An open letter to EFRA, Mr David Cameron, Simon Hart MP and Mr Neil Parish MP
A great many of us are seriously concerned that the EFRA [Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] committee is using its position in government to curtail or remove the right of the RSPCA [Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty cases, and that the motive for this move is more about preventing fox hunting prosecutions than any real concern for animal welfare.
It will be impossible to prosecute if the Charity is not allowed to investigate, and it will be difficult to investigate if the Charity then has to rely on the CPS to bring up the thousands of cases in Court. It should also be remembered that it is the right of every private citizen to seek justice through the UK Courts.
Of course there will be times when the RSPCA gets it wrong, but in the thousands of abuse cases which reach Court, there is only a handful which have been stopped and deemed not to be in the public interest. I would point out that for every case which does go to court, there are hundreds more that don’t. The problems are sorted out with RSPCA support and education and the cooperation of the animal’s owner. Sometimes the animal’s owner is reluctant or refuses to improve or take advice and that is when the RSPCA must step in for the sake of the animal.
The Charity spends around 5p in the £1 on prosecutions and the rest of the money is spent on animal housing, veterinary treatment, education and of course paying inspectors salaries. The RSPCA also saves the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds every year which it is doubtful could be matched by the CPS, especially in these times of austerity and swinging cuts to services.
The pro hunting press, ably abetted by the Countryside Alliance, are also guilty of a steady build-up of accusations of RSPCA misuse of power. The Telegraph and the Daily Mail are particularly aggressive in accusing the RSPCA of radical campaigning, promiscuous legal actions and the underhand use of funds. Yet this is at odds with ALL of the RSPCA reviews which have found the RSPCA to be acting within its remit, which is to prevent animal abuse. The Charity Commission has said on at least two occasions that the RSPCA has no case to answer.
The Heythrop prosecution is often cited by Mr Hart as a scandalous waste of money, which he claims was undertaken for political motives to embarrass the Prime Minister who has associations with the hunt. But it has never been political to uphold the law, nor is it political to prosecute cruelty. Perhaps if the Heythrop themselves had been more mindful of Mr Cameron’s reputation by association, they would have not broken the law in the first place. (Oddly the Charity’s prosecution of cruelty to horses in 2008 on Spindles Farm cost over £2,000,000, and the RSPCA was praised for their dedication and compassion.)
It is of especial concern that animals will not get the protection they need after reading Lord Ashcroft’s expose of David Cameron, who he claims, when in opposition, used his influence and asked the CPS to drop a hunting case against a member of the Heythrop hunt, and if that allegation turns out to be true, not only was Mr Cameron’s action undemocratic, but it could also be viewed as an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The CPS dropped the case against the hunter, which in the light of recent news reports of Mr Cameron's personal intervention does not give people confident in the CPS or the law.
The RSPCA is as respected and it is respectable, it is also unique. Britain has a reputation of being a nation of animal lovers and the majority who care do not want to see the RSPCA rendered useless because another backdoor attempt is being made to prevent hunt prosecutions.
If the EFRA committee rule that the RSPCA can no longer investigate and prosecute animal abuse, then perhaps EFRA would tell us what it intends to put in place of the Charity, and where the money will be found to carry out the investigations and to fund the court costs so that no animal is left to suffer.
Sources and resources;
Western Daily press
Country lover, amateur naturalist and fox lover fighting to preserve the ban on hunting