The RSPCA: Can it destroy and protect animals at the same time?

A debate will take place in the House of Commons tomorrow on the role of the RSPCA

Share

No charity has seen its public estimation plunge lower and faster than that of the RSPCA.

The country’s biggest animal welfare charity with a royal title, ‘is one of Britain’s most complained about charities,’ according to the Charity Commission. And now the RSPCA is under attack for its expenditure on prosecutions at the expense of rehoming animals and is accused of playing politics instead of focusing on animal welfare. Tomorrow the Tory MP Simon Hart is sponsoring a debate in the House of Commons on the role of the RSPCA as a prosecutor.

Is all this criticism fair? Well, you cannot have missed the woeful tales of the UK’s homeless animals. Rescue centres across the country are overwhelmed with the furry, the feathered, the tailed and the lop eared who bring so much comfort and joy into our lives but find themselves the hapless victims of rogue owners. Unwanted and homeless the clock starts ticking from the moment they arrive and every passing day the odds against our animal friends stack up.

Many rescue centres have stopped accepting more strays or unwanted animals altogether simply because they haven’t the room to house them. Most of them are young, healthy and there for reasons beyond their control like ‘change of circumstances,’ ‘unsuitable,’ or ‘split up.’ Synonyms for ‘change of mind,’ ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘doesn’t match the sofa.’ Pets are discarded as readily as we throw out pieces of junk to free up some space. None of this is the RSPCA’s doing.

But what is undeniably so heart breaking is the numbers destroyed every year. The RSPCA destroyed more than 53,000 animals last year, nearly half of all the animals it rescued, and thousands of these died simply for lack of space. And this is what outrages many people. Amidst destruction on this scale then, it could be understandable that the public find it hard to justify the eye watering £326,000 spent by the charity on prosecuting members of the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire; money that some argue would surely have been better spent on saving the lives of the homeless. I too feel just as brokenhearted at the thought that we can do no better than extinguish these happy little lives as they are each led out, tails wagging and delighted to see someone at last.

Yet despite these tragic figures I stand by every penny spent by the RSPCA on prosecutions against animal abuse and applaud the 20% leap in convictions they secured last year. Holding people responsible for atrocious acts of animal cruelty is not only just and proper in itself but an essential part of any civilised society. Whether it’s ‘sportsmen’ who get a kick out of ripping live foxes to shreds, youngsters microwaving their hamsters or the deliberate malicious suffering inflicted upon a horse, prosecutions reinforce the important message of zero tolerance towards animal cruelty.

Based upon a success rate of over 98% of prosecutions the RSPCA is evidently good at upholding the laws to prevent cruelty to animals. But why all the shock and hostility when the RSPCA is, after all, only doing what it says on the tin and fulfilling its commitment to the animals and the promise made to their supporters when they generously hand over hard earned cash. If not the RSPCA, who else do we see prepared to defend the most vulnerable who are unable to stand up for themselves? Animal abusers will get away with it, with whatever ensuing human directed crimes that may invoke, and the view that animals are mere ‘things’ to satisfy our wishes will remain entrenched in society.

It is no coincidence that the House of Commons debate tomorrow has been raised by ex-chief executive of the pro-hunting lobby group ‘Countryside Alliance’, following the recent successful prosecution of Heythrop Hunt - which predictably upset those seeking repeal of the Hunting Act and the return of blood sports. However, it was the prevarication of the huntsmen themselves, who eventually pleaded guilty to numerous charges, that caused the costs to escalate. It was the commitment of the RSPCA against people like these who take the law into their own hands and persist with gory antiquated traditions that are incongruent with contemporary society and public opinion that won in the end.

And so prosecuting the law breakers is essential to teach people, young and old, that animals are sentient beings that deserve our compassion and respect and that we have a responsibility of care towards them. These responsibilities include spaying and neutering our pets, important steps toward ending animal homelessness on the scale we see today.

So while we are outraged over euthanising healthy dogs that have been abandoned, we should remember the underlying attitude of our throw away consumerist society that includes animals, those who cannot afford to keep pets during the recession, the decline in donations and legacies to animal charities like the RSPCA and check the neuter status of our own pets. We should also ask who are the ones doing anything about it.

No animal should have to live their final days on death’s row unloved and unwanted as the clock ticks down their final hours. But while we may abhor the euthanisation of perfectly healthy good natured animals we should equally support prosecutions, even the most astronomically expensive ones, which are a step towards a day that sees all pets as loved and valued family members and all animals treated with the respect and kindness they deserve. Otherwise, we have to ask what kind of savage, inhumane and uncompassionate society do we want to live in, and what is to be done with 126,176 and rising abandoned dogs each year?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Development Manager - OTE £36,000

£22000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A New Business Manager role sui...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - Inbound & Outbound Calls

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This particular opportunity is ...

Recruitment Genius: Windows Server Engineer - Compute Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Compute Engineer role also ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the endless and beginningless election campaign goes up and down

John Rentoul
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

What the advertising world can learn from Zoella's gang

Danny Rogers
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor