This is the newsletter published by and for members of the RSPCA. Because of the deep discontent that it shows within the membership we feel that it should have wider publicity than it currently receives. We have maintained the content accurately, but have lost some of the formatting. Past editions will be added as time permits. We hope that publishing this will do some good and lead to a much needed reform of the society. contains links that might be of further interest.

Watchdog Newsletter Number 76 November 1999
Tel 01293 786166

"A question of animals' rights. . .or wrongs?"

All the Five Freedoms are Unobtainable.
Dr.Martin Potter.Head of RSPCA Farm Animal Welfare


The two letters below are from the Observer 25/7/99:

What we regard as inaccuracies in your article (News, last week) mean the conclusion you draw - that hens under the RSPCA's 'Freedom Food' scheme endure worse conditions than battery hens - is entirely unfounded.

You claim that Freedom Food farms stock an average of 12 hens per square metre compared to eight battery hens in the same space. The average UK stocking density for battery hens is in fact 20 hens per square meter. Most Freedom Food free-range farms are stocked at 11.7 hens to the square metre with additional space for perching and nesting, and unlimited daytime access to the range.##Your article seems to ignore the fact that battery hens are caged, unable to spread their wings, to leave the unit, to dustbathe, scratch, perch or use nest boxes. For these very reasons battery systems are excluded from the Freedom Food scheme.

RSPCA welfare standards insist that there is adequate perching space, nest boxes and litter for dustbathing. Under the scheme free-range birds must have a minimum of 83 sq. cms. of nesting space, not 20 sq. cms. as you suggested. We feel it is grossly inaccurate to say the RSPCA tells farmers they can put up to 16.000 hens in a 16mX50, shed. Under UK law free-range hens must have unlimited daytime access to pasture. Freedom Food standards require large pop holes in sheds which are designed to enourage the birds to use them.

The freedom Food scheme using RSPCA standards has already achieved an enormous improvement in farm animal welfare and what we feel is inaccurate and sensational jounalism confuses the consumer which can then delay the development of better welfare standards to the detriment of millions of farm animals.

John Rolls
Communications director, RSPCA

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) charter requires the organisation to safequard the welfare of all animals, not just cats and dogs.

In light of Channel 4's Free as a Bird documentary and last Sunday's Observer article exposing how thousands of chickens are crammed into a shed so tightly that they can barely breathe, the RSPCA have violated our trust. It needs to withdraw the 'Freedom Foods' labelling programme, no matter how much farmers pay to participate. That money is as dirty as the mud patch those poor chickens were allowed to stand in when allowed outside.

Even the RSPCA's head of farm animal 'welfare' admits that the five freedoms on which the scheme is based, are 'unobtainable in practice'. There is no such thing as 'cruelty-free' meat. The manner in which birds and other animals are manhandled, confined, deprived of their natural instinctive and pleasurable behaviours and pastimes don't disappear when you slap on a pretty lable.

Face it, if everyone who worked on the 'killing floor' and in factory farms was kind and gentle, the process would grind to a halt. Forget for a moment how it must be for chickens as they hang upside down on the conveyor belt, scared to death, approaching the man with the knife. Think about just one of their earlierst experiences, debeaking. These baby chickens' beaks are seared off with a hot blade and without as much as a baby aspirin. The chick may not scream, he or she can only peep, but the fear and suffering is acute.

Would the RSPCA endorse docking spaniels' tails without anaesthetic? The press has givewn us all a peek behind the scenes and it's enough to turn people's stomachs or make them reach for Linda McCartney's frozen veggie meals. Peoiple for the Ethical Treatment of Animals believe that the only sure-fire way to ensure the protection of animals is to stop eating them. We stand ready to help anyone wishing to make the transition to a humane and healthy diet.

Andrew Butler
London SW 18

Watchdogs along with many RSPCA members and some Council members have always opposed Freedom Food. The idea of being involved in the promotion and marketing of animals as food products is repugnant. Dr Martin Potter RSPCA head of Farm Animal welfare has confirmed that the Five Freedoms are unobtainable. Paul Folca, a retired neuro-surgeon, spoke out against causing pain by beak trimming at the 1995 AGM. To see the instrument that inflicts this pain in action and 8,000 birds crammed into a single Freedom Food hen house was a dreadful and unforgettable sight. Council members what are you doing? Withdraw from Freedom Food NOW!

The Horsham Retirement Centre?

The RSPCA Council Officers

Chairman N Tomlinson (retired)

Vice Chairman N Phipps (retired)

Treasurer Miss Reid (retired)

Deputy Treasurer A Anyon (retired)

We do not wish to be unkind because we know the difficulties people face in adjusting to retirement but is block occupation of all the positions of RSPCA Council Officers the answer?

Where are the trail blazers, the scientists, the writers and the academics to lead the Society into the millenium?

There are certainly two members of Council who are known as writers and scientists why are they repeatedly excluded from office?

At this particular time in the history of the RSPCA, the Society desperately needs a strong Chairman of Council We deplore the re- appointment of Mr Tomlinson as Chairman. We see him as a divisive influence on the Council. (see Watchdog 75) No sooner was he elected for a second term than he issued a divisive statement to the press. He said –

"As Chairman of the AGM I was saddened by some intemperate language used by members which was inappropriate in a meeting where most members were careful to be polite and attentive".

Well, WE ARE SADDENED that Tomlinson should have publicly criticised those members who were very distressed by the heavy presence of so many blood sports enthusiasts. But just in case Tomlinson does not understand why members were upset at the AGM, let him read the list below this of the animals killed by the hunt since he became Chairman of Council. He might do us all a favour and resign.

Did you know that on 24/6/96 after the RSPCA AGM, the Executive Director of the BFSS issued a press statement and said

"The behaviour of the (RSPCA’s) Society’s membership made me wonder if I had wandered into a hunt saboteurs meeting by mistake".

Why does Tomlinson have to join the hunters in attacking RSPCA members?

The 1998-9 hunt season Summary of Incidents
June/July.. 1998 Caged foxes found on hunt land, North Yorkshire
September Repeated trespass by hunt, Hertfordshire
 Pet cat killed by hounds, Souyh Pembrokeshire
October Hounds rampage across country park, Severn Valley
Hounds killed by train, Shropshire
Hounds killed by passenger train, Pembrokeshire
Hunt master fined after crayfish killed by pollution, Gloucestershire
November Hound killed by car, York
Cat killed by hounds, Shropshire
Sheep killed by hounds, Dorset
Hounds killed by train, Cheshire
Hounds killed by truck, Derbyshire
Decomposing carcasses cause pollution, Monmouthshire
Anti-hunt farmer finds dead fox hanging, Gloucestershire
Hounds overrun animal sanctuary, Lincolnshire
December Hunt trespass farm, Dorset
Pet cat killed by hounds, Llanbister,Wales
Hounds killed in road accident, Co.Durham
Pet cat killed by hounds, North Yorkshire
Hunt horse injured in collision with car, West Sussex
Hunt hounds run wild in crematorium, Warwickshire
Hounds killed on dual carriageway, South Devon
January...1999 Trespass by hunt, West Sussex
Extensive hunt trespass,Kent
Roe deer kicked in the head by huntsman, Devon
Hounds tear through garden and flock of sheep, Shropshire
Fox mistreated by hunt terriermen, Gloucestershire
Artificial earth found on land belonging to hunt, North Yorkshire
Huntsman stamps on fox, New Forest
February Churchills graveyard trampled by hunt, Oxfordshire
Vet finds fox in severe shock, West Sussex
March Cat killed by hounds, Yorkshire
Stag cornered by hounds in school playground, North Devon
April Stag mauled by hounds, Devon

What the vets say AND what the RSPCA says:
CAN you spot the difference?

"Having read reports and seen pictures of the conditions of cats at Hillgrove Farm, I find the whole operation repugnant. The overcrowding; the barren, unstimulating environment; the almost unheard of cannibalism; some kittens being removed from their mothers at a very early age; the list goes on and on. These cats are undoubtedly living under conditions of extreme and constant stress. A private person keeping a cat under such conditions would be liable for prosecution for cruelty; indeed if I came across such a case I would feel obliged to inform the appropriate authorities - the cats' welfare being my overriding concern.
That any animal should be sunjected to these conditions us repugnant. The fact that it is the species which is probably the most popular companion animal today just adds a tragic irony to the situation."
Amir Kashiv, BA, BVSc, MRCVS

"Having read the literature regarding the breeding of cats at the above establishment I feel compelled to condemn Mr. Brown and his business. As both a cat owner and practising vet I find the conditions that these cats are kept in to be abhorrent and cruel. I look forward to the day when such preactises are viewed as an anachronism."
JD'A Foord, Bac BVSc MRCVS

"The secrecy that surrounds their activities can only be interpreted as a desire to conceal the truth. I feel that if Hillgrove cannot defend its activites openly in rational discussion then it should close. Factual information has to be available for a logical decision to be made, and for this to be withheld appears to be an admission of wrongdoing. Genuinely interested parties should be given more access to inspect the establishment, or it should close."
John Cousins, BVSc, MRCVS

"I am a veterinary surgeon opposed to the use of animals for research purposes. I understand that Hillgrove Farm is a centre where cats are bred partly or solely for use in vivisection. If this is so I unreservcedly condemn such a venture, and would add my voice to those requesting the owner of Hillgrove Farm to desist from breeding cats for this purpose."
Richard Allport, B.Vet.Med., Vet.M.F., M.R.C.V.S.

"Dear Mr. Brown,
I am writing to you in order to ask you to withdraw from commercial cat breeding as all the information I have accrued is somewhat disturbing and I feel very strongly about animal welfare. I have been led to believe that if you receive a minimum of 100 letters from veterinary surgeons you will agree to cease commercial cat breeding and I sincerely hope you stick to your word."
J.N. Hopkins, BVM&s, MRCVS

"All the cats we saw seemed fit and healthy. They were well socialised both with each other and with the staff. The animals were in fact very friendly with the staff, running around their legs for attention whenever anyone was near enough. None of us saw any evidence of cruelty or mistreatment of ther cats."
M Jennings RSPCA

(The Vets' conmments were taken from the Hillgrove Campaign Newsletter 13. Tel: 0121 632 6460 Address Box CB, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RQ


Did you know that in 1988,1991 and 1992,information about rejected motions and clear and acceptable reasons for the rejection was sent to members with the Agenda for the Annual General Meeting Now, apparently, everything said on Council is treated as an official secret. WHY? Is it because Council members are dead scared of members finding out the truth about their behaviour at Council meetings?

Below is an interesting rejected motion put forward in 1992 by Malcolm Phipps. Now he is Vice Chairman of the Council, we wonder if he will put it forward again – but with a seconder this time. Mrs. Burton perhaps?

9. Proposed by Mr M J Phipps and unseconded:

That the society’s ’ patrons "’ Her Majesty the Queen and Her Majesty Queen- Elizabeth the Queen Mother, be respectfully asked to make clear their position with regard to all field sports, but especially fox hunting and stag hunting.
This motion in no way wishes to of offer of offence or cause embarrassment to their majesties. However, it is crucially important, if the society’s opposition to the killing of animals for pleasure is not compromised that, its patrons give unqualified support. Furthermore there is a danger that the society could be accused of hypocrisy when it attempts to discourage practices enshrined in the cultures of our European neighbours (e.g. bullfighting in Spain to allow those who would perpetuate such cruelty ’in the name of entertainment an opportunity to mount a credible argument would, I suggest, be an unforgivable abdication of our responsibility to the animals."
Reason This motion is not formally seconded in accordance with the Rules.

Did you know that the Director General wrote to the Daily Telegraph on 29/6/99 to explain Richard Ryder’s motion which was proposed and defeated at the recent AGM He ended his letter by saying that the RSPCA is an animal welfare not an animal rights organisation. We wonder when the Society’s objects were changed because -the Act to incorporate and confer powers upon the RSPCA on 16/6/32 states- "It was established having for its objects the mitigation of animal suffering and the promotion and expansion of the practice of humanity towards the inferior classes of animated beings."
Can’t see the words ’animal welfare there, can you? Surely if granting legal rights to animals would mitigate their suffering, the RSPCA would welcome such action. Or would it?

Did you know that on 9/7/99,the Director General wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of the Council, MEMBERS! and supporters of the RSPCA ’to welcome his commitment to provide sufficient time for legislation to ban hunting before the next General Election, I bet the hunting members of the RSPCA were pleased to be included! How did Davies win them over? But what did Mr Blair ACTUALLY say?

DD – So you will....You’re saying you will give it Government time next time?
PM – I saying ’n .....I mean I’m not determining the legislative programme of the saying..... Government programme now, but we’ve already said we wil1 try if we possibly can to give it space in the upcoming session of Parliament, or the one after that.

A Member Writes

"Having supported the Society since a teenager, I resisted many calls for membership in early days because of the RSPCA’s refusal to take a stand against hunting. Then they did and I joined. Now in my sixties I am truly saddened at the turn-around in events and the ’mess at the top’. I hope indeed to see a united, strong and truly effective organisation before I die. Animals need such support today more than at any time. Reported horrors grow daily whilst the Society set up to combat the evil spends its huge funds on opulent premises and seems set on shooting itself in the foot".

(A Life Member, Isobel Cowan from Berwick upon Tweed wrote to the Chairman of Council, M Tomlinson with three questions and received no reply. So, she had to write again and sent a photocopy to Watchdog. Isobel says

"As a Life Member it is nothing less than my duty to ask pertinent questions and to be promptly, answered."

Isobel wanted to know
a) Why did you (Tomlinson) make the undemocratic demand that region 5 members should not vote for Mr. D Mawson
b) From whence was the decision made for the AGM. to be in Leicester- on the spurious grounds that this venue was easier of access than London? WE BOARD a train locally with no stops or change and arrive in London some 4 hours later.
The NCDL arrived here recently with their neutering/micro chipping scheme at much reduced costs. It was most successful gaining converts to the detriment of the Society".

(Chairman of Council TEL: 0116 221 8795 Fax 0116 271 8114)

Quote of the Month

"We may think that the debeaking of hens and keeping them in confined conditions which frustrate their natural behaviour patterns is wrong. Others think that this is not wrong, perhaps because they think the availability of cheap chicken a good, and the lives of hens, except as a form of food preparation, an irrelevance".

(Here is a case for rational debate in which we feel Freedom Food Ltd would be the loser. As Peter Davies is a devotee of Freedom Food and appreciates rational debate perhaps he would not be afraid to initiate a debate. Or would he?

A Little Matter of ARITHMETIC

W’Dog has been asked how we knew that there were 21 motions submitted for the AGM It may seem strange to the Council but W’Dogs actually communicate with other RSPCA members. Here goes- we were involved in the submission of 11 motions. Other RSPCA members told us about 5 motions that had been sent. 5 motions were published – 2 on the Agenda paper and 3 in the Daily Telegraph. 11 + 5 + 5 = 21. Simple isn’t it!


Absurdity and secrecy join hands in the actions of the Council. Is it not absurd that the Council campaigns against hunting with hounds whilst admitting thousands of hunters into membership? Or even more absurd writes to the Prime minister on behalf of RSPCA members to welcome the banning of hunting knowing that a large vocal number of members want no such thing? As for Freedom Food is it not absurd to imagine that debeaking does not cause pain or the horrors of the slaughterhouse do not cause fear and distress to animals?

Just look at the Special Edition Newsletter on Freedom Food published in 1994 – this is what is printed

"Some expenditure has been necessary in order to establish the standards s but, once the scheme is fully operational Freedom Food Ltd. will be SELF FINANCING."

Yet in 1999 in the Freedom Food Directors’ Report it states –

"RSPCA support is essential for the continuing effectiveness of the Freedom Food scheme." (cost to the RSPCA nearly £4.5 million to date).

Back to 1994 the RSPCA states –

"Anybody who buys a product labelled like this (the kite mark) CAN BE Certain that the animal has been reared, handled and transported and slaughtered in a compassionate manner."

Can anyone be certain? what about debeaking? What about slaughter? What about 4000 birds crammed in a single henhouse?
Will the Council wait for yet another TV exposure of Freedom Food before refusing the company anymore financial help? As for secrecy GROW UP Council members speak about what you know is wrong. Don’t be frightened of bullies or a nightmare could become reality.

A Nightmare

I dreamed that I was in a dome shaped building looking out on a huge table covered with flat dishes on which were laid out the cooked legs and ribs of sheep and pigs and the bodies of small birds. The smell of blood hung over the room. Around the table sat men in red coats, some women had coloured ostrich feathers in their hair and others had mink skins on their backs.
At the head of the table sat a man with a gold chain around his neck As he stood up there was much clapping and stamping of feet and everyone sang "For he’s a jolly good fellow". The gold chained one waited for silence and then Said "I want to propose a special toast to our friends the country folk whose tireless concern for animals can be seen during their traditional occupations of fox hunting, hare coursing and shooting." Wild applause broke out again and a portly member of staff raised his sword for silence. "Let us not forget" he said "that but for these brave country folk, the extremists would have us all eat cabbage and deprive animals of the fun of the chase. The millennium and the RSPCA belongs to you." He took the gold chain from the Chairman and handed it to the THE MASTER OF THE RSPCA FOXHOUNDS.

Thanks for all your letters and phone calls and financial help for producing Watchdog. PLEASE continue to help and we will continue to BARK!


Back to Archive Index