The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) is not doing too well at the moment, according to a number of press reports in papers such as The Daily Telegraph and The Times. The once well-respected animal-welfare organisation has been criticised in a number of areas including (for the second time) its drift from being an animal-welfare organisation to that of a group promoting the political ideology of animal-rights.
In a recent BBC Radio investigative programme 'Face The Facts':The RSPCA - A law unto itself?' the RSPCA was exposed as an alleged overzealous and bullying organisation with vaulted opinions of importance and power that go way beyond the charities actual remit; despite its quasi-military structure the RSPCA has no special powers over inspection or law enforcement than any other members of the public.
Sadly, a recent incident brought this position nearer home when I was discussing this matter with some colleagues who work with animals in the entertainment and circus world.
For a while now there have been a number of web pages, blogs and Facebook pages dedicated to putting forward the truth regarding the welfare conditions which animals at well run circuses in the UK live in (1). This is in an attempt to try to counter misleading stories of bad husbandry and cruel practise in this industry; something that has been commonplace in the popular media, fed by various animal-rights groups including the RSPCA, for many years.
My position on such matters as circus animals is clearly spelt out in a blog I published sometime ago. This is based on research I have seen over the years and, ironically, is the current UK government's position regarding animals in UK circuses, which states:
“A ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses because of welfare concerns is not supported by the scientific evidence” DEFRA 2007.
One particular blog I read is 'Astley's Legacy - Animal Circus Facts and Fiction' which also has a Facebook page. The blogs are interesting and well informed and involve a number of areas of concern that included comments and criticism of various animal-rights groups regarding their position against circuses. A number of blogs have appeared about the RSPCA and its hostility to animals in circuses.
A recent blog called: ' RSPCA Finds Nothing Wrong with Animal Circuses - But They Still Oppose Them' clearly caught someone's eye at RSPCA HQ. The blog had been linked from a Facebook page and the RSPCA reported this to Facebook who removed the link stating that:
"the content infringes or otherwise violates their [RSPCA] rights"
Anyone viewing the blog can see immediately that this is an opinion based article and the only 'rights' issue here could be the use of the RSPCA logo, a display of an inspection report and links to its web pages. Nevertheless, all these are rather grey areas as they are all in the public domain and have been used by the national media who, clearly, the RSPCA would be foolish to challenge in such matters.
One can only conclude that yet again the RSPCA feels it can intimidate and bully anyone who criticises their organisation, particularly if they can use third parties such as Facebook to do their dirty work. Moreover, this allows them to not even have the backbone to spell out what misdemeanour has taken place that they feel so aggrieved about and that has violated their 'rights'.
But then again in its arrogance, the RSPCA is always right, isn't it?
(1) I should be noted that since 2012 all UK circuses that display wild animals are governed by new animal welfare regulations and can only display such animals after being licensed via a DEFRA inspection process.