare organisation, whose prosecutions team "enjoys good standing before the courts for the effective manner in which its cases are presented." [104] While it also stated that the RSPCA operates in an "unstructured and haphazard” environment, the report also asserted that the society is not only making a huge contribution to animal welfare, it is also "fulfilling a very significant constitutional role" whose contribution in terms of expertise and resources is huge and "simply too valuable to be lost." [104]

Horse euthanasia[edit]

The RSPCA admitted that in 2014 it had euthanised 205 healthy horses; in one particular case 12 horses from a Lancashire farm that had been assessed by vets as being "bright, alert and responsive" and suffering no life-threatening issues were killed by the RSPCA.[105] In a 2016 court case the RSPCA admitted that in 2015 it had illegally slaughtered 11 healthy horses, and attempted to charge the owner for 100 days of stabling fees for the period after the horses were already dead, the charge was overturned in a court decision.[106]

Apology from new CEO[edit]

In 2016 the new head of the RSPCA, Jeremy Cooper, made a dramatic, public apology for the charity’s past mistakes and vowed to be less political and bring fewer prosecutions in the future,[107] the new Chief Executive admitted that RSPCA had become "too adversarial" and will now be "a lot less political".[108] Mr Cooper said that the charity had alienated farmers in its aggressive campaign against the Government’s badger cull and disclosed that it would be “very unlikely” to ever bring another prosecution against a hunt.

Direct Debit donor recruitment campaign[edit]

In 2016 the Fundraising Standards Board upheld a complaint against RSPCA that in recruiting people to regularly donate money by Direct Debit had failed adequately to monitor compliance with the Code and had failed to comply with the requirements of fundraising sites, where owners had prohibited the collection of Direct Debit payments,[109] the Fundraising Regulator is considering what further actions need to be taken arising from the report’s findings and recommendations.[109]

Wealth screening[edit]

On 6 December 2016, the RSPCA was fined £25,000 by the UK Information Commissioner's Office which ruled that the charity had breached data protection legislation by employing external bodies to analyse the financial status of supporters in order to appeal to them for further donations, a practice known as 'wealth screening', and by trading the personal details of its donors with other charitable organisations.[110] The BBC reported that, "Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said donors had not been informed of the charity's practices, and were therefore unable to consent or object to them, she also suggested other charities could also be engaged in similar activities. 'The millions of people who give their time and money to benefit good causes will be saddened to learn that their generosity wasn't enough,' Ms Denham added."[110] The same BBC report noted that the charity's chief executive had stated, "There is no suggestion that we lost or sold any personal data, but rather the ICO considered the information we gave to supporters on how their personal data would be used was inadequate. There has been one acknowledged contravention, through an inadvertent error, which we ourselves brought to the ICO's attention."[110]

Resignation of CEO[edit]

CEO Jeremy Cooper resigned after just on year in charge, with the RSPCA's governance being described as "utterly dysfunctional".[111]

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Antony Brown, Who Cares For Animals: 150 years of the RSPCA (London: Heinemann, 1974).[112]
  • Li Chien-hui, "A Union of Christianity, Humanity, and Philanthropy: The Christian Tradition and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Nineteenth-Century England," Society and Animals 8/3 (2000): 265-285.
  • Edward G. Fairholme and Wellesley Pain, A Century of Work For Animals: The History of the RSPCA, 1824-1934 (London: John Murray, 1934).
  • Lori Gruen, Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011). ISBN 978-0-521-71773-1
  • Hilda Kean, Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800 (London: Reaktion Books, 2000). ISBN 9781861890610
  • Shevawn Lynam, Humanity Dick Martin 'King of Connemara' 1754-1834 (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1989). ISBN 0 946640 36 X
  • Vaughan Monamy, Animal Experimentation: A Guide to the Issues (Cambridge UK; New York:Cambridge University Press, 2000). ISBN 0521667860
  • Arthur W. Moss, Valiant Crusade: The History of the RSPCA (London: Cassell, 1961).
  • Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987). ISBN 0-674-03706-5
  • Richard D. Ryder, Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism Rev Ed (Oxford; New York: Berg, 2000). ISBN 978-1-85973-330-1
  • Kathryn Shevelow, For The Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement (New York: Henry Holt, 2008). ISBN 978-0-8050-9024-6

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "RSPCA Annual review". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
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  7. ^ Rob Boddice, A History of Attitudes and Behaviours Toward Animals in Eighteenth- And Nineteenth-Century Britain: Anthropocentrism and the Emergence of Animals (Lewiston, New York; Queenston, Ontario; Lampeter, Wales: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008).
  8. ^ Kathryn Shevelow, For The Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement (New York: Henry Holt, 2008), pp 201-222
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  11. ^ Cruel Treatment of Cattle Act 1822 (3 Geo. IV c. 71)
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  21. ^ On Broome's imprisonment see The National Archives, King's Bench Prison commitments, 1826, Ref. No. PRIS 4/38, 54; and King's Bench Prison, Final Discharges 1827, Ref. No. PRIS 7/46, II. Also refer to Fairholme and Pain, A Century of Work, 60-62; Moss, Valiant Crusade, 24-25.
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  111. ^ https://www.fginsight.com/news/utterly-dysfunctional---rspca-under-attack-again-after-resignation-of-chief-executive-22217
  112. ^ Detail from a copy of the book, published by Heinemann of London in 1974 with an ISBN of 434 90189 X. The chapters relate to the origin of the society, and finishes with prospects for the future, with a foreword by John Hobhouse (chairman of the RSPCA). Appendix section includes a list of past presidents and accounts information.

External links[edit]

Video clips[edit]