Charity Commission clears RSPB of breaching campaigning rules

19 Jan 2015 News

The Charity Commission will not take action against the RSPB following two formal complaints last year about its activities and campaigns.


The Charity Commission will not take action against the RSPB following two formal complaints last year about its activities and campaigns.

And a survey of RSPB's members has revealed that at least 80 per cent of those polled want it to campaign. 

Formal complaints from the Countryside Alliance and You Forgot the Birds on separate issues were received by the Commission last year.

The Countryside Alliance's complaint focused on the RSPB’s Birdcrime Report 2013, accusing it of making “sweeping allegations against the shooting community... allegations that are not consistent with the evidence provided”.

In November You Forgot the Birds criticised the RSPB for campaigning and lobbying “for measures to tackle global warming”, including supporting wind turbines that “kill thousands of birds every year”.

It also acused the charity of “hiding” an annual fox and deer-culling programme on its 206 reserves and using £5m to fund a pension “black hole”. 

The regulator has now informed the RSPB that neither complaint has been upheld. In a statement released on Saturday, the RSPB said: “We welcome the fact that these attacks have been systematically rejected.

“The Charity Commission invested time in examining our processes and activities in the light of the complaints… The Commission is clear that the RSPB has not breached charitable regulations or guidelines, or our own charitable objectives, on any of the issues raised.”

In a letter from the Charity Commission to the Countryside Alliance on 7 January the regulator said: “We have looked at the allegation that the RSPB has misused data and made unfounded allegations, acting in breach of our guidance for charities set out in CC9 - Speaking out: Guidance on campaigning and political activity by charities.

“Having examined the issues raised and met with the trustees, we have concluded that we have not found the RSPB has breached our guidelines on campaigning and political activity by charities. The Charity Commission therefore does not uphold your complaint.”

The regulator closed the case in relation to the You Forgot the Birds complaint in November. The Commission met with trustees and officers in December to discuss the charity's campaigning activity and informed the charity in January that it had not upheld the Countryside Alliance's complaint.

Mandate from members to campaign

Last year the charity carried asked its members what they thought about the charity's campaigning activity. Figures shared with Civil Society News reveal that 91 per cent of its members supported the RSPB’s campaigning activities to raise awareness of conservation.

Of the 14,943 members who were consulted, 87 per cent supported work to influence local government to support conservation and nature in line with the charity’s objects and purposes.

Some 83 per cent of respondents said they supported work to lobby the UK government to support conservation and nature in line with our charitable objects and purposes, while 82 per cent supported work with European legislation.

The survey was conducted between May and June 2014.

Martin Harper, director of conservation for the RSPB, said: “For 125 years, the RSPB has been campaigning to change law, policy, attitudes and behaviour to benefit wildlife – this is central to our charitable purpose. 

"Our 1.1 million members provide a powerful voice for nature to protect our finest wildlife sites or stop illegal killing of birds of prey. They also help directly through our ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign which encourages people to do more for wildlife in their gardens. The sum of their actions (big or small) gives us confidence that together we can save nature.”

The Countryside Alliance did not respond to Civil Society News’s request for comment.

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