The RSPCA over the last decade has – many would say – lost its way, bogged down in a mess of private prosecutions against honest members of the public instead of focusing on real animal welfare issues. But could the charity be about to do a U-turn? In an interview with the Telegraph their new chief executive, Jeremy Cooper, has admitted that the charity has become too political in recent years, accepting that they have ‘made mistakes in the past’, including over the badger cull and in its prosecution of hunts, and says it is ‘very unlikely’ that the charity will bring any private prosecutions against hunts in future.
If the RSPCA do change their tune, it can’t be anything but a good thing. While their political campaigning and refusal to accept their mistakes had, in the past, made for bad news stories, it had also affected their fundraising abilities, with donations from membership fees, legacies and gifts all falling.
Their former CEO, Gavin Grant, was certainly not one to back off when it came to the charity’s heavy-handed tactics. In comparison to him, Cooper’s acceptance of the fact that the charity has made mistakes is a drastic shift in attitude.
In recent years, as everyone knows, the charity has been dogged by a barrage of negative press stories regarding their behaviour. All kinds of domestic pets from cats to horses put down willy nilly, rows over its protests against badger culls, a member of their council comparing farm animals’ lives to the holocaust, and of course the infamous prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt – which cost over a quarter of a million pounds – have all severely damaged people’s faith in the charity.
It’s not just in the press either. Go online to any the many Facebook groups where animal lovers and owners congregate, and you’ll see that the one recurring theme whenever anyone asks for help with abandoned, suffering or mistreated animals is: ‘Don’t bother with the RSPCA’.