THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales has welcomed Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) chief executive Jeremy Cooper’s apology for the charity’s adversarial and highly politicised campaigns – but says many questions remain regarding the organisation’s conduct and that of the Charity Commission, which is responsible for monitoring charities.
Mr Cooper told The Telegraph: “Of course we have made mistakes in the past, and we are very sorry about that. We have to be honest and admit the mistakes and acknowledge them.”
The apology comes after years of criticism and negative publicity led to a parliamentary inquiry and an independent report recommending sweeping changes to the charity’s involvement with prosecutions.
Responding to the apology, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “For more than a decade the FUW repeatedly raised concerns about the conduct of the RSPCA in relation to its overtly political campaigns, and pursued a number of complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and the Charity Commission, amongst others.”
Mr Thomas said that while the ASA had upheld complaints against the RSPCA by the FUW, the Charity Commission had, over a prolonged period, appeared to take a passive approach to the charity: “In response to serious complaints against the RSPCA the Charity Commission was generally dismissive and at times appeared to try and brush concerns under the carpet.
“Their passive approach to the RSPCA effectively gave the charity a green light to become more militant and more political, and we would argue that Mr Cooper’s public apology is at least in part a direct consequence of this failure by the Charity Commission,” added Mr Thomas.
In 2012, the then Chief Executive of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, described the charity as ‘the oldest law enforcement agency still in existence in this country’, and threatened to campaign to ‘stop consumers drinking milk’, if supermarkets were unable to differentiate between ‘badger friendly milk’ and milk from English badger cull areas.
Similar, more ominous threats were made during a 2012 BBC Panorama documentary on the English badger cull, during which Mr Grant said that: “The spotlight of attention will be turned on those marksmen [employed to cull badgers] and on those who give permission for this cull to take place. They will be named and we will decide as citizens of this country whether they will be shamed.”
In 2012, the FUW wrote to the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers expressing major concerns that ten police forces in the UK, including the North Wales and South Wales Forces, had agreements with the RSPCA which allowed the charity to access confidential and sensitive information about individuals contained in police records.
Concerns have also been expressed after the RSPCA tried to claim thousands of pounds for stabling and caring for horses which had been put down by the charity.
“A sinister shadow has been cast over the honourable roots of the RSPCA and the important work done by its employees.
“The only way in which to redeem its reputation is through full transparency, and a full investigation of the role played by the Charity Commission in allowing the organisation to fall into such disrepute,” said Mr Thomas.
A statement from the RSPCA struck a slightly more bullish tone than Mr Cooper’s interview: ‘We can assure you the RSPCA remains 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. 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, RSPCA 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 Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute if appropriate. However, we reserve the right to proceed with such investigations, if the authorities fail to act.
‘We are pleased that the number of prosecutions have dropped over recent years, highlighting that welfare is improving and educational messages are more available. We hope this is a trend that will continue.
‘We do however 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’.
The Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, said: “The Countryside Alliance welcomes the RSPCA’s commitment to focus on animal welfare, rather than pursuing an animal rights agenda.
“The Society’s decision not to pursue prosecutions against farmers and hunts is a sensible one, and provides further support for the argument that it should not prosecute criminal cases as a first resort at all.
“We believe that it would be better for the RSPCA and for animals if it concentrated on protecting welfare and investigating allegations of cruelty whilst allowing the police, CPS and other statutory bodies to make decisions about whether criminal charges should be brought.”
Man sentenced following Tregaron assault
FOLLOWING a report of an assault in Tregaron on Tuesday, April 3, Dyfed-Powys Police has arrested and charged Saul Rownan Henvey, aged 42, of Chapel Street, Tregaron, with common assault.
He was arrested following the incident, for which the victim required hospital treatment.
Henvey appeared before Llanelli Magistrates’ Courts on Friday, April 6.
He received a three month sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was also given a 12 month supervisory order and ordered to undergo 30 days of rehabilitation requirements.
Motorbike safety campaign launched across Wales
A CAMPAIGN aimed at reducing the risk of motorcycle-related deaths and serious injuries on the roads is underway across Wales.
As the weather improves police see more bikers on the roads, taking advantage of the beautiful routes across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.
Dyfed-Powys Police is urging motorcyclists to ride safely and warns that until October there will be an increased focus as part of the campaign, named Op Darwen.
Superintendent Huw Meredith, Head of Specialist Operations, said: “Motorcyclists have long been identified as particularly vulnerable road users and reducing the number of road deaths and casualties on the roads of Dyfed-Powys is a priority for our Roads Policing Units.
“We have always welcomed motorcyclists from outside our borders to enjoy the magnificent landscape, but they must be aware that Dyfed-Powys Police is doing all it can to ensure our roads are used safely by all, with our Roads Policing Units taking robust action to prevent fatal or serious road traffic collisions on our roads.
“Everyone must take responsibility for their own and others safety on our roads and be aware of their riding and driving manner. Action will be taken against anyone choosing to ride or drive anti-socially, recklessly or illegally on our roads.
“Our officers see far too many tragedies, many preventable. Roads Policing officers will be out in numbers throughout Dyfed-Powys using a combination of education, engagement and enforcement to prevent further tragedies.”
Officers will also be encouraging riders to improve their biking skills by taking part in BikeSafe workshops, which
offer an insight into what can be achieved with further advanced training. The workshops, run by police forces around the UK, use a mix of discussions, on-road observed rides and information videos. They are designed to enhance the skills of all riders who have already passed their tests and are suitable for all abilities, from the most seasoned rider to those returning to biking after a period of absence.
Economy and Transport Secretary Ken Skates praised the campaign: “Our roads continue to be amongst the safest in the world.
“However, the number of motorcyclists being killed or seriously injured is still too high.
“Campaigns like this are a key part of a wider range of measures aimed at making our roads safer and preventing future motorcycling casualties. This holistic approach includes ensuring motorcyclists are prioritised in our road safety funding, supporting Go Safe’s operation of speed cameras and funding local authorities to deliver Bikesafe and other motorcyclist training.”
‘Race hate’ case will be heard at Crown Court
A BRYNAMMAN man who allegedly called for all Muslims to be ‘forcibly sterilised and banned from preaching their ‘evil creed’ in a social media post will have his case heard at Crown Court.
It s alleged that 34-year-old Jonathan Jennings posted nine offensive or threatening comments between March and April last year.
These are said to include threatening to ‘Jo Cox’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, hailing a man jailed for kicking a pregnant Muslim woman in the stomach as ‘a National Hero’ and suggesting that bombing mosques and ‘putting Muslim on top of bonfires’ were ‘great ideas’.
It is alleged that he said Hitler was born 100 years too soon, and called for Gina Miller to be ‘hunted down and executed’ over her stance on Brexit.
Appearing at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court wearing a blue military greatcoat, purple shirt, and yellow striped tie, Jennings, of Heol y Gelynen, spoke only to give the court his name, age and address.
Jennings’ solicitor said that he would not be entering a plea at this stage.
The District Judge declined jurisdiction, and Jennings was released on bail until May 18 at Swansea Crown Court, on condition that he does not post or repost anything on social media, or create any new accounts.
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