Sunday, March 12, 2006

RSPCA "under investigation"

The RSPCA posterFrom the Sunday Telegraph today.

RSPCA investigated over 'political' badgers campaign
By Jasper Copping

The RSPCA is being investigated over claims that it has abused its charitable status with a controversial 'political' campaign against a proposed badger cull. The Charity Commission, which regulates charities, is looking into allegations that the society has breached guidelines by getting too involved in political activities.

The inquiry comes as a leading landowner and lawyer is considering mounting a legal challenge to the RSPCA's status.

The furore has flared up over the organisation's "Back off Badgers" campaign against Government proposals to cull the animal over fears that it spreads tuberculosis among cattle. The charity disputes this and has run a high-profile marketing drive, encouraging people to write to the Government before the consultation period on the cull ended last week.

More than 25,000 people responded, but the campaign - which is thought to have cost several thousand pounds - has angered critics who say that it is not the role of a charity to lobby in this way.

Stanley Brodie QC, a landowner in Ayrshire, Scotland, said: "For a long time, the RSPCA have been doing things which don't fit with their charitable status and I got very angry when I saw this latest campaign."

The commission says charities are permitted to engage in political campaigning only if it "furthers the purposes of the charity" and only to the extent that it is "justified by the resources applied".

But Mr Brodie said: "The guidelines are misleading and give far too much latitude to charities. "It makes it seem like any political activity is acceptable as long as it can be said to be ancillary to the organisation's charitable aims and that is not right at all. "The RSPCA are seeking to reverse Government policy and their activities cannot be said to be ancillary to their aims. They are objectives in themselves."

Since taking up the issue, Mr Brodie has attracted dozens of supporters angered by the political tone of the campaign and who believe that the RSPCA has ignored the welfare of cattle in trying to protect badgers.

Bovine TB kills 23,000 cattle each year and costs the taxpayer an annual £90 million. "There is a lot of animosity towards the RSPCA at the moment," he added. "People are fed up with their activities. It has been taken over by individuals with a political agenda and is being used as a pressure group. "It is perfectly at liberty to engage in political campaigning but if it does it should not maintain its tax-free status."

Becky Hawkes, an RSPCA spokesman, said the charity took "careful account of charity law and the guidance issued by the Charity Commission". But Nick Herbert, the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs, said: "There's a fine line between legitimate campaigning for charitable objects and seeking to get involved in politics and I think the RSPCA has been crossing that line."

John Gallagher, a former Government vet, has also voiced concerns over the campaign. "I've been extremely disappointed by it. It has been political rather than based on animal welfare."

Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, said: "They have wasted a vast amount of money on campaigns which are, in part, motivated by political as well as animal welfare factors." He added: "Their agenda has become more of an animal rights one than an animal welfare one."

In 2004, the RSPCA was cleared of similar allegations of political campaigning over its support for a fox hunting ban. This time, however, the allegations have been given extra weight by Mr Brodie's threatened legal action.

Meanwhile, Sir David Attenborough, the prominent wildlife broadcaster, has spoken out against the cull, saying it would not halt an epidemic of tuberculosis in cattle. "There will be at best little benefit," he said. "It is unlikely to decrease significantly the incidence of TB in cattle and it may make it worse - at a great cost, financially, in public discord and to badgers."


exoSETT said...






SETT has laid out FIVE basic strategic requirements detailed below prior to DEFRA introducing operations for “controlling the spread of bovine tuberculosis in cattle in high incidence areas in England”.

• ARMY - SETT demands that the Army be called in to urgently tackle bTB as it did for FMD. The task is just too big for DEFRA to be trusted with. The Army will bring with it the necessary focus, concentration, economy of force, security (against the real agro-terrorist threat), mobility, communications & engender the necessary community co-operation.

• GASSING SETTS - SETT believes that the only way to successfully address the bTB disease in the badger population is to cull badgers by in-sett gassing – this method is targeted and significantly reduces the chance of perturbation and unlike Prof Bourne’s RBCT attempts has been proven to work effectively and is sustainable!

• LAND ACCESS - Before the Army commences work SETT states that DEFRA needs to address the problems of Land Access. Some organisations and land owners refused RBCT operations staff access to bTB infected land. Organisations such as The Woodland Trust – which benefits to the tune of some £8m per year of public monies – refused access. SETT proposes that a ‘cross compliance’ arrangement is introduced whereby if, for example the Woodland Trust, again, refused access then – no £8m and no charity status for such organizations. Similarly – other land owners such as the LACS Baronsdown operation on Exmoor must be made to comply thus enabling access to other wildlife such deer which, like badgers, suffer from and spread bTB to cattle.

• PRISON THREAT FOR INTERFERENCE BY AGRO-TERRORISTS - Minister, Ben Bradshaw, in his response to questions asked in Parliament stated that some 65% of the RBCT cages were destroyed or interfered with by agro-terrorists - costing the public some £400,000. He also stated that this interference may have impacted “significantly” on the outcome of the trials. He stated that he did not know how many persons had been arrested and brought to court during this four year period. SETT received answers this question (Freedom of Information Act) from all Police Forces in all RBCT areas and the official answer is that ONLY TWO ‘agro-terrorists’ were taken to court. Indeed – in some areas although the Police arrested culprits the CPS refused to prosecute! This suggests political interference!
SETT therefore proposes that the penalty for interfering with legal licensed badger culling operations be identical to that for illegally interfering with badger setts / badgers – ie a potential prison sentence and a fine of up to £5,000. Such agro-terrorists already known to the authorities should be made the subject of an ASBO.

• CROW Act SUSPENSION – As part of the total ‘movement’ restriction arrangements SETT seeks the temporary suspension of the CROW Act where instances of public access may interfere with licensed badger culling. This will also ensure that the public’s presence will not contribute, in the interim, to the spread (by foot) of bTB. Warning signs should notify the public that public access is temporarily suspended due to culling of bTB-diseased badgers.

SETT Contact Secretary - Peter Brady

Anonymous said...

SETT Contact Secretary - Peter Brady

Who is Peter Brady?

What are the contact details?

How do we join SETT?

exoSETT said...

Peter Brady has a few cows in Staffordshire and helped establish SETT in 1997
Since then he has spoken with and met many farmers and land owners with bTB problems. SETT representatives attend DEFRA meetings in London and has over the years had several letters and articles published in Farmers Guardian / Weekly etc

In the first instance please email with your address and telephone number and I shall contact you directly – Thanks for your enquiries.