Sunday, 30 September 2012


The RSPCA has taken a highly political position on animal rights protests over the badger cull, calling for a boycott of farm produce. The Department of Justice is now to review its benevolent view of the charity.
Sir Edward Garnier, former Solicitor General, rose in the Commons a few days ago and pointed out that the RSPCA is treated with rare generosity by judges.
‘When the RSPCA loses cases because it has got either the law or the facts wrong, cost orders are never made in favour of the successful defendant,’ noted Sir Edward. Badger backlash: The RSPA's preferential treatment by courts is to be reviewed
Badger backlash: The RSPA's preferential treatment by courts is to be reviewed
The RSPCA is in the rare position of being both investigator and prosecutor. It is able to bring prosecutions in its own name.
When the Crown Prosecution Service loses cases, as sometimes happens, it tends to have costs awarded against it. This deters gung-ho prosecutors from bringing cases at the drop of a hat.
Yet when the RSPCA loses a case, costs are frequently paid from state funds. Quite how much we are not told. MPs have tried to extract statistics without success, but judges seem invariably to sympathise with the RSPCA because, well, it’s such a good cause, isn’t it?
It certainly used to be. But what if the public starts thinking less well of it for encouraging animal rights hardliners? Or for becoming a vexatious litigant?
Recently the RSPCA pursued a case against a man from the Heythrop hunt (perhaps not least because it is in David Cameron’s constituency). Big costs were incurred. Much stress was caused to the defendants. Then the case fell at a pre-trial hearing and costs of several thousand pounds were met from the public purse rather than the RSPCA.

The RSPCA has a taste for fancy lawyers and has used Jeremy Carter-Manning from Furnival Chambers. He ain’t cheap. Justice Minister Jeremy Wright has told Sir Edward he will investigate this use of public money.



THE RSPCA has defended its handling of an incident at Ramsgate port in which two sheep drowned and more than 40 were shot because they were considered unfit to travel.
On Friday morning, the animal welfare charity expressed its delight that live exports from Ipswich port have been suspended ‘until further notice’ by the port owners, Associated British Ports (ABP). ABP made the decision, following an exchange with the RSPCA, after confirming that the port did not have suitable facilities for the handling of animals should emergencies arise, the RSPCA said.
The live export trade switched to Ipswich after an incident at Ramsgate Port on September 12 in which 46 sheep died.
Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and RSPCA inspectors made the decision to shoot sheep at the Kent port after vets examining 500 sheep on board a lorry found many were unfit to travel.
However, chaos then ensued as the sheep were moved into an area used for washing vehicles, due to the lack due to the lack of holding facilities at the port. In the process the sheep moved what the RSPCA described as a ‘loose cover’ causing some sheep to fall into an underground tank. Despite a rescue operation that saved four sheep, two drowned in the incident.
In all, 46 sheep died as two suffered broken legs and a further 42 had to be shot on the advice of a vet because they were lame.
In light of these events, questions have been asked about AHVLA and RSPCAs’ handling of the incident, including why the sheep had to be shot in the difficult surroundings of the port, rather than be transported to a local abattoir to be slaughtered, and how they endured further suffering after they were removed from the lorry.
RSPCA staff officer Dermot Murphy said the decision was taken to kill the animals at the port on the basis of veterinary advice that they were ‘not in a fit state to be transported’. “After receiving the veterinary advice, the only option was to remove them from the lorry at the port,” he said.
He said the animals were shot by RSPCA officers ‘trained in the humane euthanasia of animals’ and that the officers were unaware of the hole in the washing area and that there were a concerted effort by all present to rescue the sheep.
“The RSPCA had recently sent a report to Thanet District Council stating that Ramsgate port did not have the necessary facilities to satisfy the welfare needs of the animals,” Mr Murphy said.
AHVLA said it was ‘working with other parties involved to review what happened’ at Ramsgate and will comment on its conclusions when it is completed, which expected to be mid-October.
“AHVLA takes its responsibilities for implementing regulations governing the welfare of animals during transport extremely seriously. AHVLA inspectors undertook risk-based checks when animals arrived at the port of Ramsgate and referred any serious welfare infringements to the relevant local authority for any necessary enforcement action, which could lead to prosecution,” an agency spokesman said.
Live exports from Ramsgate, in Kent, were suspended by Thanet Council on September 13, following the incident.
The ferry that had been operating from Ramsgate departed from the Port of Ipswich with a cargo of sheep on Friday night and arrived in Calais on Saturday afternoon, a move the RSPCA described as moving the ‘awful trade through the back door’ to another port .
Commenting on news that live exports have now been suspended from Ipswich, RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “I am delighted that ABP have suspended this dire trade. They are taking their responsibilities seriously to the animals.
“ABP have acknowledged to the RSPCA that, like Ramsgate, their port did not have suitable facilities to help the animals should an emergency arise. Sadly, we saw the unacceptable suffering in Ramsgate in just such an emergency.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


A DAUGHTER yesterday blasted the RSPCA for putting her and her pensioner dad through nine months of hell.
Kerry Wilson wept with relief when she was found not guilty at Wrexham Magistrates of keeping 30 dogs in poor conditions.
Her dad Peter Hughes was also found not guilty of the same charge. It followed an RSPCA raid at Ashford Farm, Halkyn.
Mr Hughes, 77, was also found not guilty of breaching an order in 2007 banning him from looking after dogs.
The case had been brought by the RSPCA after officers accompanied by North Wales Police and a vet visited the farm in December last year.
The crux of the prosecution’s case was there was insufficient bedding for the dogs for sleeping, with claims some of the floors were slatted and dangerous.
It was also alleged Mr Hughes must have had some involvement looking after the animals which was dismissed by district Judge Andrew Shaw.
He ruled the evidence provided by the prosecution fell well short of proving the case.
The dogs, which were taken off Ms Wilson at the time, were in good condition, there was no compelling evidence to say they were being housed poorly, and he found the two not guilty.
Speaking after the case Ms Wilson, 25, of Bryn Awelon, Buckley, said it should never have come to court.
“It has been absolutely nine months of hell,” said Ms Wilson, who has a background working for Defra and trading standards.
“I hold my hands up, and the past is the past with my dad, but they have had a vendetta of trying to catch my dad in the act of looking after them after his ban, which he hasn’t.
“I was refused a vet when they turned up at the farm, which was my right.
“This has really damaged my reputation, I have never had anybody that I have sold a puppy to come back to complain.
“I have had people who I used to work with looking down their nose at me.
“It has been incredibly stressful and I’m really worried about dad, he has gone downhill since all this has been going on and I fear he may not make it to Christmas.
“There was a also a lie that there were dead puppies found – that was simply not true.”
“Hopefully next time they want to come to the farm about anything, they will contact me first rather than turn up unannounced with a lorry load.”
Ms Wilson is due to get back 15 of the dogs on Monday.

Leading agricultural lawyer David Kirwan added: “The RSPCA got it so wrong. The prosecution was motivated by a desire to save face after a bungled military-style raid on the farm in the mistaken belief that dogs were not being properly cared for and that a ban was being breached.
“None of the allegations stacked up and that would have been apparent immediately.”
During the trial Kevin Slack, acting for Ms Wilson, said the photographic evidence gathered, attempting to show there wasn’t adequate straw bedding by the prosecution, was poor.
And he said initially RSPCA Insp Fred Armstrong, who was at the farm, was only going to issue an improvement notice, but it escalated to the animals being removed due to over-eagerness.
Judge Shaw said: “You must have been able to provide food and water because the dogs were in good condition.
“And you must also have been cleaning their yards, because their accommodation was clean.”
Judge Shaw said Ms Wilson had maintained there was adequate bedding for the sleeping areas.
“We have not been given the best evidence of the conditions by the prosecution,” he said.
“I have found you a creditable witness and I find you not guilty.”
Nobody was available from the RSPCA to comment.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012


Five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including a Wiltshire councillor, have appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004.

Joshua Charlesworth, 18, from East Tytherton; Benjamin Pethers, 28, from Hoopers Pool, Southwick; Stuart Radbourne, 28, from The Common, Bromham; Paul Tylee-Hinder, 58, of Quemerford, Calne and Jonathon Seed, 54, of Chittoe Heath, Bromham all denied the breach when they appeared before magistrates in Chippenham on Tuesday.

Four of them denied an additional charge of intefering with a badger sett, though Mr Radbourne, one of the joint hunt masters, indicated a guilty plea to that charge.

The case has been brought by the RSPCA and refers to incidents alleged to have taken place on March 6 this year at Stockley Hollow, near Calne.
The bench heard thatthe case could not proceed on Tuesday so it has been adjourned until November 9 when a date for the trial will be set. The five all appeared on summons so the question of bail did not arise.

Mr Seed, Wiltshire councillor for Summerham and Seend and a former hunt master, said he intended to fight the allegation against him.

In a statement outside court he said: “This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that is has been commenced for political reasons as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward.

Saturday, 22 September 2012


An ad for the RSPCA's Home for Life service has been cleared following complaints that the charity omitted to mention that it euthanises some animals in its care.
The campaign, headed "You'll rest in peace knowing they're being looked after," said: "When you pass away you'll want to know that your pet is safe and happy.
"You can ensure they will be by registering for the RSPCA's free Home for Life service, and by making your wishes known in your Will. It means we will care for your pet, and do all we can to find them a loving new home."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received complaints from an MP and a member of the public that the campaign was misleading by omission because it did not make clear that the RSPCA euthanised some animals.
The RSPCA said it "strongly disagreed" that the campaign was misleading, pointing out that the wording only went as far as promising that the charity would do "all we can" and "our very best" to find pets a new home.
It believed the ads struck the right balance between providing enough accurate information to the public without including potentially distressing details about animals which could not be re-homed on medical grounds or were of an unsound or aggressive temperament.
The charity said that in 2011 it had to euthanise 625 re-homeable dogs, 667 re-homeable cats and 91 re-homeable rabbits, but had successfully re-homed a further 60,551 pets.
In relation to the Home for Life service, it had taken in 58 animals last year and had to euthanise 10 of them, including a cat and a dog with tumours and other health problems, a cat with suspected renal failure and a cat with underlying kidney problems.
Rejecting the complaints, the ASA noted that the ads did not state or imply that the RSPCA never euthanised animals.
It said: "We understood the RSPCA were proactive in trying to find animals a new home but there were occasions when they would euthanise animals in their care.
"However, we understood they only did so, on veterinary advice, if the animal was suffering from serious physical or mental ill health, if it had an unsound or aggressive temperament even after behavioural training, or if they were not allowed to re-home the animal for legal reasons.
"We concluded that, because consumers would understand from the ad that the RSPCA would do all it could to re-home pets, which we understood was the case, and because consumers would also understand that there might be instances when it would not be in an animal's best interests to be re-homed, which we also understood was the case, the ads did not breach the code."


UK - The RSPCA campaign is making incorrect claims about the actual rearing standards for British ducks and is seriously misleading the public in its attempt to promote its own Freedom Foods brand, according to the British Poultry Council (BPC).This is disappointing from a usually respected body like the RSPCA with whom British duck producers have been working closely, says the BPC.

The Duck Assurance Scheme requirements for the provision of water for ducks reared indoors and the RSPCA Freedom Foods scheme both require the ducks to have access to open water to be able to dip their heads under, to preen and to allow the ducks to toss water onto their feathers for conditioning. This bathing is necessary for the ducks’ general health and particularly for good eye and nostril condition.

The Duck Assurance Scheme standards further specifies that where drinking water is provided by nipple drinkers that additional bathing water must be provided and that troughs, wide-channel type bell drinkers, baths or showers are permissible to provide this. Ducks have a greater range of water facilities with 20 per cent more availability in the Duck Assurance Scheme compared with the RSPCA standards.

According to the BPC, the RSPCA standards do not mention bathing or any requirement for full body access to water. The RSPCA scheme gives minimum measurements of 20cm width and 10cm depth for troughs containing open water but requires these to be used to provide both drinking and bathing water.

British duck companies have worked closely with welfare researchers at Oxford and Cambridge universities, the RSPCA and Defra on the water preferences of ducks. The Duck Assurance Scheme Standards reflect the published findings of this research and the experience of the duck producers.

It is disingenuous of the RSPCA to imply that ducks in the UK are raised without access to bedding or bathing water simply because there are no specific legal rules for duck production. In fact the ducks reared in the UK are all provided with fresh litter as bedding and this is topped up on a daily basis. Nipple drinkers can be used for provision of clean drinking water but sufficient open water sources must also be provided for the bathing requirements. These are specified requirements in the Duck Assurance Scheme and the RSPCA knows this, says BPC.

Separate nipple drinkers have the advantage that the drinking water does not become dirty from the bathing activities and is not spilled or leaked on to the bedding so can be deployed throughout the house and the water remains clean and drinkable.

While there is no scientific evidence that provision of windows is a welfare benefit to the ducks, the Duck Assurance Scheme Technical Advisory Group is considering the need for research on this topic.

Duck welfare standards have been upgraded for all ducks in the UK reared under the Duck Assurance Scheme as the duck producing companies have taken on the findings of scientific research. Shoppers can be assured that the high standards required by the Duck Assurance Scheme properly provide for the health and welfare needs of ducks reared in the UK.

However the RSPCA has said that water access for ducks, through the Duck Assurance Scheme (DAS), only gives ducks enough water to dip their heads under and to preen and wash their feathers. The RSPCA believes that ducks should have full body access to water and this is possible for ducks reared on Freedom Food approved farms.

The welfare group also sais that ducks are water birds and it is unacceptable that access to bathing water is not a mandatory requirement of the Duck Assurance Scheme.

"The best way for consumers to make up their own mind on whether they think the Duck Assurance Scheme’s standards go far enough in providing ducks with a suitable form of bathing water is for the duck industry to allow their farms that are representative of those conforming to the standards to be filmed and for this to be shown publicly," said RSPCA.


DEFRA has accused the RSPCA of ‘threatening farmers’ by actively urging consumers to boycott milk from farms involved in the planned autumn badger culls.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant and rock star Brian May called for the boycott this week as they launched the latest instalment of the ‘Team Badger’ campaign against the cull, backed by a growing number of animal welfare organisations and celebrities.
Unveiling new billboard posters in London, Mr Grant said farmers and landowners allowing culling on their land ‘have to realise there will be commercial consequences’.
He said consumers ‘who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood’.
Brian May, who is fronting the media campaign to turn the public against the cull, insisted he would not drink milk from ‘the moment that the first badger is shot’.
The new Defra Ministerial team is understood to have been taken aback at the vehemence of the campaign against the cull that has escalated since Natural England announced on Monday that it had issued provisional licences for badger control in West Gloucestershire. Defra Secretary Owen Paterson is said to be ‘furious’ at the RSPCA’s tactics.
A Defra spokesman suggested the RSPCA, one of the UK’s biggest and best known charities, was threatening dairy farmers.
“The public showed this summer how much they value dairy farmers - people want them to remain in business and for their milk, cheese and yoghurt to come from Britain. Farmers play an important role in the rural economies and communities who also feel the impact of this devastating disease. They need to be allowed to get on top of it instead of their businesses being threatened,” he said.
“People need to understand that tens of thousands of cattle have to be slaughtered each year because of bovine TB. Nobody - including the Government and farmers - wants to cull badgers but it is one of the measures that has been shown to halt this devastating disease that is taking a terrible toll.”
The NFU accused the RSPCA of becoming part of the problem. The union’s NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind said: “Anyone calling for people to boycott milk and avoid holidaying in areas where the trial badger controls are taking place is playing fast and loose with an extremely serious animal welfare issue. This simply deflects attentions from where they should be focused; eradicating this terrible disease of TB from both our beef and dairy herds – and from badgers.
“By potentially threatening the livelihoods of dairy and beef farmers, and the jobs of people in the tourism industry, you have to ask; are you serious about finding a solution to TB or have you just become part of the problem?”
The various campaigns against the cull, including those threatening direct action from animal rights activists, have received a huge amount of media coverage this week, following the issue of the provisional cull licences.
Defra recently took out an injunction on a website that published the names and addresses of senior Defra, Natural England and NFU figures, as well as Gloucestershire farmers.
Animal rights activists have been quoted threatening to subject farmers in the cull areas to a campaign of sleep deprivation in an effort to persuade them to withdraw support for the policy.
NFU Gloucestershire chairman Charles Mann said the ‘threats and intimidation’ were a ‘concern’ to those being targeted but said farmers would remain ‘steadfast’ and stand by what they believed in.
“This is Government policy, we are licensed to do it and we are being closely monitored by Defra and Natural England in everything we do,” he said.