200 Years And Now What For The RSPCA?

200 Years and now what fr the RSPCA?

200 years ago, campaigners and social reformers managed to get legislation enacted that led to the foundation of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Later granted a royal charter, the organisation appointed its own inspectors and by the 1830s undertook private prosecutions where it deemed that cruelty had been enacted on animals.

It was only in 2021 that the RSPCA announced that it will no longer undertake private prosecutions, decades after other charities abandoned the practice. Whatever the publicly stated reasons for this, the fact is that serious concerns arose when the RSPCA were the main prosecutor of animal welfare offences in England and Wales routinely using private prosecutions against vulnerable individuals and when evidence was weak with little, if any, public interest. This was often supported by the police. There was also growing anecdotal evidence that it was difficult to get the RSPCA involved in cases of serious abuse, rejected in the majority of reviews that the RSPCA have on Trustpilot as just an example.

The RSPCA turned over more than £5M in 2022 and two of its employees earn between £70,000 and £90,000 each. Since its inception, the RSPCA had a blanket opposition to hunting and scientific use of animals. It has also been mired with governance problems since the outset, one of its founder members and first honorary secretary being the Rev Arthur Broom who was obliged to stand aside from the rôle after being declared bankrupt. Another founder member, Lewis Gompertz who was avidly anti-hunting, was also obliged to resign, although a large amount of anti-Semitism was undoubtedly involved too.

Concerns were raised in parliament over political campaigning as the RSPCA oppose the current badger cull which is helping to investigate and prevent the spread of bovine TB. A judgement was raised against them by the Advertising Standards Authority when it concluded that their anti-cull advertisement in the Metro newspaper was misleading following more than 100 complaints from members of the public.

Chief Inspector to the Crown Protection Service, Stephen Wooler published a report in September 2014, highlighting the serious shortcomings in the way in which the RSPCA was acting and the unavoidable conflict of interest engendered in it serving private prosecutions. The question came back to parliament too years later when the RSPCA had made no progress in implementing its conclusions and in 2018, the Charity Commission issued the RSPCA with an Official Warning regarding governance concerns.

Controversy arising over the RSPCA overtly supporting political lobbying groups even led to the Archbishop of Canterbury ending the precedent of patronage by refusing formal association. No doubt many donors who gave to the charity expecting that their money would help to prevent abuse of animals were horrified when the RSPCA spent £300,000 in prosecuting members of the Heythrop Hunt.

There are many instances of real animal cruelty in the dog world, not least puppy smuggling, back street breeding, irresponsible ownership and the breeding of dogs with disabling conformation. Where are the RSPCA in those campaigns?



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