Paterson urges RSPCA to be 'wary' over campaigning activity
DEFRA Secretary Owen Paterson has warned the RSPCA to be ‘wary’ that its political campaigning activities do not compromise its charitable status.
The RSPCA is due to stage a joint demonstration with Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) tomorrow (Friday, Oct 12) at Defra’s London headquarters. It will call on the Department not to issue any more licences for live animal transport until all the legislation on journey times and port facilities is enforced.
This follows the suspension of live exports from Ramsgate and Ipswich, following an incident at the Kent port in September when RSPCA officials shot more than 40 sheep deemed unfit to travel, after vets inspected a lorry that brought 500 sheep from Northamptonshire.
RSPCA chief asked Gavin Grant has also angered farmers by calling on consumers to boycott milk unless retailers can differentiate between ‘badger friendly’ milk and milk that comes from the badger cull areas.
During a meeting at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday, a speaker from the floor suggested to Mr Paterson that the RSPCA had become ‘increasingly more radical and hard line against farmers’. He referred also to the way it enforces animal welfare rules on farms.
Responding, Mr Paterson said: “It is very important that those organisations which, under statute, are charities conduct themselves as charities. If they want to become political campaigning organisations, that may change the nature of their organisation. They have to be wary about that,” he said.
In the same meeting, Devon MP Neil Parish, who chairs an All-Party Parliamentary Group on animal welfare, said the RSPCA’s political stance on the badger cull ‘has damaged them’ because most people ‘want to see a healthy badger population alongside healthy cattle’.
Mr Parish, who is also a farmer, said: “We (farmers) are very often presented as the villains of the piece, which we are not. Is it is actually the job of the RSPCA to pick on which side of the argument they are? They need to be much more careful over this.”
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant has described suggestions, also made by NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond last week, that the RSPCA has stepped beyond its charitable status as ‘completely, simply factually incorrect’.
“It is very clear. As with all charities we have a responsibility to advocate in accordance with our charitable purposes. And that is precisely what we are doing,” he said.