The RSPCA Buckles under Establishment Pressure

The animals know that when the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers’ Union give a backslap of approval to an animal charity appointment, it’s time to duck back down behind the barricades because they are in deep trouble.

And Jeremy (Jez) Cooper’s appointment as new CEO for the RSPCA has been warmly welcomed by both. Here’s what Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner has to say:

“Jeremy Cooper has a huge job ahead of him and we wish him every success in refocussing the organisation on its core roles of improving animal welfare and rescuing those animals that are suffering. It will not be easy to rebuild confidence in the charity after the damage the extreme agenda of his predecessors has done to its reputation but if he can keep the RSPCA focussed on real animal welfare issues he will have everyone’s full support.”

And spokesman for the NFU, Gary Ford chipped in:

“We have met Jeremy and his team on several occasions in his capacity as CEO of Freedom Food and have developed a close working relationship over that time based on mutual trust and honesty. We wish Jeremy well and look forward to continuing that relationship in his new role as CEO of the RSPCA.” My underlining, of course.

Mr Cooper appears to have the right track record to please the CA & NFU, having been CEO of the RSPCA’s infamous Freedom Food scheme for the past three years. The NFU and Cooper hand in glove? No, surely not! If you can bear it (I can’t) take a look at this video made during an Animal Aid investigation into an FF-approved farm – another catastrophic failure for this ‘welfare assurance’ label.

Could Mr Cooper’s rebranding of Freedom Food to “RSPCA Assured” in 2014 have anything to do with the disrepute FF had fallen into, I wonder?

Mr Cooper’s fans – the CA (in the shape of the hunt) and the farmers – have both formerly found themselves on the end of criminal charges brought by the RSPCA. Their chief gripes with the charity recently have been what they consider its overzealous pursuance of law-breaking fox hunts, and its opposition to the badger cull.

Only last year the RSPCA was urging the government to call off the cull, and encouraging supporters to sign its own stop-the-cull petition to the Environment Secretary Liz Truss.

In a spectacular backtrack, Mr Cooper now says the charity had alienated farmers in its “aggressive campaign” against the Government’s badger cull which he dubbed “political”, and promises no further intervention by the charity in the contentious cull programme.

Everyone remembers when the RSPCA hit the headlines with its controversial prosecution of members of the Prime Minister’s own local hunt, the Heythrop, three years back. The offenders pleaded guilty to four charges of hunting foxes with hounds. The judge fined them the paltry sum of £6,800, and then publicly slated the charity for spending £330,000 on bringing the case to court.

“Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed,” District Judge Tim Pattison told Oxford Magistrates’ Court. The Tory press had a field day (pardon the pun).

MPs not only fell over each other to join in the criticism, but reported the RSPCA to the Charity Commission for breaching a ‘duty of prudence’. Huh??? Which led to the Wooler Inquiry and subsequent Report.

But you needn’t worry any more, hunting fraternity. The new CEO is very busy pouring gallons of oil over troubled waters. Mr Cooper said it’s “very unlikely” they will ever bring a similar prosecution again, and all future prosecutions will be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service.

If that’s all that needs to be done, why did the CPS stand back in the Heythrop case and, with 500 hours of video evidence available to them, not bring the prosecution themselves? Is there any significance do you think, in the fact that when the Master of this same hunt was charged with illegal hunting in 2008, David Cameron lobbied the Attorney General to get the case dropped? “The letter was eventually passed on to the Bristol-based senior CPS prosecutor Kerry Barker. The case – which was one of several charges brought against Julian Barnfield and the Heythrop Hunt in the years after the ban came into force – was later discontinued.” Western Daily Mail

The RSPCA would never have needed to bring these cases to court if the police and CPS had shown a little more alacrity in the performance of their duties.

So that’s the CA’s and the farmers’ two major bones of contention with the charity (hunting and the badger cull) firmly buried in the backyard by Mr Cooper, and looking like they won’t be dug up again any time soon.

The Countryside Alliance, farmers, politicians and the Tory press though, are not the only pillars of the Establishment to lay into the unfortunate charity. It’s fallen foul of royalty too. Prince Charles also found issue with the prosecution of Heythrop Hunt members. And he was at loggerheads with the charity’s former CEO, Gavin Grant, over the badger cull. HRH was reportedly not amused when Grant said, “Those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood.” Truth hurts, Charles.

And earlier this year it was reported that “the RSPCA could lose its royal patronage when Prince Charles becomes King, over concerns it is becoming too involved in the campaign against countryside sports.” HRH as we all know, like the rest of his bloodline, is a keen supporter of and participator in these ‘sports’. Though I see nothing sporting about the pursuit and killing of defenceless animals.

Do we care about the royal patronage? I guess that if the RSPCA loses its ‘R’, it may adversely affect donations from the old stalwarts, and possibly diminish the organisation’s ability to protect animals from cruelty and neglect. Otherwise, why would we?

So back to Mr Jeremy (Jez) Cooper, CEO.

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To the outrage of the animal advocacy community, and under pressure from the crushing combined weight of the CA, NFU, the political elite, the Tory press and the heir to the throne, Mr Cooper has publicly apologised for the charity’s “past mistakes”, and distanced the organisation from its previous actions.

“Of course we have made mistakes in the past, and we are very sorry. We have to be honest and admit the mistakes and acknowledge them.”

He said the charity had become too focused on animal rights rather than animal welfare, and that in the future it would return to its traditional role, the prevention of cruelty, rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming.

Last September I wrote ‘The RSPCA – between a rock and a hard place, and concluded:

“This could be a stormy era for the historic charity as it attempts to steer a course through the towering waves of the Tory government, the Countryside Alliance and the Tory Press; its own traditional stalwart supporters; and those who would like to see it go much further in preventing cruelty to, and alleviating the suffering of ALL animals in this country.”

Now with Mr Cooper’s opening pronouncements as CEO, it’s plain for all to see in which ‘port in a storm’ the RSPCA has chosen to dock.

And how exactly do you draw the line between animal rights and animal welfare, Mr Cooper? A pack of hounds tearing a terrified fox to pieces is NOT about animal rights. Let’s have some “prevention of cruelty” please Mr Cooper. The badger cull is NOT about animal rights. The cull has already been assessed as inhumane. Can we have some “prevention of cruelty” here please Mr Cooper?

It’s starting to look like the RSPCA’s new remit will be the welfare of canine companions, pussycats, and bunny rabbits (wild ones excluded – the farmers want to keep shooting those). The charity via its new mouthpiece has pledged to stop its unforgivable meddling in the plight of farmed animals, badgers, foxes or any other animals that are the rightful preserve of the farmers, and the country sportsmen and women.

God help the animals!

Oh, I almost forgot, if you’d like to see Mr Cooper sacked from his post asap, sign the petition here.

The Countryside Alliance on the new CEO

The Independent on Mr Cooper’s public apology

Royal Central on Prince Charles & the RSPCA

Update May 17th 2016

It seems like Mr Cooper’s PR skills are not too hot.

The RSPCA  have done a rapid bit of regrouping after the fiasco of his first interview in the job and have issued a statement:

Our policy on foxes and badgers remains unchanged. Like all animals, they deserve our compassion and respect.  We will always strongly oppose fox hunting and the culling of badgers. 

Maybe they need to check that they and Mr Cooper are on the same page now. Because why did Mr Cooper decide to give that first interview to the Telegraph, Tory apologist newspaper for the Establishment?

Full statement from the RSPCA here

Update August 16th 2016

On eve of roll out of badger cull, Dominic Dyer asks in i News why the wildlife charities are not speaking out for the badgers, with particular reference to RSPCA: How the once-formidable wildlife charities were tamed

 

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“We Encourage Everyone Who Cares About Animals to Vote Remain”

Europe ahead road sign EU referendum Brussels Remain Brexit

 

 

 

 

There are 48 days and counting until the UK’s In/Out EU referendum on June 23rd. How are you going to vote? Remain, or Leave?

I was half tempted to join the Brexit camp, just because I’d rather stick pins in my eyes than give my support to our revered PM on ANYTHING.  But I was brought to my senses – as always, the animals prevailed. For people who love animals, one question really matters:

Will animals be better off if we stay, or if we go?


This letter from a cross-party group of MPs, which includes our lovely Kerry, Shadow Secretary for EFRA, published in the Guardian on 29th April, makes a good case to Remain:

It’s important to consider how animal protection would be affected, were the UK to leave the EU. By working with other nations, international issues such as illegal trafficking of wildlife and destruction of habitats can be addressed far more effectively. The EU is at the forefront of fighting cosmetics cruelty, having banned cosmetics testing on animals as well as the sale of animal-tested cosmetic ingredients – shaping industry and regulatory practice worldwide. The EU has raised welfare standards for farm animals, for example, banning the confinement of breeding sows in narrow stalls.

Individual governments can come under significant pressure from corporate lobbyists to weaken or remove binding standards on animal protection. In this context, EU-wide minimum standards to tackle animal cruelty are more important than ever.

EU European Union Europe map globe world 28 countries stars remain brexit referendumAnimal advocates know that EU rules on animal protection don’t go nearly far enough, but to improve the standards, we need to remain part of the EU and strive to make them stronger. On some critical animal protection issues, such as banning of testing for cosmetics on animals, the UK has actually shown leadership in the EU; we have played a full part in shaping EU-wide standards, and should continue to do so. We believe that animals need the EU, and we encourage everyone who cares about animals to vote Remain.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
Kerry McCarthy MP
Labour, Bristol East, Shadow secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs
See full list of 36 signatories Good to see some Tory ones too. Your own MP may be here! 

But let’s face it, we have a Tory government that hates animals. Look at their record on just a few animal issues:
Most recent was their attempt to deregulate the poultry industry, abandoned after an outcry from animal charities and their supporters.
Next the Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill. The government in spite of all its promises, has dragged its heels on this for 6 years, and then only allowed it to be brought to the House of Commons as a Private Members Bill, which failed to even get its second reading. Would you believe, one Tory MP even spoke in defence of the use of wild animal in circuses!
Number 3, planning permission to expand a beagle farm, where beagle puppies are bred as laboratory fodder. Local people lodged their submissions objecting to the plans, hundreds of thousands of animal-lovers signed petitions, and permission was twice rejected by the local council. The Tory government’s Communities Minister simply overrode the council, the locals and the electorate, and gave approval for B & K’s monstrous proposal. Typical of this government’s dictatorial style.
Let’s go on to the badger cull. The House of Commons is against it, expert opinion is against it, scientific findings are against it, and the public are against it. But the NFU want it, and what the NFU want, the NFU gets.
I could go on, but I can’t leave the topic without mentioning David Cameron’s election pledge to abolish the Hunting Act 2004. Not only is the PM an avowed supporter of bloodsports, he is an active participator. How can we expect a government led by such a man to protect the interests of animals?
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There is a point to this seeming digression. It’s this: in my opinion, the EU has introduced many Europe-wide protections for animals, and stands as a safeguard to prevent governments like ours dragging animal protection backwards. Which is certainly what Mr Cameron would do if left to his own devices.

Other supporters of staying in for animals?
Ed Miliband joined the debate, warning voters that choosing to leave the European Union will put Britain’s environment and wildlife at risk. With less than seven weeks until the 23 June referendum, the former Labour leader is leading a fresh cross-party drive appealing to Britons to back Remain. He joined forces with Conservative environment secretary Liz Truss, Liberal Democrat ex-energy secretary Ed Davey and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas to warn of the damage that would be caused by Brexit. . BuzzFeed
Hmm, Ed … Liz Truss? Really? Ms Truss the badger-killer is hardly a standard-bearer for the environment or for wildlife. Your other ‘bed-fellow’, Caroline Lucas, we can go with.

The Scottish National Party want us to remain. They first sentence of the document they’ve published says: “The European Union plays a key role when it comes to guaranteeing the welfare of animals across Europe, something guaranteed in European treaty.”


Click here to see what Compassion in World Farming has to say. They are only talking about farmed animals of course, but they offer a user-friendly summary. Two points I would add. Firstly, because traditionally the UK has led the way in animal welfare, by remaining we have the opportunity to influence for the better future EU legislation, as we have done in the past. And secondly, as I may have already mentioned, Europe protects animals from the worst that this animal-hating government can throw at them! Those two things may seem contradictory, but we won’t be saddled with the Tories for ever, I hope!

The RSPCA also sets out the Pros and Cons arguments, while remaining strictly neutral and non-political.


One more reason I’m voting to Remain

Many animal advocacy organisations are either working on a Europe-wide basis, or are starting to join forces with their european counterparts.

Surely we are stronger together for animals?

Eurobadger

Eurobarometer 2016

Eurogroup for Animals

The European Enforcement Network of Animal Welfare Lawyers and Commissioners 

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals Click on this final link for a comprehensive list of the EU’s achievements for animals.

Citizens want a Europe that cares for animals. Now we should get on and build it.

Reinere Hamelgers CEO Eurogroup for Animals

 

 

Some of the Most F*%#ed-Up Family Trees From Last Year’s Crufts Winners

I don’t normally write 4 blogs posts in rapid succession on the same topic, but that’s just a measure of my heartache at the thought of those thousand upon thousand unwanted dogs in shelters in the UK, not to mention the 5,000 strays put down every year. I rescued my own gorgeous girl Holly from Manchester Dogs Home. She has been my loving, sweet, gentle companion for 15 years.

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This is Holly enjoying Lake Coniston two years ago.

Multiply the UK numbers by a factor of thousands in the US. Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters nationwide every year, with approximately 1.2 million dogs euthanised.

The Westminster Dog Show, the biggest in the US, takes place at pretty much the same time as Crufts and is plagued with the same kind of problems.

Another petition to sign about Crufts

Some of the Most F*%#ed-Up Family Trees From Last Year’s Crufts Winners

We took a look through the family trees of some of the dogs who won “best of breed” prizes at last year’s Crufts. Here’s what we found.

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Supporters protest in Birmingham about inbreeding among pedigree dogs ahead of this year’s Crufts.

We knew that inbreeding was rampant in the pedigree dog world, where “purity” of bloodlines is valued above animals’ health. But even we were surprised by the amount of incest we found in the recent histories of these animals whom the Kennel Club judges to be model examples of their breeds.

1. “My grandfather is also my uncle.”
– Marbelton What a Guy at Zobear, pug

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This “champion” doesn’t just have an unusual name – he also has a very close family.

Inbreeding makes pugs like What a Guy likely to suffer from severe breathing problems because of their squashed-in faces. It’s actually considered “routine” to perform surgery on these dogs to clear their blocked airways. Their wrinkled skin often harbours painful infections, while their bulging eyes are prone to injuries and ulcers.

 

2. “My grandmothers are cousins, and my daddy and granddad are half-brothers.”
– Samhaven Wired for Sound, collie (rough)

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There is a tangled knot at the centre of this dog’s pedigree – and it’s bad news for her gene pool.

Ninety-five per cent of purebred collies like Wired for Sound have or carry the genes for an eye disease called “collie eye anomaly”, and they’re also prone to cataracts, skin problems and autoimmune diseases. What’s more, they’re one of the breeds most likely to develop bloat, a terrifying condition in which their stomach swells and becomes twisted, often causing death within hours or even minutes.

 

3. “My mum was conceived when her mum had sex with her brother.”
– Gunalt De Ice at Stridview, Weimaraner

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We’re more than a little disturbed by some of the goings-on in this dog’s immediate family.

Weimaraners like Gunalt are often born with deformed hip sockets, or “hip dysplasia”, which can cause crippling pain and lameness throughout their lives. Bone disease, cancer and bloat are just a few of the other conditions that humans’ obsession with breeding inflicts on these dogs.

4. “My dad was conceived when my granddad had sex with his granddaughter.”
– Edglonian Singing the Blues, Shetland sheepdog

Yes, this would most certainly be illegal if they were human.

Shelties like Singing the Blues are at risk of some seriously nasty illnesses, including von Willebrand disease – a blood-clotting disorder that can cause excessive bleeding – as well as epilepsy and Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, which causes the disintegration of the hip joint.

Dig back into pretty much any “purebred” dog’s family tree, and you’ll discover similar patterns: creepy incestuous relationships and an unhealthily tiny gene pool. With such a lack of genetic diversity, it’s not surprising that so many pedigree dogs suffer from debilitating inherited diseases and usually die young.

Crufts and the organisation behind it, the Kennel Club, give these sickly dogs prizes and encourage breeders to create more animals just like them – often by breeding from the same “champion” dog over and over again.

Dogs don’t need a fancy pedigree to be beautiful. Please don’t buy into “breedism” – boycott breeders, and don’t tune in to Crufts next year.

Written by Ann for PETA

The RSPCA’s Ruff Competition Winners

Crufts Comes Under Fire Again

Following on from Six Good Reasons to Pass up on Crufts, the biggest dog show in the world is getting more bad press.

Crufts has come under fire for awarding a “deformed” German Shepherd the “Best of Breed” title. The dog, named Catoria, has an abnormally sloped back and a painful-looking limp. According to the RSPCA, “Many other dogs at Crufts showed visible signs of poor health and/or discomfort,” including the winner of the Toy Breeds, a Pekinese who was “panting heavily and struggling to breathe.”

The motto of the Kennel Club, organisers of the event, is “Making a difference for dogs”. Yet their flagship show, where dogs are treated as fashionable prized possessions, rewards breeding practices that severely compromise health and welfare – the exact opposite of its declared aim, “to look after the health and welfare of dogs”.

The prestigious show, in what I call The Crufts Effect, fuels the market for pedigree breeds, a market ruthlessly exploited by the unscrupulous with no regard for even basic animal welfare.

Soaring demand for designer dogs fuels the brutal £100 million industry

The aggrandization  of pedigree breeds leads directly to the situation we have in the UK where 75% of dogs chosen for pets are pedigrees. With the result that 14 strays are euthanised every single day and dog lovers choose to overlook the many thousands more languishing in shelters up and down the country.

Please sign this petition urging the Kennel Club to put an end to this misguided show and start promoting welfare for all dogs.

Sign petition here

 

The Crufts Effect – Dead Puppies Dumped Like Rubbish in a Ditch

This illustrates perfectly but tragically my previous post 6 Good Reasons to Pass up on Crufts

RSPCA continues campaign against illegal dog farming – the Mirror March 14 2016

bodies-of-tiny-puppies-littering-a-verge-by-the-side-of-a-road

RSPCA investigators say the tiny animals were just six – eight weeks old, too young even to have been taken from their mothers. They fear the ditch is being regularly used to dispose of sick pups. They also found decomposed remains of many more dogs at the spot. The puppies were filthy, showing signs of having been kept in their own waste.

The discovery comes after the Mirror revealed nearly 200 sick puppies are being trafficked into Britain every day as soaring demand for designer dogs fuels the brutal £100 million industry.

soaring demand for designer dogs fuels the brutal £100 million industry

The harrowing images of a dumping ground for dead puppies, discovered in a quiet country lane on Feb 27, were released by the RSPCA to highlight the cruel trade.The RSPCA said 70,000 of the vulnerable creatures were illegally transported here by Irish and Eastern European gangs last year – a massive increase from 1,800 reported in official figures five years ago.

The pups are often inbred and kept in horrendous conditions, making them susceptible to fatal diseases, before being sold to unwitting animal-lovers.

The RSPCA has told people to be on their guard when buying pets after this horrific find cast new light on the illegal farming and trafficking of puppies, and has launched a campaign, Scrap the Puppy Trade, calling for new legislation to better protect dogs and puppies being bred for sale, and for dog breeders to have to obtain a licence.

Read more

Sign petition to Scrap the Puppy Trade

6 Good Reasons to Pass up on Crufts

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The Kennel Club not only put on this world famous dog show, they also lay down in writing the physical standards each breed must conform to, and keep the pedigree register.

 

 

No 1  The way pedigree dogs are bred induces diseases that are breed specific. Or as PETA  so succinctly puts it, “Purebred is a euphemism for inbred.” Here is a handy list.

No 2  We’ve all heard the heavy labouring breath that goes with the squashed faces of Pekes and Pugs. Pedigree dogs are bred to have certain exaggerated features that are actual physical deformities. The RSPCA lists 11 examples that seriously affect the dogs’ health and quality of life.

No 3  Fickle fashion dictates which pedigree dog is today’s status symbol. Whether it’s the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a modest £9000 a pop, or should I say, a pup. Or the very top drawer Tibetan Mastiff – one of these beasties  recently sold at auction, yes at auction, for £1.6 million. Do we seriously want to turn man’s best friend into a designer accessory with a price tag?  The Telegraph

No 4  Why be complicit in lining breeders’ pockets? The stud dogs and breeding bitches are being used as cash cows. As profitable puppy machines, the bitches in particular have poor quality of life.

No 5  Now this is the one that makes me angry and sad in equal measure. Every year here in the UK we have approximately 110,000 strays, nearly half of those abandoned by their owners. Many that simply stray out of the garden or on a walk do get reclaimed, but many many more languish miserably in rescue centres waiting and hoping for a new home. Worst of all, roughly 5,000 dogs, unlucky, unwanted, unloved, are put down. That is 14 innocent dogs put to death every day of the year. Dogs Trust Stray Survey

No 6  75% of the 9 million dogs kept in the UK are pedigrees. I defy you to visit any dog rescue shelter in the country and not come away crying.

Blue Cross Adoptions

RSPCA Adoptions

Dogs Trust Rehoming

Crufts show is just a breeding ground for canine cruelty – Belfast Telegraph

Read more

The RSPCA – between a rock and a hard place

The poor old RSPCA is in the news again, once more over the private prosecutions that it brings.

Its mission statement: The RSPCA as a charity will, by all lawful means, prevent cruelty, promote kindness to and alleviate suffering of all animals

How well is it fulfilling its role?

At present the organisation investigates cases of cruelty –  159,631 in 2014

prosecutes those it deems merit it – 1,132 prosecutions in 2014

campaigns against controversial activities such as animal testing and fox hunting

and it fundraises 

I would argue that all those activities are essential to fulfilling its mission.

Richard Martin MP, co-founder in 1822 of the RSPCA (the very first animal charity in the world) said, “If legislation to protect animals is to be effective, it must be adequately enforced.”

Significantly, since the introduction of the Hunting Act 2004 and under it, there have been more than 430 successful prosecutions, some brought by this charity, others by IFAW and the League Against Cruel Sports. Now the Tories want to examine the RSPCA’s power to prosecute on the grounds that its campaigns may be influencing its choice of cases to bring to court. We can suppose that this new move has nothing to do with the fact that David Cameron made overturning the Hunting Act part of his manifesto, or that in 2012 the charity prosecuted DC’s own hunt for illegally hunting a fox with hounds!

In Scotland and Northern Ireland animal charities have the power to investigate but not prosecute. This may soon become the model for England and Wales if the Tories have their way. A model the RSPCA argues, which would fail animals, since animal welfare is a low priority for our overstretched police force. The RSPCA reckons to save the state £50 million a year by taking on private prosecutions.

There has been much adverse publicity about the enormous cost of bringing these private prosecutions, especially in the Tory press. According to the Daily Mail they cost the charity £22.5 million in the last year. Many traditional supporters of the RSPCA are happy to donate for the support of animal shelters, the work of inspectors and animal rescue, but gib at their hard-earned cash funding these expensive cases. There is a fear that charitable donations on which the charity relies, could dwindle.

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On top of that there have been lurid headlines in the Tory press about AR ‘radicals’ seeking election to the Charity’s board. Today’s Telegraph proclaims that “activist who thinks all pets should be freed and a vegan” (jeez, an actual vegan, how extreme can you get?) “who once compared farming to the holocaust in the running”

The animal rights community at large, on the other hand, has very little time for the RSPCA. They believe the charity is mealy-mouthed. They are particularly angry about the RSPCA’s Freedom Food certification given to farms considered to practice high animal welfare. In reality, this scheme is inadequately monitored and some horrific conditions have been uncovered on FF approved farms. They say the scheme is a disservice to the cause because it gives the consumer an illusion of buying high-welfare produce not substantiated by the reality.

This could be a stormy era for this historic charity as it attempts to steer a course through the towering waves of the Tory government, the Countryside Alliance and the Tory Press; its own traditional stalwart supporters; and those who would like to see it go much further in preventing cruelty to, and alleviating the suffering of all animals in this country.