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What has prosecuting farmers got to do with animal welfare?

12 May 2014

6:45 PM

12 May 2014

6:45 PM

If you were concerned about animal welfare, would you choose to spend money on prosecuting farmers whose welfare is below par? Or would you spend that money on improving animal welfare through regular unannounced farm inspections, and the labeling of meat that has met strict welfare standards? There seems to be a split in the RSPCA, and it’s this farming issue that’s causing all the trouble.

At their latest annual meeting the charity’s members voted to support a motion which would see them increase their prosecutions of farmers and slaughterhouse workers, and abandon their current Freedom Food accreditation scheme, according to minutes leaked to The Times. And it wasn’t just a small split either, but a well supported revolt, with 59 members voting in favour of the motion, and just 4 opposing.

The charity’s ‘new radical impetus’ reads the motion, ‘must not be allowed to falter in the face of forces inimical to change within and outside the society’. The proposers of the motion particularly pointed to the Freedom Food scheme, saying that ‘the RSPCA has no business sanitising death of this industrial scale’, with another describing Freedom Foods as ‘a company that assures lives that ended in slaughter’.


But the top dogs at the RSPCA don’t sound like they think their members have made the right decision. In a statement they described Freedom Foods as ‘a great British success story’, stating that their aim is ‘that all farm animals will be reared to higher welfare standards’.

Has the departure of their previous CEO, Gavin Grant, led to a division of loyalties at the charity? When he stepped down in February, there were hopes that the RSPCA might change its ways, as I wrote about back then. While he was in the job there was talk of staff disillusionment, and Melissa Kite wrote in The Spectator about a ‘culture of fear at their headquarters’. Perhaps, after he had left, they might become less militant, and revert to doing the job they were created to do, namely to campaign for better animal welfare and prevent animal cruelty. But those hopes have been severely dashed now.

Of course I can only speak for myself, but I find it highly unlikely that the majority of people who donate to the RSPCA would be in favour of the decision that its members have voted for. If you don’t believe that animal should be killed for food, then fair enough. Don’t eat meat. But this doesn’t seem to be about animal welfare, but more about an attack on the whole livestock and meat industry – a kind of hardline veganism, of the type one normally hears from Peta.

The Times described the proposers as coming from the ‘militant wing’ of the charity, and as wanting to launch a ‘hardline attack on farmers’. You don’t go into farming because you dislike animals. In the majority of cases, I would say that the exact opposite is true. Freedom Food isn’t necessarily a perfect scheme . But it would appear that the alternative is somewhat worse.

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Show comments
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  • Betty Cottrell

    Countryside Alliance types and Tories never cease to amaze me. You speak as if the
    decent treatment of animals is too strenuous a task to contemplate. You
    speak as if people who are opposed to the death or exploitation of
    animals are hardline Jacobin lunatics. Doubtless some of the RSPCA’s
    tactics have been reprehensible but it is essentially through your
    laziness and unwillingness to examine your own actions that you
    criticise their aims. Animals are not our property. They are not
    objects. They are living beings that experience emotion, pain, hunger
    etc. It is as much their Earth as it is ours. If you want to continue to
    enjoy eating them and watching them race about while being whipped by a
    midget then at least be honest about it, don’t try and justify it on
    any moral level because there is none. Their loss is simply for your

  • transponder

    If anyone really cared about Britain’s cows — and their calves — they’d take those g-d-amned yellow tags off their ears! It’s an outrage. I wear earrings, and I can tell you that wearing them all the time, without ever being able to take them off, would make my lobes sore and leave me very uncomfortable.

    And it is similar to the poor jingling birds — you will not see a single Florida scrub jay without their scientist-imposed ‘bling’ — and the manatees that are manhandled on Florida beaches (on average, every two years of their life) to have tracking devices clamped round their peduncles (the narrow part of their tails). Being surrounded by humans, hauled out of their element and hung upside down to be weighed and whatnot, must be extremely distressing if not traumatic for these animals. But scientists have their own agendas, are endlessly self-excusing, and do not care.

    These are the same scientists that helped to make it illegal to cavort with manatees as a member of the public in a harmless manner. A woman not long in St. Petersburg, who found herself swimming with manatees and was able to touch them, was greatly distressed to find that some busybody with a phone camera had reported her to the police, who charged her.

    I resent the fact that scientists seem to think that they own the rights to the world’s fauna and flora, despite their lese majeste with respect to these creatures, and I have to ask who the h-ll they think they are. (You detect anger? You’re right.) I also resent the fact that there are no picturesque cows in Britain any more, on account of the EU, no doubt. Question: What has the EU done for us ever? Aside from interfering with our freedoms and the freedom of British animals to live unmolested?

  • perdix

    A bunch of fascists who unfortunately have been given the powers to prosecute.

  • Kennybhoy

    “… ‘must not be allowed to falter in the face of forces inimical to change within and outside the society’ ”

    Says it all really. This could serve as the motto for all of the Long Marchers…

  • kyalami

    I remember when it was a kindly organisation, but I am elderly.

  • David

    So your argument is, if you think eating meat is immoral, then don’t eat it; but don’t force your beliefs on other people. But the point is that if someone believes that the imprisonment, torture and slaughter of animals is wrong, they’re inherently going to want to stop it happening in general, not just for their own benefit.

    Your argument is essentially that the moral judgement of actions should be completely down to the individual and we don’t have a duty as a society to prevent any type of behaviour. If you don’t like slavery, fine, don’t keep slaves; but don’t try to stop other people from doing it. If you think rape is wrong, fine, don’t rape anyone; but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun by stopping them raping people.

    • sadmaninagame

      I don’t think the article is about rape or slavery. It’s about animal husbandry. For this reason your comment is really quite silly.

      • David

        It’s called analogy, and is a pretty common way of making an argument. The principles are the same: if someone regards something as immoral (slavery, rape or cruelty to animals), then they are likely to believe not only that they themselves should not participate in such activity, but that others should be prevented from participating in it too.

        People are welcome, if they want, to argue that farming isn’t cruel, or that the human desire to eat animal flesh for their own pleasure is more important than animals’ right not to suffer. But I’m just saying that the author’s central point – that animal rights believers should care only about their own actions and not those of others – doesn’t make sense, and I used analogies to show how ridiciculous it is.

        • sadmaninagame

          I wouldn’t mind but there’s not even any consistency here. Where’s the mass movement to free mitochondria? The poor bastards have been trapped inside Eukaryotic cells for a billion years or more. Horrific abuse. Slavery. Terrible.

        • Camilla Swift

          That’s not my central point at all. My point is that if the RSPCA want to improve welfare in animal husbandry, then the best way to do it is through the Freedom Food scheme, not through prosecutions.

          • David

            Yes, and a key part of that point is your suggestion that the RSCPA’s decision to pursue prosecutions ‘doesn’t seem to be about animal welfare’, but is instead a way of simply ‘attacking’ the meat industry. But that makes no sense. Why would they be doing this if not for animal welfare? Just for fun?

            The reason they’re ‘attacking’ the industry (or, using less loaded language, trying to ensure that meat producers comply with the law) is precisely because they think it will improve animal welfare. And the fact that you don’t understand this shows that, like I said in my original comment, you haven’t grasped that people who are opposed to something for ethical reasons will inherently be interested not only in the consequences of their own actions, but also in trying to improve society more widely.

          • Tom M

            Prosecutions are much more dramatic and satisfying though aren’t they? The prospect of seeing a farmer or nasty busineesman humbled is just too much to miss.
            Much much better than the humdrum bureaucracy of Freedom Food Schemes.

        • Kennybhoy

          Yes but there is such a thing as an absurd and immoral analogy.

        • tigerlily

          Your comparisons David are 100% apt.

        • sfin

          We don’t “eat meat animal flesh for our own pleasure”. We eat animal flesh because we have evolved that way – hence the canine teeth and shorter guts.

          Certain other species have evolved to take advantage of our dominance by becoming herd species – it also happens in insects. In return for species protection, individual sacrifices are made.

          • David

            There are lots of things that evolution had equipped us to do (e.g. for men to inseminate as many females as possible) but that, because we’re no longer animals and have a sense of morality, we’ve decided are not entirely good things. So, yes, our bodies may have evolved to be able to digest meat because millenia ago this was useful (although for most of human history meat has made up a tiny fraction of our diets), but that doesn’t mean that it’s a necessity today. There are no nutrients in meat that can’t be obtained from non-meat sources (which are also usually healthier, cheaper and less damaging to the environment). So, given that meat is completely unnecessary for us to continue to exist, the only reason we still eat it is for our own pleasure.

      • Kennybhoy

        No’ just silly, actually offensive.

  • Liz

    I was in discussion with a chicken slaughterer some time ago. He said that his abattoir routinely broke the law, every single day. Chickens on the conveyor belt not being dipped in the electric bath properly so not stunned or electrocuted adequately before being semi decapitated, and plucked whilst still alive, etc. Nobody who worked there reported it because they believed it was part and parcel of the industry. His opinion was that the law was inadequately enforced. Until the government gets its animal welfare officers in place which was supposed to happen last year, and CCTV is rolled out as campaigners are lobbying for, more power to the RSPCA I say.

    • Camilla Swift

      All slaughterhouses within the Freedom Food scheme have to have CCTV in them – so I would say that despite not being perfect, the scheme is certainly one of the good things that the RSPCA would do. Getting rid of the scheme (and the CCTV assurances) isn’t going to help the situation mentioned above.

  • Liz

    Pursuing prosecutions against companies and individuals who break the EU and domestic laws on the welfare of animals during slaughter amounts to hard line veganism? How?

    Shouldn’t there be accountability? Fines levied? Monies collected?

    How do you suppose they can spend their money on improving welfare when corruption and abuse is rife within it?

    The issue Spectator readers should be getting hot under the collar about is that non-Muslims would be prosecuted for activity that Muslims can’t be.

    • Kennybhoy

      Fair comment.

  • cartimandua

    Perhaps they should insist we do not import food from the EU where welfare standards are much lower.

    • tigerlily

      They should and so should the rest of us – we should import no animal products at all – we cannot control or even know how they are produced.

  • Miss Fannysmelly

    Best just to stand back and watch them disappear up their collective fundament.

  • Doggie Roussel

    The RSPCA has become a politicised fraud with hugely overpaid executives conning senile grannies who, neglected by their offspring, leave their worldly goods to these charlatans and charity adventurers whose aims are totally self-serving and have very little connection with animal welfare.

    They are the most disgusting thieves and should be immediately stripped of their royal charter.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    ………an idea. If animal welfare is their real concern, get themselves over to southern Italy Greece or Bulgaria where they can do some real work rather than being grandstanding charlatans.

    • fundamentallyflawed

      Far to dangerous… a few days of picketing or blockading would see them introduced to the blunt end of local policing…

    • Liz

      Why don’t they concentrate on abuses in their own country? Why are people only ever bothered by things far away?

      • Hexhamgeezer

        Congrats once again. The essence of willful ignorance. Not a word wasted.

  • Redrose82

    Stopped donating to RSPCA along with a few other charities that have been taken over by left wing liberals and who pay executives obscene salaries.

    • sfin

      A very good point re executive salaries and I stopped donating for precisely the same reason.

      There used to be a time when charities were headed up by people who either had inherited wealth, or who had made it in life – much like politics. They, of course, did the work for nothing.

  • sfin

    It is well past time that Her Majesty removes the ‘Royal’ prefix from this bunch of ,utterly ignorant, fools – until such time as it dispenses with its student union, left wing, progressive, Disneyland view of how life on our planet actually functions. (with apologies to informed students.)