The RSPCA wanted it, got it, says it is not fit for purpose!

In an astounding attack on the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the institution of  which the RSPCA itself promoted, Dr. Julia Wrathall, a livestock production specialist who is head of the RSPCA’s farm animals science team  said:

“The RSPCA does not believe welfare laws are good enough to ensure all farm animals have a good quality of life and are humanely transported and slaughtered.”

Bearing in mind the fact that the AnimalWelfare Act 2006 essentially created two offences:

S. 4  makes it an offence to allow any unnecessary suffering.  It doesn’t matter if it is a single flea on the animal, if there is suffering and it has not been treated then the person responsible for the animal is guilty of an offence.

S. 9  makes it an offence to fail to provide a suitable environment, diet, company,  for any animal.  It is also an offence to fail to protect an animal from pain, suffering , injury and disease, and it is a requirement that an animal must be able to express normal behaviour patterns.

Also bearing in mind the fact that S. 9 is essentially the RSPCA’s five freedoms, the SHG is puzzled as to what possible situation could fall outside of the remit of these two sections, let alone the other sixty-nine sections of the Act, the four schedules and the associated welfare codes?

Is this an admission that the AnimalWelfare Act got it wrong?  Or is it pure , unashamed marketing of the RSPCA’s own brand, Freedom Foods, irrespective of the facts?

Freedom Foods protest at RSPCA HQ

There is to be a  Freedom Foods protest at RSPCA HQ on Friday, March 2nd between 10 am and 3 pm.

The address is

RSPCA HQ , Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 9RS

The demonstration has been organised by Essex Animal Defenders who have collated details of the problems with Freedom Foods.

From their Facebook page announcement:

“Freedom Food or Freedom Fraud?

A number of RSPCA Freedom Foods endorsed producers have been exposed for animal cruelty, most recently the Manor Farm pig farm in Yaxham, Norfolk which was discovered to be rearing pigs in squalid conditions after an undercover investigation… by Hillside Animal Sanctuary last year.

Also in 2011 Cheale Meats abattoir had its Freedom Foods status re-instated by the RSPCA within six months of severe animal abuse by its workers being revealed by Animal Aid, despite the fact that this case remains in the hands of the CPS with a view to criminal prosecution.

We need to let the RSPCA know that their Freedom Foods scheme is clearly not working and that the public are not satisfied by ther decisions to re-instate companies into the scheme which have been exposed for cruelty.

The RSPCA should not be giving consumers false reassurance about the ‘welfare’ of the animals produced under this scheme and need to review their policies and procedures in respect of Freedom Foods immediately.

Please bring placards.

contact if you require any further info.”

Charities Act review includes a proposal for a charities Ombudsman

During the run-up to the Charities Act review the SHG has been campaigning for the creation of a charities ombudsman.  We have a petition running on the government e-petition site and have been asking people to raise the issue with their friends, family and, most importantly, their MP.

Imagine our delight when the Hodgson inquiry turns out to include questions asking:

…..whether charities should pay an annual charge to cover the costs of running the Charity Commission, whether there should be a charities ombudsman and whether charities should be able to pay their trustees.”

They are also calling for evidence on complaints, appeals and redress.

We hope that all of our supporters will make their own submissions to the review and that you will support our calls for the creation of a charities ombudsman.

The SHG will publish the contents of our submission before the cut off date for those who may  like to include some of our points in their own submissions, but please remember that you will have more impact if you present the issues you believe to be important in your own words.

Rabbit attack?

Rabbits will sometimes bite the ears or legs off their babies when they are born.   This is not an attack by a bad mother on her helpless young.  Sometimes it is because the mother rabbit is trying to help her young to be born by pulling them out with her teeth which are too sharp for this to succeed.  Sometimes it is because the mother rabbit is too rough in cleaning up her new born babies.  It usually happens with first time mothers, or more rarely, with mothers experiencing a difficult birth.

The SHG was surprised to see an article in the Kent Messenger in which the RSPCA claimed four rabbits which had been found in a park had been the subjects of a “sickening attack” in which the rabbits’ ears had been cut off.

There was no mention of new or unhealed wounds.

Katie Harris of the Headcorn branch accepted that the people who left the rabbits in the park might not have cut their ears off.  So what was the basis for the claim?

Surely an RSPCA spokesman would either be experienced enough to realise that there was a very possible alternative cause for the missing ears, or would have been briefed by experienced animal carers within the branch before giving an interview?

Are the RSPCA a prosecuting authority or not?

The SHG has had concerns for some time that the RSPCA is being treated as if it has special powers and is a prosecuting agency.  This is a serious mistake as it can and has led to personal information being disclosed to an organisation that has no statutory right to see it.

It is difficult to imagine information more sensitive than that which has been disclosed by an individual to the police during an investigation.  It is also difficult to imagine anything that could do more damage to the trust the public place in the police and consequently to the ability of the police to gather information if the security of personal information entrusted to the police is no longer perceived as being kept safe and confidential.

Some police forces and branches of the CPS believe that the RSPCA are a prosecuting authority.

Secondly, where an agency is undertaking a prosecution they are permitted under the Data Protection Act 1998 to make a request under Section 29 of the Act for personal information relating to an alleged offender in terms of specific evidence required to further that investigation / prosecution.  Where this is a legal request we have a duty to provide relevant information for the judicial process.   The information is disclosed purely for the purpose of that investigation / prosecution.

We do not separately record such requests as they would relate to a specific file / recorded crime and detail would only be included on the respective individual file.

We do receive requests purely for criminal record checks from statutory agencies e.g. Local Authorities, Social Services, Social Security / Pensions, Department of Transport etc (this may include the RSPCA on occasions in relation to an impending prosecution in gathering specific evidence of antecedents for a court hearing as required by national legislation) in connection with alleged offenders.   We do not record details of the agency (that would be on a specific individuals intelligence file if we have had no other dealings) we purely record as legally obtaining on behalf of an outside agency – the agency is not identified on the check itself.   As you are probably aware there is a central government requirement for our involvement in numerous partnerships with other agencies and therefore the number of such disclosures is substantial – unfortunately we do not keep a separate record of when these requests are made.

It seems that Derbyshire Constabulary include the RSPCA in the group of statutory agencies to whom it is required to supply confidential, personal information.

When the SHG was informed that the CPS also believed the RSPCA to be a prosecuting authority we served a Freedom of Information request on the RSPCA as follows:

This is a Freedom of Information request.  Please acknowledge receipt of this request.

Please respond wherever possible by e-mail although I have included an address and telephone number below in order to comply with the Act.

I am aware that the RSPCA does not believe that it has any formal obligation under the Act but that it will endeavour to supply information whenever possible.

“Freedom of Information Act 2000”

“The RSPCA does not believe that it has any formal obligation under the Act. It is not a designated public authority. However, we fully support the principle of openness and will endeavour to supply information to enquirers whenever possible.”

“As a charity relying entirely on voluntary donations, we will have to take into account the purpose of any request for information and the costs involved in providing it for the enquirer.”

 My questions relate to the role of the RSPCA in prosecutions.

Does the RSPCA bring prosecutions as a private prosecutor or as a prosecuting authority?

You will note that in his evidence to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Flower of the RSPCA stated that the RSPCA prosecutes as a private prosecutor.

“Minutes of Evidence”


“I will respond to that, if I may, Chairman. The present situation is that the RSPCA prosecutes as a private prosecutor. We do not claim and we do not have any authority from local or central government to act as a prosecutor. We act now as a private prosecutor; if the Bill becomes law we will continue to act as a private prosecutor”

Presumably this was an accurate reflection of the situation at the time, which would imply that if the RSPCA are now a prosecuting authority they have become one since the date of Mr. Flowers evidence? (14 October 2004).

If the RSPCA are now a prosecuting authority, when and how did they become one?  From which legislation or source do they derive this power?

Finally, if the RSPCA are indeed a prosecuting authority, does that mean that the RSPCA has a formal obligation to respond to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for at least those aspects of its activities that relate to its public role as a prosecuting authority?

Yours sincerely

Anne Kasica
The SHG,
SA44 5HT

Tel:  0844 700 66 90

In response to the FOI request from the SHG the RSPCA initially sent an automated reply.  We have published it below.

The RSPCA’s automated response:

“Thank you for your online enquiry to the RSPCA – please note this is an automated response.

If you reply to us at any time please DO NOT REMOVE the text in the subject field – this will ensure you do not receive a further automated response.  However, we would be grateful if you would take time to read the information below.

Due to a reduced level of staffing brought about by the current economic situation, the RSPCA’s advice team is currently being overwhelmed by the volume of online enquiries being received.

We are sorry that there may be a lengthy delay at times in replying to online enquiries but will endeavour to respond to all queries relating to a specific animal welfare issue.  Sadly we cannot guarantee to reply to all the general enquiries received.

Please note that reports of cruelty or neglect, sick or injured animals, requests for help with veterinary bills and details of lost or found animals will be forwarded to our 24 hour cruelty and advice line on the next working day (Monday to Friday) – if you need an update, please contact them directly on 0300 1234 999.

The Society is focussing its resources on the provision of animal welfare services and the investigation of cruelty.  Please review the frequently-asked questions (FAQs) section of the Advice Centre on our website, where you will find answers to all the most common questions asked by members of the public.

When we do respond, you will receive an email which will advise you where to find our reply.  Thank you for contacting the RSPCA.

RSPCA Advice Team
Tel: 0300 1234 555
RSPCA HQ operates Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Scanned by Demon MailDefender ”

The RSPCA then responded with:

Thank you for your email dated 11 February 2012.

In response to your enquiry, we can confirm that the RSPCA
is a private prosecutor.

Thank you for contacting us.

Kind regards
RSPCA Advice Team

The SHG tried again:

Thank you.

Can you please also confirm that the RSPCA is not a prosecuting authority?

Yours sincerely

Anne Kasica

And received the following response:

Thank you for your further email.  We do not actually know what you mean by a prosecuting authority.  The RSPCA is a private prosecutor.

Kind regards
RSPCA Advice Team

If anyone has any residual beliefs that the RSPCA have any sort of power or special position, read what the Rt Hon Jim Paice, Minister of State for agriculture and Food has to say:

The RSPCA have no special legal powers above those of any other private citizen or organization – the Act confers no powers on the RSPCA.

[ . . . ]

The 2006 Act is also a ‘common informers act’.  It is because anyone can initiate criminal proceedings that the RSPCA successfully prosecutes between 750 and 1,000 people each year who have been found to have caused unnecessary suffering to animals.

The SHG is gathering evidence of any organisation that has treated the RSPCA as if they had statutory powers or were a prosecuting authority.

If you know of any instances where this has happened please do not post details here.

Contact the SHG  by e-mail or by phone 0844 700 66 90.