An extraordinary fracas at the vet

After rushing our little spaniel to the veterinary hospital on the usual bank holiday emergency basis upon which all animals seem to get sick, we were held up by the most extraordinary fracas. The builder boyfriend carried her in, wrapped in a blanket, and we sat ourselves down anxiously to wait. But in the reception area of this smart animal hospital in Surbiton was a family who were engaged in a dispute with a desperate-looking young vet about the bill they had just run up for their fitting poodle. The scrappy white pooch stood on the floor heaving quietly as they shouted that there was no way they were paying

Why animals’ names matter

Pretty Man was a plump white pony in the forefront of a sad picture. The photograph showed the seizure by the RSPCA of 123 horses from a farm down the road from where I live. The picture came to summarise many aspects of a story that exploded on to social media and released so many emotions among the public, especially horse-lovers. A plump white pony is standing defiantly in the middle of a herd of muddy horses being rounded up and loaded on to lorries to be taken away. Later it emerged that the pony wouldn’t load. He refused to get on the lorry. It took most of the day

Real life | 17 April 2019

An angry villager accosted me outside my house as I came through my front door. ‘You’re wrong about those horses,’ she called. By which she meant the 123 horses taken from a farm down the road by the RSPCA. ‘They were never fed!’ she shouted at me. ‘They were starved! We have been trying to help them for years!’ I sighed. ‘Just a moment, please,’ I said, putting my handbag in the car. I walked over to where she was standing. ‘Look, those horses were all fat if anything. I’ve got leaked photos of each one of them taken by vets in RSPCA custody days after seizure. They look perfectly

Real life | 21 March 2019

‘Don’t touch anything sharp. Don’t saw anything or drill anything or sand anything,’ said the builder boyfriend as he left the house. ‘I generally agree,’ I said, mindful of the fact that this is what the keeper used to say. ‘But I’m disappointed you include sanding, because I think I made a very good job of the living room floor, and now I’m going to sand the dining room.’ I truly believe there is nothing a deranged woman with a sander can’t achieve. The builder b and I are trying to get the last bits of the house finished so it is in a fit state to be sold. We

Real life | 28 February 2019

‘What do you mean, you have no ID?’ I asked the farmer, starting to feel dizzy with the mind-boggling convolution of it all. ‘They took all my personal documents. I keep asking but no one gets back to me,’ he said. The farmer, you may remember, was the subject of a police and RSPCA raid on land near to where I live in Surrey where the RSPCA seized 123 horses, which then disappeared on to the motorway in lorries with the charity refusing to say where it was taking them. Shortly after, I was leaked documents showing where the horses had gone. They had been split between half a dozen

Letters | 14 February 2019

We need a generosity report Sir: Your leading article bemoaning the lack of charitable giving in Britain misses the mark (‘The power of giving’, 9 February). It is not a lack of generosity that’s the problem, but a lack of acknowledgement. Our lifeboats and air ambulances are kept in operation by charitable donations. In 2016/17 Cancer Research UK raised £190 million from individual donations. First aid and other services at public events are supplied by volunteers. Every NHS trust in the land has buildings and equipment funded by charitable donations. Every art gallery, theatre and museum has facilities funded by donations. These funds come from all sections of society — David

Balancing act

In a British circus, you will no longer find big cats, dancing bears or sea lions balancing on balls. Anne, the last elephant, paraded around the ring for the final time almost a decade ago, after a circus career lasting more than 50 years. The only wild animals that continue to perform under the big top are a fox, three camels, three raccoons, four zebra, half a dozen reindeer, a zebu, and a macaw called Rio. This menagerie travels with two small family–run traditional circuses, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus. Almost a million pounds have been spent on each animal, trying to get them banned from performing. The mighty Royal

Dogs of war

When I was a child in the 1950s it was unheard of for someone to be killed by a dog. Dogs were rarely killed by other dogs. By the early 1990s, things were different. Dog-fighting made a comeback and the fad was for the ‘weapon’ dog, promoted via American gangsta rap. Staffordshire bull terriers were being bred in large numbers again and other fighting breeds, previously unheard of here, were brought into this country. In 1991, concerned about attacks, the government passed the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), which banned the American pit bull terrier as well as the lesser-known dogo Argentino, fila Brasileiro and Japanese tosa, all of fighting origins.

Battersea Dogs’ Home’s political advocacy is a step too far

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is running a poster campaign to increase sentences for cruelty to animals. The current maximum is six months. It is probably popular — almost all campaigns for higher prison sentences are. But I doubt if the public interest would be served by locking up offenders for five years, as Battersea demands. The prisons are already full to bursting, increasingly by elderly people accused (in some cases, falsely) of ‘historic’ child abuse. Each prisoner costs the taxpayer more than £30,000 a year. One should be prepared to listen to the arguments, however. My real point is different: why should a dogs’ home campaign on public policy?

The RSPCA may be getting back to what it does best: animal welfare

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

Chips with everything

When Laura Rennie was told that the cat she lost as a kitten had been found 18 years after it wandered off, she was overjoyed. An animal welfare officer turned up at her home to say the tabby had been located and traced to her, thanks to its microchip. Toby had been hit by a car, but was alive and at a local vet’s. Even if it were just to say goodbye, or take charge of his veterinary care, Ms Rennie would at least be able do the best for Toby. What a wonderful story, you might say, and what great proof, as complaints mount over the compulsory microchipping of

Can the RSPCA’s new CEO reform the ailing charity?

The RSPCA have been in a fair pickle for a while now. It had been without a CEO for two years – after their last one, Gavin Grant, stepped down citing health reasons – until two weeks ago when they announced that Jeremy Cooper, (formerly chief executive of the charity’s ethical food label) would be taking on the role. This comes after reports at the end of last year that three candidates had pulled out, apparently due to concerns over finances, and the fact anyone in the job would be accountable to the charity’s council. Two trustees have also stepped down since September over concerns about the governance of the

The Spectator’s notes | 3 March 2016

The government, or at least David Cameron’s bit of it, seems to think that trade is something that takes place because of a trade agreement. The order is the other way round. People trade, and have done for several thousand years, because it is to their mutual advantage. After a bit, governments come along and try to direct and often impede it, but in the modern world of instant communications, ready transfers of money and container shipping, this has become blessedly difficult. A friend, Edward Atkin, who has made a large fortune out of Avent baby bottles and like products, tells me: ‘I have never known or asked whether any

Real life | 12 November 2015

By the time you read this I will have delivered my long-awaited speech to the World Horse Welfare annual conference in the presence of the Princess Royal. I say ‘long awaited’ not because I have some inflated sense of how important I am. But because I have been working myself into a right old lather about it. I was perfectly fine until the organisers sent me a few emails with useful information about the conference themes and asked me out for a coffee to discuss my speech. ‘Agh!’ I thought. ‘Why are they asking me what I’m going to say? I have no idea what I am going to say.

Asking too much

Jack Nicholson’s moving portrayal of a lonely old man in About Schmidt convinced me that I should sponsor a child. You may remember the scene at the end: he gets a letter from a nun in the Tanzanian village where a little boy has been receiving his largesse and realises that his life has not been meaningless. He has made a difference to somebody. I wept buckets as the credits rolled and not long afterwards signed up to a sponsorship programme with a leading charity in the hope that I too could make life better for one person. And maybe I did. I was allocated a child in Armenia. I

From the oldest pub in Britain to the most stupidly named pub in Britain

Should one of the oldest pubs in Britain – ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’ – really change its name to ‘Ye Olde Clever Cocks’? This is what the animal rights organisation Peta is proposing, after deciding that the pub – which has had the same name since 1872 – should choose to celebrate ‘intelligent, sensitive chickens’. Thinking about where your food comes from is one thing, but is pretending that cockfighting never existed, and re-writing the history of this country, really the best way of encouraging people to do that? The pub landlord, Christo Tofalli, told Vanessa Feltz on Radio 2 earlier today that he agrees that ‘chickens are cool’, but alas

Camilla Swift

Equine squatters: the topic that united the Countryside Alliance and the RSPCA

In September last year I wrote about horses being illegally grazed and abandoned, and the inability of landowners to do anything about it. Back then, the government were poised to debate the topic for two hours in a bid to find some kind of solution to the problem. It’s not an issue that gets all that much attention in the media – after all, how much of a problem can a few ponies be? But fly-grazing, as this is called – actually causes a huge amount of trouble, for the horses themselves and for the people whose land they end up on, be that a private landowner or a local

My life in ailments

My request to see my medical notes was granted in the end. I honestly don’t know why I wanted to see them, really. I’m just one of those people who suspects the worst of the state, and other large organisations, so if I get the chance to have a peek into what they’ve been up to behind my back I take it. This was my second Subject Access Request. The first was of the RSPCA, who I got a tad suspicious about after writing several critical articles and attracting weirdly sour-sounding complaints from them in which they claimed I was only criticising them because I was a supporter of hunting.

If the tofu munchers had their way, horses would sleep on mattresses in bespoke tents like a Glastonbury VIP area

Before I go any further, I would like to make clear that no animals were harmed in the making of this column. You might think that goes without saying, but I don’t take anything for granted when a woman I know has just been censured by the RSPCA for not providing her horses with a ‘comfortable’ place to lie down in their field. ‘What is she meant to do, give them four-poster beds?’ the builder boyfriend asks me when I tell him. Possibly. Or mattresses inside bespoke tents, like a Glastonbury VIP area. Never mind that horses don’t like enclosed spaces and prefer to sleep in the open. Even if

Westminster’s gone barking

It’s that time of year again – sandwiched between conference season and the Autumn statement – when the nation’s political pooches (and their owners) descend on Westminster. Yes, yesterday saw the Westminster Dog of the Year show, 2014. Last year’s winner, Noodle the cockerpoo (and her owner, Alan Duncan) had been promoted to the judging panel after her success, and seemed keen to be back on the podium. She wasn’t the only one, either. David Burrowes’ Cholmeley (who came third last year, and second in 2012), also seemed very attached to the winner’s platform, and posed nicely alongside it. But sadly for Cholmeley, there was no space for a labrador on