People before pets

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The Independent Online
IN A MOVE that could prompt several charities to ponder their raison d'etre, the RSPCA has withdrawn part of its policy statement of support for the rights of animals. It did so after warnings that, because it could be seen as placing greater emphasis on the fate of animals than of humans, it risked breaching its charitable status, writes Mark Rowe.

The key statement is the Declaration on Animal Rights, which had been used by the RSPCA for 20 years. Part of it read: "We do not accept that a difference in species alone (any more than a difference in race) can justify wanton exploitation or oppression in the name of science or sport, or for use as food, for commercial profit or for other human gain."

The society was told that such a statement could conflict with its charitable status, which requires it to seek the improvement of mankind through the prevention of cruelty to animals. After warnings from the Charity Commission, the declaration was taken out of the pamphlet. An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "It had been part of our policy document for several years, but now it has gone it has not changed our modus operandi."