THE RSPCA’s new chief has pledged that in future the charity will concentrate on the welfare and rehoming of animals and be less adversarial and political.
In an outspoken interview chief executive Jeremy Cooper apologised for past mistakes and said the charity’s past regime had dragged too many people through the courts.
Mr Cooper has taken over from Gavin Grant who left in 2014, citing medical grounds, after an unsettled few years in office.
The RSPCA’s campaign against the badger cull had led to farmers feeling alienated, Mr Cooper said. The RSPCA wanted to be honest, to admit its mistakes and prevent them taking place again, he added.
The charity has been criticised strongly in recent times, prompting a Parliamentary enquiry and a report which recommended swingeing changes in the way it is run. It is being decided currently whether it should be responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases.
The RSPCA has been accused of putting too much store by and spending too much money on political campaigning and prosecutions far removed from the type of work it was set up to do. It has been labelled heavy-handed in the way it has treated some animal welfare cases and at times criticised by disaffected staff.
As a result donations have fallen.
“We’re going to be a lot less political,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t stand up for animals, but we’re not a political organisation.
“My style of advocacy is encouragement and dialogue. Previously, the leadership was too adversarial. If you want to shout and use rhetoric that’s fine but it isn’t helpful to anybody.
“It is not going to make friends and influence people. People won’t like you for it.”
The RSPCA will investigate allegations of hunting taking place illegally, he said, but would pass its findings to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for decision. However, in a later statement the charity said it would reserve the right to proceed with investigations if the authorities failed to act.
Mr Cooper praised the work of the charity’s staff and said he wanted to rebuild their morale, adding that he would like the good work the RSPCA does to be acknowledged.
Now, he said, the charity would be looking forward, and concentrating on animal welfare, the prevention of cruelty, rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming.
“That is what we’re about,” he said.
Afterwards, a spokesman said the charity remained ‘as committed as ever’ to speaking out for vulnerable animals.
“We make no apologies for our campaigning work which has resulted in the introduction and amendment of many laws to protect our pets, wildlife, farm animals and animals used in research, but we accept we got the tone wrong sometimes,” he said.
“Likewise, we make no apologies for prosecuting people in instances where there is clear evidence of animal cruelty.
“Following an independent review of our prosecution activity and in line with one of the recommendations of that review, the charity’s trustees agreed to change its policy and to pass suitable cases involving traditional hunts and suitable farm cases to the police for investigation enabling the CPS to prosecute if appropriate. However, we reserve the right to proceed with such investigations if the authorities fail to act.”
The fact that the number of prosecutions had dropped highlighted that welfare was improving and educational messages were more available, he said.
“We hope this trend will continue,” he said. “However, we do apologise for the specific incidents where we have got it wrong. As a charity we have limited resources and we are dealing with huge numbers of calls.
“We apologise for past mistakes where an investigation wasn’t carried out to the standard we would hope, both for the animal involved and their owners. The RSPCA has and always will be committed to tackling cruelty to animals.”