Trouble in the House – What’s happening at the RSPCA?

A headline in The Times on Saturday 31st May read “Militants wage campaign to take over the RSPCA”.

Seemingly upcoming elections at the RSPCA will provide an opportunity for hardliners to establish a powerbase in the RSPCA. Seemingly the current RSPCA campaign against non-stun slaughter could be linked to a need within the RSPCA to affirm a compromise, a pragmatic and moderate stance in respect of slaughter. Successful infiltration of the RSPCA will be bad news for animal welfare. The day that the RSPCA becomes an overtly political campaigning organisation will be the day it actually takes its eye off the ball.

The hardliners appear to want to take the RSPCA towards a doctrine of Veganism. Not only will non-slaughter animals for production of meat be outlawed but so will any slaughter. Actually they have a point. We probably do eat more meat than is good for us – and possibly the environment. Our demand for meat has industrialised livestock husbandry and meat production. There is plenty of room for discussion here.

Meat consumption in developing and newly affluent countries is increasing and health may be deteriorating. The increasing need for meat in countries that may not be able easily to support livestock husbandry at a level to meet in-country demand means a growing demand for global supply chains and the need to transport live animals over very long distances. As supply chains grow longer and become ever more opaque man is losing touch with the whole process. Animals are now seen as commodities. The animal’s journey from farm to fork is nothing more than a production line. There is no spiritual contact with Nature.

I have no real objection to our being reminded about the reality of meat production. There is a role for the RSPCA to play in reawakening our sensitivities or consciences.

Our attention having be drawn to issues concerning non-stun slaughter we should be thinking about all slaughter BUT we are not. This being so, I can understand why hardliners are looking to establish an extremist, and presumably aggressive and confrontational, stronghold within the RSPCA.

Are they missing the bigger picture?

Readers of my blogs will appreciate that I have empathy with non-slaughter. I so seriously do and I back up my arguments with science – with little need to resort to “religion”.

In the context of non-stun slaughter it is clear that secular agencies are struggling to meet with “religious” agencies in order to facilitate a reasoned debate. They are simply not engaging.
Why does this matter?

Much of Western Europe and certainly the UK require stun slaughter – subject to religious exemptions. Jews and Muslims function within these restrictions – remember most halal certified is derived from stun-slaughter.

Elsewhere many Muslim countries in the Far East that need to import meat accept that stunning is appropriate. That said, some countries still have reservations about stunning – or lack the national infrastructures to establish good oversight of slaughter practice. Livestock producing countries, such as Australia, are under pressure to export live animals by sea over long distances.

I have not seen the evidence but was recently made aware that the UK exports live animals to Libya for non-stun slaughter. Seemingly although this is nominally a Muslim country pictorial evidence from there suggests that their slaughter practices are not halal. Animals do suffer.

This should be the real worry. A new look RSPCA seemingly risks becoming so dogmatic that it will see let alone recognise the whole picture. It risks pursuing an agenda that exports poor animal welfare. Is it not better, despite one’s high ideals, to have a pragmatic outlook? Is it not better to create an environment for mutual discussion with all parties at the table?

I will close with a general observation and one personal view.

The observation is that The Times editors illustrated their report with a picture of two very young innocent lambs discovering the joys of spring in a beautiful flower filled meadow. If we stop eating meat we will have no need to farm lambs. There will be no need for grass filled meadows. The countryside, especially the bits of it that are not suited to arable farming, will change beyond all recognition. What will become of our hillsides? Will “Hillsides”, the campaign group actually destroy the hillsides we love?

For the record, I recently turned fund raisers away from my front door. I wanted to say why but they were doing their job. My grief was not with them. Today my opinion of the RSPCA is even lower. Sorry.


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