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Attorney General refuses to investigate RSPCA

Attorney General refuses to investigate RSPCA
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Attorney General refuses to investigate RSPCA 9

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 29 Jan 2013

The Attorney General has rejected calls from Conservative MPs to investigate the RSPCA's prosecutions.

And the Charity Commission and the RSPCA have both denied leaking a letter to the Telegraph newspaper about the charity's prosecutions.

The denials came just hours before a Westminster Hall debate on the RSPCA today which saw the charity accused of using prosecutions to drive a political ideology and in turn defended as an upholder of the law.

Conservative MP Simon Hart, who led the debate, accused the RSPCA of being a prosecutor which did “politics in a big way”.

He also said there was a “gulf between the very good activity of inspectors on the ground whose principal concern is animal welfare and the leadership whose principal concern seems to be animal rights”.

In the debate, Hart referred to a leaked letter reported in the Telegraph today from Charity Commission chief executive Sam Younger to Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA.  Hart said the Charity Commission "rebuked" the RSPCA in the letter.

According to The Telegraph, Younger's letter said the RSPCA should review its prosecution policies “given the amount of adverse publicity and the allegations of political bias that the charity had attracted as a result of the case”.

The Charity Commission refused to comment on the letter and its contents and told civilsociety.co.uk this morning that it did not send it to the Telegraph. An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “You can be pretty safely assured that the RSPCA did not send the Telegraph the letter.”

Parliamentary debate

The parliamentary debate today centred on the RSPCA’s prosecutions. It follows a political row between a group of cross-party MPs who have called on the Charity Commission to investigate the RSPCA’s prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt, the first successful prosecution of a hunt brought in the UK. The Charity Commission has said there is no regulatory concern and it will not investigate the charity.

During the debate a number of Conservative MPs said the RSPCA had turned from a body concerned with animal welfare to a body following a political ideology of animal rights. MPs also warned that there was a public perception that its prosecution of hunts were political.

Tory MP Glyn Davies warned that the RSPCA would lose support for becoming too concerned with animal rights and not animal welfare.

Opposition MPs defend RSPCA

However a number of Labour MPs, and Green MP Caroline Lucas, defended the RSPCA.

Labour MP Emily Thornberry accused Conservative MPs of being disappointed that the government would not change laws on hunting, so they’d turned on the RSPCA instead.

Lucas also called the debate a “smokescreen” asserting that the RSPCA was within its rights to uphold the law.

Another Labour MP also said it was a smokescreen for the RSPCA having the temerity to prosecute a hunt in David Cameron’s constituency.

Earlier this month, Hart said there was a "political edge" to RSPCA’s prosecution of the hunt, saying it was odd that they targeted Cameron’s constituency.

Ending the debate, the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC rejected calls to investigate the RSPCA’s prosecutions, saying to do so would be "too difficult".

Poppy Field
30 Jan 2013

Can someone explain what the difference is between "animal rights" and "animal welfare"? I would have thought they were one and the same thing. Maybe just another case of politicians using emotive language to try and hoodwink the public?

John Smithy
30 Jul 2013
Response to [Poppy Field]

“ANIMAL RIGHTS” is a philosophical view that puts animals on the same moral plane as humans and rejects the use of animals for any reason whatsoever. Amongst the long-term goals of the Animal Rights movement are the total ban of all forms of commercial animal agriculture, medical or veterinary research, zoos (regardless of how well managed), the end of hunting, shooting, horse riding and racing, rodeos, show jumping, zoos, circuses, guide dogs for the blind, the keeping of pets, the production of silk, wool and honey and the abolition of fishing.

"ANIMAL WELFARE" concerns itself with preventing mistreatment and cruelty to animals. We don’t necessarily oppose the various forms of animal use (such as animal agriculture, medical research, sport and trophy hunting, animals in entertainment, etc.) as long as it isn’t cruel. Animal Welfare supporters might feel that eating meat is okay, as long as the animals were well treated during their lifetimes and that their deaths were as quick and painless as possible.

Animal Welfarists 'use animals' but try to do so in the most humane method possible. They try to modify animal-using practices to get the best possible conditions for, and treatment of, animals.

The ANIMAL RIGHTISTS don’t think people should be ‘using animals’ at all, no matter if it’s cruel or not.

Animal WELFARE is seen by some as the opposite of animal RIGHTS in that WELFARISTS seek to moderate animal using practices that Animal RIGHTS groups want to completely abolish.

Jen
30 Jan 2013

Simon Hart has gone into paliament for his own reasons so it is no surprise that he is wasting parliamentary time on his own political agenda and his fox hunting friends who stood up for him, surely have better time to spend on their constituents rather than defending their own bloodthirsty sport. I hope the electorate know their names and boot them out at the next election.

Karen Evans
30 Jan 2013

Simon Hart is my local MP, & is the ex CEO of the Countryside Alliance whose main purpose is to make hunting legal again. The RSPCA work hard to bring criminals to justice, including hunts acting illegaly. I just hope Mr Hart never knocks on my door wanting me to vote for him

Dafydd
30 Jan 2013

Clearly it is Adam Hart who is politically motivated. Personally I've never understood how the Countryside Alliance Foundation has been allowed to continue as a charity, given its misrepresentation of wildlife conservation, which it seems to equate with conserving game birds for shooting. They are just a political lobby group, as this debate highlights, and as a charity have access to schoolchildren to pass on their philosophy. Where is the public benefit in that?

Jane
29 Jan 2013

No one is complaining about the RSPCA bringing a prosecution. The complaint is the excessive amount of public funds they spent on the prosecution - I understand it was about ten time the amount spent on the defense. AND the RSPCA did not use their own in-house lawyers (why bother to have such posts if they are not used?!), preferring instead to use a hotshot dfirm of City lawyers who were not even specialists in the area of animal welfare!!!!

Peter Moss
29 Jan 2013

Whilst it is probably hard for you to accept Mr Hart, the law of the land does apply to everyone. Meanwhile, I have little doubt that your constituents know who is doing "politics" in a big way.

Richard Lionheart
5 Aug 2013
Response to [Peter Moss]

Just because its law doesnt make it right. Slavery was legal once, you going to defend that ?

Andrew Pring
29 Jan 2013

It is strange that MPs who are responsible for passing legislation then criticise those who work to enforce it.
I see no place for those who seek to undermine the authority of the law in this way in our parliament.

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