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.”
Ceredigion Conservative Association Elects a New Chairman
On the 18th September, the Ceredigion Conservative Association held its Annual General Meeting, attended remotely by Conservative Members from across the County. The Association was formally re-established and Patrick Loxdale was elected as the new Chairman.
Commenting on his new position, Patrick says:
“ I am very honoured to be given the opportunity to serve in this position. I believe passionately in democracy and the democratic process. The Welsh Conservatives came second in Ceredigion in last year’s General Election, increasing the Conservative vote share by more than the national average. It shows that Conservative values are widely held by people of all ages in Ceredigion, and it is important that we have a functioning local association, and strong candidates to allow their opinions to be heard.”
Patrick, whose family have lived in Llanilar for five generations, previously served as a Medical Officer in The Royal Navy for almost twenty years, qualifying as a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. From 2001 to 2016 he worked as an NHS Consultant in Devon. Moving back to Llanilar when his brother passed away, Patrick now farms from his family home and enjoys acquiring new knowledge in organic farming and rural management. Patrick adds:
“Ceredigion is a fantastic place to live, with a world beating environment. There are great opportunities for our future and our children’s security, prosperity and fulfilment here. Yet the Labour run Welsh Government continues to fail to grasp this and rarely provides any real focus outside of the M4 corridor! In next year’s Senedd election, the people of Ceredigion deserve a credible alternative choice; a choice that rejects both the on-going failures of Welsh Labour and the separatist ideology of Plaid Cymru. It is time for the people of Ceredigion to vote for the Welsh Conservatives.
Walk-in testing now available for Aberystwyth town
From today [Wednesday 30 September 2020], people in Aberystwyth with symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing (through a booked appointment) via a temporary walk-in facility in the town.
Hywel Dda University Health Board has arranged this extra testing service in addition to the drive through facility already in place at Canolfan Rheidol, because many residents in the town, including students, do not have their own private vehicle in order to access the drive-through testing facility.
The facility is located in the former university nursery building (behind, but not connected to, Padarn Surgery), Penglais Road, Aberystwyth and can be accessed via the walkway which will be clearly signposted to ensure people get to the right place.
Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies & Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “We have put this extra facility in place to make sure those in the local community without their own transport are not missing out on getting a test when they need it.
“We appreciate the efforts people are making to help protect each other during this challenging time. I urge everyone to remain vigilant and follow the rules, including wearing face coverings where required, keep social distancing, washing hands regularly, or using a hand sanitiser if hand washing is not possible, to help us live and work alongside the virus whilst containing its spread.”
Eifion Evans, Ceredigion County Council Chief Executive said, “We thank Hywel Dda University Health Board for providing extra testing service in Ceredigion. Residents and students alike are urged to utilise this service for the health of everyone living in our county and we are able to protect the vulnerable. This is a critical time for us to follow the rules and keep Ceredigion safe.”
Anyone who has symptoms of the virus (a new persistent cough, high temperature or loss/change of taste or smell) must book a test as soon as possible through the online UK portal at www.gov.wales/coronavirus.
Please make sure when booking your test that you select the option you need (for example, only book the walk-in centre if you are not able to travel in your own vehicle to the drive through facility). If you attend the walk-in centre you must wear a face covering.
University students with COVID-19 symptoms, when booking a test, are required to provide the temporary local address they are living at while they are students at Aberystwyth university and not their usual home address.
Please do not book a test if you do not have COVID-19 symptoms and do not turn up without booking first as it will not be possible to accommodate you without an appointment.
Please follow the latest self-isolation guidelines which can be found here.
Thank you for helping to #KeepCeredigionSafe.
For the latest news and updated from Hywel Dda University Health Board visit www.hduhb.wales.nhs.uk
Adjustment to Safe Zones
In August, temporary traffic orders were introduced so that Safe Zones for four Ceredigion towns could remain for up to 18 months subject to regular reviews so minor adjustments can be made.
In line with the evidence collected on the use of the towns, Ceredigion County Council feel the need to keep the safe zones in place for the time being. Aberaeron and New Quay will continue as they are.
In Cardigan the closures will change to 11am until 4:30pm Monday to Saturday. The safe zones will not be in place on a Sunday in Cardigan. These adjustments will come in to force on Sunday morning, 04 October.
In Aberystwyth, additional parking has been implemented for the disabled and blue badge holders in Chalybeate Street close to the Care Society Mobility Centre.
Further enhancements to provide better access for the disabled and blue badge holders will also continue to be explored.
Safe zones were introduced in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay on 13 July to create safe and spacious areas for the public to visit and provide the confidence that social distancing can be maintained in these areas.
Safe zones will be in place until at least 01 November 2020 and reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence.
More information can be seen on the safe zones web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones
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