Gavin Grant, the CEO of the RSPCA, is stepping down from his role after just over two years in the job because there are 'concerns about his health', the charity announced today. The announcement will be met with a mixture of delight and dismay; delight from those who believed that his influence was shifting the RSPCA's purpose from animal welfare to animal rights and, of course, dismay from his loyal supporters in the animal rights brigade.
It's hard to reject the view that he was a driving force behind the many incendiary headlines written about the RSPCA since he started his job. While Grant was in charge, the increase in the number of private prosecutions – with defence costs in failed prosecutions being covered by the taxpayer – was just one complaint. Just this month a reviewer hired by the RSPCA questioned what the charity could do to regain its positive public image, with one option being to strip it of its right to prosecute.
A leaked memo suggested that many staff were 'disillusioned', with Melissa Kite writing in The Spectator last year that 'there is a culture of fear at their headquarters'. Grant's statement that farmers who supported the badger cull should be 'named and shamed' was another sore point, especially amongst the rural community. And even the BBC weren't entirely sure about the charity's motives, with a 'Face the Facts' Radio 4 programme last August asking whether the RSPCA was 'a law unto itself'.
Of course, a change of leadership is by no means a guarantee that the RSPCA will change its ways. But it will certainly be interesting to see who their trustees choose to fill the role next.
Here’s Gavin Grant in his own words, first published in The Spectator in February 2013:
Gavin Grant in his own words
— ‘These people are wildlife criminals… The penalties for these offences are too light. I want to see people who organise themselves to go out and abuse animals for pleasure or for profit go to jail… two years? Five years?’
— ‘No different to badger baiters – apart from their accents.’
Hunting in general
— ‘Rightly, those that abuse animals for pleasure and/or for profit will be seen for the common criminals they are.’
The Grand National
— ‘As the winning owner whooped, a cold fury welled- up in me. The National has to change or die. The nation knows and demands it.’
— ‘Despite safety improvement the Grand National is still too risky for the horses. It’s the unacceptable face of racing.’
The RSPCA — and himself
— ‘We take a zero-tolerance approach to animal cruelty: mice, hedgehogs, dogs, cats, badgers, cows, sheep, foxes, snakes — we are here to protect all animals.’
— ‘People may seek to intimidate me, and some have… I respect other people’s opinions, but the RSPCA is never going to be intimidated.’
— ‘Anybody who is going out there quite deliberately either for fun or for profit, to break the law and to abuse animals, is clearly an enemy of the animals, and an enemy of the RSPCA, but above all, they’re an enemy of the civilised people of this country.’