11-12-2013 13:50 PM | Animal Health, Cattle, News

FUW welcomes ASA ruling against RSPCA

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) decision to uphold a complaint by the union about an RSPCA advertisement opposing badger culling and has called for the Charity Commission to take a similarly robust approach to the organisation.

An RSPCA press and poster advertisement had featured a syringe and a bullet alongside the headline “VACCINATE OR EXTERMINATE? The UK government wants to shoot England’s badgers. We want to vaccinate them - and save their lives”.

The FUW and Welsh politicians Simon Hart MP and Antoinette Sandbach AM had complained about the advertisements to the ASA, along with 116 members of the public.

The ASA ruled that consumers were likely to interpret the claim, along with the text "The UK government wants to shoot England's badgers", to mean that all badgers would be eradicated in the cull areas, and that claim therefore breached advertising rules.

FUW TB spokesman and vice president Brian Walters said the RSPCA had a track record of making misleading and threatening claims regarding badger culling and had also been censured by the ASA in 2006 following a complaint by the FUW over its “Back off Badgers” campaign.

“In 2012, the RSPCA’s chief executive 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,” said Mr Walters.

“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 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.’

“All these factors show a very worrying lurch towards extremism which has occurred over the past two decades, and has undermined some of the core work of what used to be a highly respected charity.”

Over the past decade, the FUW has submitted numerous complaints to the Attorney General, Charity Commission and ASA regarding the RSPCA’s use of extreme and misleading rhetoric, warning that failure to take action would merely increase the organisation’s tendency towards militant action.

“Such complaints have resulted in decisive action being taken by the ASA, but we believe that the Charity Commission has been less than forceful and its failure to act decisively against the RSPCA has brought all charitable organisations into disrepute.”

Mr Walters called for decisive action to be taken by the Charity Commission in relation to the RSPCA’s lobbying actions, which he described as “aggressive and threatening”.

Earlier this month, the National Audit Office concluded that the Charity Commission was failing to investigate abuses properly, wasting taxpayers' money and putting the good name of the charity sector as a whole at risk. Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge claimed the commission had "tough questions to answer".

Mr Walters added: “Revelations earlier this year that the RSPCA has access to certain police records have simply added to what were already extreme concerns.

“It is high time that robust action is taken to return this organisation to the straight and narrow of doing what an animal welfare charity should be doing.”


12-12-2013 10:24 AM | Posted by Clued-Up
The RSPCA and mass public opinion share the same views on the badger cull - they're against it. Many of us feel ASA made the wrong decision.

I've been watching parliamentary TV's coverage of yesterday's badger cull debate. MPs are obviously as peeved and shocked as the rest of us by DEFRA ministers' behaviour.

Owen Paterson didn't turn up (surprise, surprise), leaving his hapless junior (George Eustice) to field questions. He looked rather forlorn and uncomfortable. He didn't try to answer any of the questions he was asked.

About three-quarters of the MPs who spoke felt the cull had been an unmitigated disaster and wanted it stopped. Two of the MPs present at the debate said they could no longer support the cull. Many MPs wanted the project totally reappraised and for the badger cull issue to come back for a full parliamentary debate.

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