If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Animal Wrongs

I've been getting more and more pissed off the the RSPCA over the last few years. In my younger days, I used to think of them as kindly, well-meaning and utterly committed to the welfare of any animal that came to their attention. OK, so they wore a uniform, but then so did park-keepers, the AA and the Sally Army, and they were harmless enough. I used to think they were completely benign.

But over the years, they have moved from a concern with animal welfare to a position akin to an animal rights group. People don't matter to them: only animals. Oh, and money. Not content with being one of the richest charities in the UK, with millions every year being left to them by little old ladies across the land, they hound people against all the principles of natural justice if they sniff a bit of revenue.

This was the case that turned the corner for me. A university lecturer, Christine Gill, had run her parents' farm in North Yorkshire virtually single-handed after her father died. Her mother, who suffered badly from agoraphobia and severe anxiety, had repeatedly assured her that she would inherit the farm one day. But when her mother died, Dr Gill found that all her mother's money had been willed to the RSPCA. This was despite her mother's avowed dislike of the charity. Dr Gill believed that her father, a bullying and controlling man, had coerced her mother into favouring the RSPCA in her will, and she was able to convince a court of that. The will was revoked in her favour in a court of law, and that should have been the end of that. But the RSPCA contested the decision, and used every trick in the book to try to get the decision overturned. The legal battle took three years. In the end, the judge found in favour of Dr Gill and ordered the RSPCA to pay her costs. The RSPCA intended to appeal. In their defence, the RSPCA said that they had offered Dr Gill a compromise solution - they would take the bequest, but allow her to keep £650,000 of it. As the estate was valued at £2.34m, this hardly seems a reasonable compromise to me. I'll take everything you have, and let you have 28% of it back. Seems fair.

Remember Norris Athey? He was the man who claimed he had drowned a squirrel to challenge the charity after they had successfully prosecuted another man for doing the same thing. He was arrested and spent 10 hours in custody. The reason why the RSPCA called in the police?

An RSPCA spokesman said police had been called when Mr Atthey refused to talk to an inspector.

Remember that, in law, Mr Athey didn't have to talk to the 'Inspector', any more than he would have had to explain himself to me if I had called. There are many other cases similar to this. The web is full of anti-RSPCA websites which will provide many more examples of how this animal charity has got totally above itself. And now, in the news, we read this:

A woman who dyed her cat bright pink to match her hair will have her pet returned to her after the RSPCA decided she hadn't committed a crime.

A man in Swindon found a pink cat in his back garden. Following quickly on from the lady who put the cat in the wheelie bin, this raised some wildly panic-stricken stories in the press. It was a gang of thugs wot did it. Who would paint (yes, they said 'paint') a cat pink? What is the world coming to? They kidnapped the cat, painted it pink, and threw it over the hedge as some kind of 'sick prank'.

But it wasn't as simple as that. Not at all. The cat's fur had been dyed with great care. The eyes, nose and mouth had been carefully avoided. Furthermore, the cat was in very good health and was apparently suffering from no distress. The RSPCA became involved, and attempted to wash the cat's coat clean - unsuccessfully - while making noises about prosecuting whoever had done this terrible thing. But yesterday the truth came out. The cat, now known to be named Oi! Kitty (I like that) was coloured pink by her owner. Using food dye. The stuff that is so non-toxic we eat it. She liked the colour pink and wanted the cat to match her own hair - which was dyed pink.

Now, this might seem to you (and me) to be a pretty silly thing to do. But is it cruel? Does the cat know it's pink? Does it care? Is it suffering? Unless the other cats in the 'hood make fun of it, of course not. It's not even unusual: do a Google image search for 'pink cat' and you will see that many people have already done this before.

The RSPCA have therefore decided not to prosecute. This decision was fairly easy, as no crime had been committed, and so a prosecution would have been a little problematic. But they were not content to let it rest at that: oh no.

An officer from the animal charity will visit the cat's owner to give her a dressing down, offering welfare advice about the potential hazards and consequences of dyeing cats.

A dressing-down? For what? Being a silly, pink-obsessed 22-year-old? Personally, I think the theme of the dressing-down will be "you haven't actually committed any crime here, but don't think that means you are innocent -we have got your number, sunshine". Sheer bloody arrogance. If I were Natasha Gregory, I would tell them straight away to fuck off and mind their own business, and then show them the door. And if they asked for a 'donation' to cover the costs of looking after the animal and washing it while it was in their 'care', look out. There are a few things here worth remembering:

1. Despite dressing in a uniform which is as close to a police uniform as they can legally go, they are a charity and have no legal powers - or, at least, no more than you or I have.

Policeman? Or a man who likes dressing up in uniform so people will think he is? You decide.

2. They have no powers of entry onto private premises, although they would like you to think they do.

3. They have no powers to seize or impound any animal, although they would like you to think they do.

4. They cannot arrest you - or, rather, they have the same power of citizen's arrest that anyone else has.

5. They have no power to make you answer any of their questions.

6. If they prosecute anyone, it is a private prosecution, not anything to do with the CPS or Police.

Details here, if you want to know. The RSPCA have developed a reputation in the common consciousness as being quasi-legal, and they do nothing to correct that very wrong impression. The uniforms, and the ranks of Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent and Chief Superintendent, are clearly designed to foster the impression that they are like police officers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So if the RSPCA want to enter your house or land, or want to 'question you under caution', or stop your vehicle, or take your animals away, tell them to go away and read up on their legal powers. Do not let them bully you. Have a read of this article (or a digest here) and recognise how you are being conned.

And if you are thinking of dropping a couple of quid in a collecting tin this weekend or, worse, leaving these militaristic, greedy, bullying bastards anything in your will, I urge you to think again. They will never have another penny from me.


  1. Thanks for raising the issues relating to the RSPCA!

    We are just down the road from you, in Carmarthenshire, BTW.

    Anne & Ernest
    The SHG

  2. [waves]

    Hi there! Some useful information you have on the site, thank you. And good luck :)

  3. Hi there,
    I have read your article and understand the points you make, but I have to say it's hardly an objective story. You have taken an example that has clearly angered you to defame & incite hatred in a charity. I am a supporter of the RSPCA, they are the only charity that actively go out into the world investigating cruelty & prosecuting those responsible. Without them, this country would be a very sad place. The Police don't have time to help animals & have bigger priorities in their mind. I think you are being extremely narrow minded and one track minded, in a selfish and damaging way. What do you do to help animals, other than NOT donate to the RSPCA??
    The RSPCA were actually formed before the Police, so technically the Police copied THEIR uniform. The RSPCA were also instrumental in the creation of child protection law. They saved an abused child using Animal Law way back when there was none to protect children.
    More importantly, since the recession, which has been going on for several years now the RSPCA's available funds have been rapidly depleting to the extent that they have made several hundred background staff redundant. I hardly blame them for fighting for the money left to them in your friends will. As genuine as your friend may have been. How were they to know that it just wasn't an act of jealous greed to claw the money back? It wouldn't be the first example I'm sure!
    You cannot use one example to right off the entire charity, and then actively seek out other negative examples to confirm you're right. How many positive stories have you searched for on the Internet? I'm guessing zero!
    Try doing some unbiased research before posting such angry immature emotionally fuelled rubbish!

  4. Hi Esther, and thank you for taking the time to post this. To take your points one by one:

    1. It is an objective story, inasmuch as the facts are not in dispute, and it was widely reported in the media. I was commenting as a private individual on a matter that concerned me. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

    2. Agreed that the RSPCA do some good work.

    3. Who copied whose uniform is irrelevant. The RSPCA are happy to wear police-style uniforms. This helps people to believe they have more powers than they really do. If any other organisation started wearing similar uniform - say, Oxfam - you would want to ask why.

    4. The RSPCA's funds may have been depleted in the recession. In this, they are no different from any other charity, or indeed business. I have seen half my colleagues sacked and taken a big pay cut myself in order to help my employer cope with difficult conditions. I don't see why the RSPCA should be uniquely protected from this.

    5. I don't know who you are referring to as my 'friend'. I have never met anyone mentioned in this post.

    6. As a private individual, I do not have a duty to be balanced in what I write, although I try to be so. If you have positive stories about the charity, please feel free to start a blog of your own and publish them. For me, the stories I highlighted (and many like them) are the reason I no longer support the RSPCA. However, I welcome your viewpoint, and I am happy to allow your comments to stand alongside the post. Fair?

    As for my own charitable activities, I have always supported the PDSA. The animal charity that doesn't pretend it's the Police.


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