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 77 November 1999
Tel 01293 786166
Obsessive secrecy about the work of the RSPCA Council has reached unbelievable levels of absurdity. Secrecy (or confidentiality) as the Council like to call it, harms the effective working of the Society. It encourages vindictive behaviour, creates divisions in the Council and wastes time and money that should be spent on relieving the suffering of animals. Here are two examples.
In WATCHDOG 72 (March 1999) we reported the case of Nicola Johnson, a veterinary nurse at the Birmingham RSPCA Animal Hospital who was seriously injured. In 1998, the RSPCA admitted liability and Nicola received compensation. At the end of AUGUST 1999 we learned from the Charity Commission that the Council had NOT been informed. y When Malcolm Phipps (now Vice Chairman of Council) was asked for his views on the matter, he replied on the 17/1/99 and wrote
"I am not clear as to why you believe I have a particular interest in the Birmingham Animal Hospital which is not the case."
Mrs Gunstone just scribbled a note stating she was not involved with Council in 1994. She had failed to realise that she was on Council in 1998 when the RSPCA admitted liability.
WE BELIEVE that Council members should have an interest in such a serious matter because Council members remain legally responsible even where they have delegated an obligation or duty to staff.
HOW CAN Council members be confident that the administrative procedures at the Birmingham animal Hospital have been reviewed to ensure that another similar accident does not occur again? Or is everything so secret that no one knows anything? it makes members worry about the efficiency of the present Council.
What makes Council members happy? Disciplining other Council members? Setting up daft investigations into leaks? (the information kind!)
At their first meeting after the Annual General Meeting, they must have been beside themselves with glee. The question was - how did David Mawson know there were 21 motions sent in for the AGM? What an opportunity to set up an investigation, especially as Watchdog was involved! Yes, you have guessed it, the number of submitted motions is STRICTLY SECRET!
So, the Director General was told to set up an investigation and letters were sent out by the RSPCA solicitor to David Mawson and Margaret House. Who proposed this absurd investigation? We bet that it was Mrs Unmack but if we are right it is only a guess and not a leaky, leak leak. How did Watchdog know there were 21 motions sent in? We told you in Watchdog number 76. It was a question of simple arithmetic. What a waste of time and money.
In this Watchdog we are appealing to every reader and supporter to press hard for a more open Society. The first step in achieving this is to demand a full day Annual General Meeting in an easily accessible venue with a direct, frequent and cheap rail link. We have heard that Telford has been selected for next year’s AGM. In which case, the hunters will have a field day as few other members will be able to get there.
We want all motions submitted to be published with the Agenda and with sensible reasons for rejection. Council members MUST be made accountable for their actions and the maximum amount of time allowed for ordinary members motions. We want the Annual Report to contain more information. Ordinary members are not unintelligent and the present Annual Reports are an insult. Once some form of democracy has been restored in the RSPCA, we can attract better Council candidates — ones that can appreciate the benefit of having openness instead of obsessive secrecy.
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There is a widespread rumour that the Director General is due to retire in 2 years time. (At The worst this means 24 months or 730 days or 17,520 hours to wait) and that the new HQ is being rushed through.? To glorify his reign? (or in Army parlance, is he sweating on a knighthood? We have no means of verifying this and hope it is not true - 2 years is too long to wait and with all the extra staff, the new HQ will be too small before it is officially open.
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Freedom Food has been criticised on TV, in the Press and by other societies. On pages 3 and 4, we have reproduced an article about Freedom Food that was published in the most recent VIVA magazine. The RSPCA may not be a vegetarian society but surely the way forward for the benefit of animals and the health of mankind is to cut back on the amount of meat eaten. The World Cancer Research Fund, the UK Chief Medical Officer Dr Kenneth Calman, and Health Secretary Frank Dobson have all recommended a reduction in the consumption of red meat. The welfare specifications for Freedom Food in the first bulletin (the only one we have seen) do not mention animal feed. The revelations that human sewage and engine oil were being used to produce animal feed in Holland and France must cast doubts on all animal feed and should make inspection of this product a priority. The extracts from a Daily Telegraph article on page 6 must make more Council members realise that there are better ways of helping farm animals than by promoting meat sales.
Stop funding Freedom Food Ltd..
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Juliet Gellatley looks at the RSPCA's standards for intensively reared pigs and asks if their Freedom Food scheme is all it's claimed to be.
have omitted two photographs of pigs at the RSPCA approved unit at Mear Farm.
One had sores on both legs and another lft with the main herd had an abscess
on its face. If you wish to see the photographs contact:-
VIVA, 12 Queen Square, Brighton, BN1 3FD
Tel 01273 777688 Fax 01273 776755
Our Pig In Hell campaign has shown there is public disgust at factory farming. The proliferation of so-called assurance schemes has confused the situation with their claims of high standards of animal welfare.
There is the British Meat Quality Standard Mark launched in January 1999 by the Meat and Livestock Commission and backed by government. Pigmeat sold using the Quality Standard logo must be produced from UK pig farms approved by either FAB (Farm Assured British) Pigs, the Malton code or Scottish Pig Industry Initiative quality assurance scheme.
FAB Pigs is owned by the National Farmers Union; The British Pig Association; Federation of Fresh Meat wholesalers and British Meat and Manufacturers Association. The Malton Code is run by Malton Foods, part of Unigate plc. Malton Foods describes itself as a ‘complete pigmeat processing business.'
There is also the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme and the Soil Association standards. We have discovered there is barely a cigarette paper’s width between most of them and, with one exception, all offer low welfare standards, including the RSPCA. Although we do not normally denounce other animal organisations, we think you have the right to know what the RSPCA believes constitutes good animal welfare.
RSPCA Freedom Food
The word freedom in Freedom Food does not mean free range. Freedom is said to mean freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury or disease, freedom to express normal behaviour, freedom from fear and distress. These freedoms do not originate from the RSPCA but emanate from the Government’s own Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) and are supposed to apply to all pig breeders. They are not requirements but simply an ideal — something to be aspired to. The RSPCA has taken nothing more than an aim and turned it into a marketing exercise.
We compared the RSPCA’s standards to those of the factory farming industry as a whole and found that they are almost identical.
In our opinion, the RSPCA has not improved conditions for pigs in general and the Freedom Food offers little but approval of the status quo. We believe that both animals and the public deserve better than this. Here are some of their ‘highest UK standards of welfare’ (RSPCA Welfare Standards for Pigs: Freedom Food).
RSPCA: ‘Piglets must not be weaned from the sow before three weeks of age.’
This is extremely poor welfare. Piglets would naturally be weaned at 12 weeks and taking them from their mother at this early age causes severe trauma to both mother and baby and inevitably makes the piglets highly vulnerable to disease. The overuse of antibiotics and other medications is consequently routine. The RSPCA could only have chosen three weeks because it is standard practice in the industry and is essential if breeding sows are to be exploited to their maximum. lt is an economic consideration and not one based on welfare considerations.
RSPCA: Lying areas for pigs '..... must be a sufficient size to accommodate all pigs together lying on their sides’
Pigs are allowed enough space to lie down and not an inch more. Can you conceive of standards allowing less space? It amounts to half-a-square metre for an animal weighing a massive 100Kg.
RSPCA: 'Pigs must always be provided with a total floor space no less than1.5 times the lying area.'
Just three-quarters of a square metre for a 100Kg pig to live its entire life is overcrowding -albeit legal. The RSPCA’s recommendation for adult sows, which may live for five years or more, is 3.5 square metres. All these space allowances are no more than the industry standard and are the minimum required by law. They are not standards to boast about nor do they merit a premium price.
RSPCA: ‘The pig must be free to turn around without difficulty at all times.’
Internal dimensions of pens must not be less than the square of the length of the pig and no internal size less than 75 per cent of the pig’s length (tip of nose to base of tail).
These again are the minimum standard required by MAFF. It is the equivalent of giving a 5ft l0in human a bedroom measuring 5ft 10in on all sides - hardly a concept of freedom.
RSPCA: ‘The use of farrowing crates is contrary to the principles of Freedom Food Standards.’
Despite this, it has been permissible to incarcerate sows in farrowing crates to give birth and for four weeks afterwards since the inception of the Freedom Food scheme in 1994. Alternative systems have been available for all this time. This again approves the industry’s standards and is dictated by commercial considerations not animal welfare.
RSPCA: Tail docking is against the principles of Freedom Food standards. However, at the present time it is accepted that it may be necessary, to alleviate pain and suffering caused by tail biting.’
Numerous studies have shown that tail biting is caused by bad management —overcrowding, lack of straw and early weaning. In one study, pigs were kept both with and without straw.
Tail biting took place 11 out of 12 bare pens but in only two out of 13 straw pens. Higher welfare standards would render this cruel practice unnecessary.
The RSPCA approves of units which never allow a pig to see or feel sunlight; of transport times of up to eight hours for animals which are extremely bad travellers and the withdrawing of food for up to 18 hours before slaughter. Again, commercial imperatives of the industry take precedence over animal welfare.
The hyperbole and rhetoric of its publicity materials is: How can these conditions be described as ‘leading the way in farm animal welfare’? We believe that Freedom Food has, in practice, impacted negatively on farm animals by misleading the public into believing that intensive farming of pigs constitutes ‘putting welfare first’.
Its claims of having
‘the highest UK standards of welfare’ are insupportable and have effectively
undermined the far higher standards required by the Soil Association
It has had other negative impacts. Some supermarkets have removed free range bacon and replaced it with Freedom Food products. When we report abuse of animals in pig units, the first question asked is whether we have informed the RSPCA. How can we when it is so deeply compromised? When we reported RSPCA approved Mear Farm — conditions which we believe would shock and disgust most members of the public — it was given a clean bill of health by the RSPCA.
The Soil Association’s certification scheme requires that housing systems provide ample dry bedding with plentiful natural ventilation and light, access to an outside run with a dunging, rooting and exercise area, a rubbing post and implements for play. It does not approve farrowing crates and piglets must be weaned at a minimum of six weeks. The Soil Association also prohibits tail docking; teeth clipping; castration and antibiotics and other growth enhancers — all of which are permissible under Freedom Food. It begs the question of why the RSPCA launched Freedom Food at all?
Standards in the meat industry have been developed to maximise profits at the expense of animals — to force them to reproduce as often as possible, to grow as fast as feasible, in the minimum of space and to be killed at the earliest possible age. Almost no provision is made for the basics which make life worth living. The RSPCA has chosen to become part of this system rather than oppose it.
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Viva! has been informed that the RSPCA Freedom Food will no longer approve farrowing crates for NEW ENTRANTS into the scheme. Existing members will however be allowed to continue using the crate. The RSPCA did not give a date for when they will stop approving crates altogether. At least this is a move in the right direction.
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The Freedom Food scheme also approves intensive dairy, chicken, duck and turkey farming.
Why the secrecy?
When Viva! asked the RSPCA for a list of approved farms, it refused. Even its own council members are denied the information. The Soil Association, on the other hand, publish and freely distribute a list of their approved farms.
Dissension in the ranks
Not surprisingly, some members of the RSPCA do not approve of Freedom Food. Lilian Joan Dell was a council member (1990-1995). She says: "I was opposed to the concept of Freedom Food, it being obvious that no intensively farmed animal has freedom nor can follow natural patterns of behaviour. The system can not be properly monitored and it is a disgrace that thousands of pounds are being channelled into this scheme when it shocild be used for alleviating animal suffering."
David Mawson, current council member says: "Council members are not allowed to know locations of Freedom Food farms so how can they fulfil their duties of monitoring the Society’s work? I feel the guiding principles of Freedom Food are not adhered to when debeaking, tail docking and teeth clipping are permitted. Also. a visit to any slaughterhouse will prove beyond doubt that animals suffer fear and distress arid considerable pain if not killed instantly - my father was a slaughterman. To encourage people to eat meat and market animals does not promote kindness."
For more detailed information on pig ‘assurance’ schemes, read Viva!’s Pig In Hell report. Send £2 to Viva!.
If you are concerned
by our report, please register your objections with Michael Tomlinson, Chair
of Council, RSPCA, Causeway, Horsham, West Sussex RH12 11-1G. Tel: 01403 264181.
* * * *
A Member Writes
A Life Member, Isobel Cowan, wrote to Michael Tomlinson, Chairman of RSPCA Council criticising his action in circulating a letter advising members how to vote in the Council elections. Caroline Vodden (RSPCA Head of Supporter Care) answered for him, taking over a month to do so. This is what she said:
As a member of the Society. Mr Tomlinson entitled to hold and express his personal views on candidates for the elections to Council Any views which he may have expressed will therefore have been in his personal capacity and not as Chairman of the Society.
Isobel Cowan promptly replied stating:
"Mr Tomlinson is more than a Society member and he abused his position by demanding no votes be granted to an aspiring candidate (David Mawson) This is demeaning both in a personal capacity and for the RSPCA."
We agree with Isobel. Council members are restricted in what they can say and do and a Chairman of Council should be seen to be impartial at ALL TIMES.
In fact, little is known about Mr M Tomlinson. In Animal Life, issue 33, Autumn 1998, members were told that:-
"He semi-retired from his position as company secretary of a mechanical engineering firm in 1989."
(At the age of 37? Ed.)
In a letter to Margaret House dated 9/10/98 he stated:
I do have an interest in a sandwich business but it is not true that I own the business.
However Mrs J Jordan of the Charity Commission wrote on 24/8/99:-
I have been advised that whilst Mr Tomlinson does indeed work for a sandwich business he is not responsible for it's purchasing policy. The material used may include Freedom Food meat purchased from a wholesaler in the usual way.
So, what is the truth? Does he WORK for a sandwich company OR does he have a financial investment in a sandwich company? It is important as Tomlinson is a Director of Freedom Food and it would be odd to have a Director who invests in a company who does not use Freedom Food meat.
In his CV when standing for re election as a Regional Representative,Tomlinson has detailed his heavy workload as Chairman of Council,Regional Representative for Region 5 and Chairman of the Leicester Branch Committee. This only emphasises the sound recommendation in the Sparrow Report that on election to Council,Council members should resign from branch office.
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We have included this article from the Daily Telegraph by Robin Page 28/8/99 for two reasons:-
1. It illustrates once again the stupidity of the RSPCA’s obsession with secrecy. If Rachel Newman has proof that hunted foxes die through disembowelment, the proof should be published.
2. It illustrates how justified criticism of Freedom Food can be used to discredit the RSPCA. The Council does not have to continue funding this project. It is ludicrous that Freedom Food has had to recruit Celebrity Chefs to promote the scheme. How many of these chefs boil lobsters alive or will cook anything that has once lived and breathed?
Unfortunately this is a very depressing diary. It started when I read the letter in the Daily Telegraph from Rachel Newman, the RSPCA's head of prosecutions. I was stunned. For some reason the RSPCA has a fixation on fox disembowelment and yet again she was claiming that hunted foxes die through disembowelment. For this to happen, the dog or hound would have to catch the fox, turn it on its back, release its grip and bite the fox before being bitten itself. It is of course nonsense.
Several years ago, I had a pet vixen: she was killed we assume, by a dog. She was unmarked apart form puncture holes at the back of her neck. Similarly Bramble and the old farm Labrador, several years ago, Rinty shook her like a rat. She died instantly and was virtually unmarked. So why does the RSPCA continue with its fixation on disembowelment?
In 1996, the RSPCA ran an ad. of a disembowelled fox, omitting to say that the animal had been shot. As a consequence, it fell foul of the Advertising Standards Agency. In her letter Rachel Newman spoke of veterinary post-mortem reports confirming her claim. When I phoned to ask her for the reports , I was told that I could not have them- they were confidential.
What puzzles me is why the RSPCA does not do more to campaign against real animal abuse. Where are the full page ads exposing the outrage of the closure of slaughterhouses and the great distance animals now have to travel from farm to abattoir?
In 1980, there were 1,047 slaughterhouses in Britain, with 44 having the capacity to kill more than 50,000 cattle a year. Now thanks to the 1991 EU Fresh Meat Directive, there are 416 slaughterhouses with 78 killing more than 50,000 cattle a year.
For humanely killed stress-free animals, slaughter needs to be close to the farm as possible. Under the directive, the reverse has happened:with unnecessary closures, due to ridiculous hygiene regulations and unnacceptable costs, animals now are being transported many miles to die.
The RSPCA has produced a charter for animal "welfare standards", but this does not include a limit on the distances animals travel. It only gives a time limit of eight hours. This means that animals can be transported hundreds of miles and still be sold under the RSPCA's "Freedom Food" label, a system set up to improve animal welfare.
It is beyond my comprehension how a meat monitoring system designed to protect animals can fail to take into account the suffering caused by long gruelling journeys.
But there is worse to come: the killing of Britain's 800 million broiler fowl. up to 60,000 can be dispatched ;a day in one slaughterhouse alone. The birds are shackled, hung upside down on a moving line and dunked into a water bath containing a submerged electrode. Some are stunned, some are killed and up to 2% - 1200 birds can remain conscious. The RSPCA's Welfare Standards for Chickens" states that "Birds fail to be properly stunned must be humanely slaughtered before entering the scalding tank" Strange that :I thought killing by using electrically live stunning bath" was supposed to be "humane". So with this method, some birds are "humanely killed" twice.
The "Welfare Standards" go on to say "The most reliable indicator that a bird is properly stunned by the low voltage method is the electropletic fit. The characteristics of this condition are neck arched with head vertically; open eyes, wings held close to the body;rigidly extended legs, and constant rapid body tremors. The physical conditions of the electropletic fit are shorter lasting and less profound when cardiac arrest is induced at stunning
"Oh dear - there is more. The RSPCA instructions continue "Carotid arteries and jugular veins must be effectively severed;using a ventral cut. This must be checked by the appointed member of staff, who must be given sufficient time to sever the blood vessels manually, if necessary. No more than 10 seconds must elapse between stunning and neck cutting.
Chickens must not be immersed in a scalding bath or plucked until at least 90 seconds have elapsed since the major blood vessels in their necks have been severed.
"These birds are then sold as "Freedom Food" approved by the organisation that finds fox hunting immoral.
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The cat's out of the bag
The Guardian 16/8/99
News of the closure of Hillgrove Farm, Britain’s largest breeder of cats for vivisection (Embattled breeding farm closes, August14), was uplifting. The RSPCA’s defence of Hillgrove’s owners and attack on the campaigners whose inexhaustible and non-violent efforts forced Its closure, betrays the animals.
Last week, Animal Aid published details of appalling brain experiments conducted by a drug company on 100 Hillgrove-bred cats. The RSPCA made no reference to such treatment, asserting only that experiments on cats were usually about testing cat vaccines — to help others of their species. In fact, about half of the 1,500 annual UK cat experiments are related to the exploration of human biology, disease and drug treatments - for which cats make extremely poor scientific models. In any case, does the RSPCA really support healthy cats being subjected to painful and lethal experiments to help other people’s cats?
The society’s spokespeople also claimed that the Hillgrove closure was pointless because cats would simply have to be brought in to UK labs from other countries, where animal welfare standards are poorer. Yet there is already a thriving trade between overseas breeders of a variety of animals and British laboratories. It is morally corrupt reasoning to say we must continue with a vile trade because,if we don’t do it,someone else will.
Campaigners against the laboratory use of animals will take heart from the cat farm’s closure and will shift their focus to whoever seeks to take Hillgrove’s place.
Director, Animal Aid
A VICTORY FOR COMPASSION
We have reorganised the distribution of Watchdog It is now printed by Joe Harris on recycled paper that does not contain bleach. No forests have been cut down to produce Watchdog. Two valued supporters are now helping with the distribution. We are most grateful to them and to all our readers who have sent donations. PLEASE continue to help by sending stamps or envelopes or money. We want to see that MONEY IS SPENT ON ANIMALS - NOT on posh multi million pound Headquarters and UNNECESSARY highly paid staff.
THE WATCHDOGS (Just 3,2 in Kent and 1 in Surrey)
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