Archive for December, 2013

Boxing Day 2013

Boxing Day is always a time for hunts to put on a show of strength and this year was no different. National and local newspapers were full of stories covering hunt meets.

The Daily Telegraph carried an extensive interview with Countryside Alliance’s Executive Chairman, Sir Barney White-Spunner, covering a range of issues from the RSPCA to the BBC’s view of rural matters.

One issue that has been running virtually throughout 2013 is the how the RSPCA operates and in particular the charity’s attitude towards hunting and tackling bovine TB.  Referring specifically to the way in which certain inspectors have acted, the dubious prosecutions taken and the enormous waste of charitable money, Sir Barney said that the society had become “sinister and nasty”. It’s a description that many who have suffered at the hands of the RSPCA might recognise.

Bobi, rescued from starvation in Bulgaria.

Bobi, rescued from starvation in Bulgaria.

The latest example of the society’s heavy-handedness involves a small disabled dog called Bobi, brought to this country from the gutters of Bulgaria. One might think that this abused animal, given his tough life up to now, might just deserve a few months or years in a caring environment – something that was being arranged for him. But that was not the view of the RSPCA, who took him, saying that he should be put down. Thankfully, due to a high-profile publicity campaign, Bobi will now be cared for by K9 Rescue.

Sir Barney’s views sparked a number of comments, not least on Twitter, where the usual suspects yelled about how evil hunting people are, how they are ‘vile psychopaths’ and how they love to “torture foxes”. Green MP Caroline Lucas defended the RSPCA against Sir Barney on the BBC’s Radio 4 PM programme, during which she claimed that their policies were “based on scientific evidence.” There was precious little of that produced before or after the Hunting Act was passed, while validated research on wounding was simply dismissed by the RSPCA because it didn’t suit their argument.

The same degree of duplicity was evident in a public opinion poll commissioned by the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports to coincide with Boxing Day. It showed on average 80% of those asked did not want the Hunting Act to be repealed. What was not made clear was the fact that the questions asked compared hunting with badger baiting and dog fighting, as if somehow these obscene ‘sports’ are the same as hunting and might also become legal once more. This is not the only time such deliberately confusing questions have been included in polls to achieve the desired result and yet this was the basis of Caroline Lucas’ argument when being interviewed.

And she’s not the only MP to rely on doubtful information. Here’s another example. What should one make of the claim by Bassetlaw MP John Mann, in which he describes an appalling incident he says he has witnessed?  A ‘baby deer’ was locked in a pen by a hunt, who then set their dogs on it. Clearly such an act not only infringes hunting rules, but is also against the law, given that the wild deer had become captive and thereby protected. Surely the RSPCA or CPS would prosecute on the basis of evidence from such a reliable witness? But I don’t recall any such case and I would gladly have supported a prosecution. However, as you can see from the image, it’s very easy to say such things, but a little harder to provide evidence. I have no idea if this incident really did take place, but the anti hunting case is built upon such nonsense and so many people believe it.

Truth or deception?

Truth or deception?

The fact is, the RSPCA, the LACS and certain MPs know that all they have to do is portray hunting in a kind of  ‘we antis love animals, those hunters hate them’ manner, knowing that many members of the public, who generally don’t think too deeply about hunting and certainly don’t see it as a political priority, will swallow anything they say. What these groups definitely don’t like is an alternative view being put and worse, an alternative law being proposed that would make their precious Hunting Act redundant. This is why there was a flurry of outraged comments from antis when the Countryside Alliance announced that I do talks to schools and colleges.

The very thought that schools have the audacity to want to know about hunting, wildlife management and life in the wild is so annoying to some people that they can hardly contain themselves. They scream that this is indoctrination, hunting is likened to rape and murder, parents should be worried, complaints should be made, teaching unions should be contacted and there was even a veiled implication of possible paedophilia, such was their hysterical reaction.

The outrage is palpable and the obsession with banning all things to do with hunting (and using any and every excuse to attack it) is almost laughable, or it would be if it were not the case that some of these people are in groups influencing politicians. The anti voice is the only one that is allowed to be heard. The good news is that many teachers do not agree and are happy to extend an invitation to speak, allowing their students to make up their own minds. The responses might be surprising to those who believe that 80% of the British public back their anti hunting views.

Hunt supporters at a Boxing Day meet this year. Psychopaths and animal haters?

Hunt supporters at a Boxing Day meet this year. Psychopaths and animal haters?

It might also be an education to attend one of the many Boxing Day hunt meets and witness the friendly atmosphere, food and drink being passed around and the numerous children and pet dogs running about. Hardly a gathering of ‘psychopaths’.

So once again another Boxing Day passes under the Hunting Act, with 250,000 hunt supporters attending meets up and down the country – something the dwindling memberships of both the RSPCA and LACS put together could never achieve. If their claims of genuine support were true, demonstrators would easily outnumber hunt supporters many times over.

I remember shortly after leaving the LACS, a former colleague saying to the press that six months after hunting had been banned it would all be forgotten and everyone would wonder what all the fuss was about.

Funny, I always thought propaganda was written to convince others…not the writer. Happy New Year.


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Merry Christmas

A short note to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who has contributed to this blog throughout 2013, both pro and anti alike.

As a result some very informative, interesting and funny views have been expressed, often prompting responses that give an insight into the thinking of the writer. The important thing is that there is proper dialogue in place of a rather infantile stream of insults, as so often happens in social media.

I must also thank the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting (the “Blue Foxes”) who, in writing an article for Conservative Home, gave me a platform to submit an alternative view.

The comments on each article make interesting reading.




Thank you all and enjoy your Christmas…and Boxing Day.

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Changes for charities?

The news this week that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an advert by the RSPCA coincides with a report from the National Audit Office on the effectiveness of the Charity Commission.

The advert was featured in a previous blog To cull or not to cull (part 2) and claimed that the choice for the government in attempting to tackle the bovine TB problem was to either “Vaccinate or Exterminate” the badger. To anyone familiar with the English language, exterminate generally means to ‘wipe out’ and that certainly wasn’t what was going to happen in either of the trial culling areas. The advert was undoubtedly misleading and now the ASA agrees. It was in 2001 that another RSPCA advert, this time on foxhunting, was also banned by the ASA for being misleading.

The banned RSPCA advert

The banned RSPCA advert

It doesn’t reflect well on the RSPCA, especially after the negative publicity  the organisation has received throughout 2013, but it is an indication of how certain charities appear to be acting as if they can ignore the rules under which they operate. That may all be about to change.

The National Audit Office report, The regulatory effectiveness of the Charity Commission, was published this month and is damning in its conclusions. The reports states:

“The Commission is not regulating charities effectively. It does important and necessary work and its independent status is highly valued, but it does not do enough to identify and tackle abuse of charitable status. It uses its information poorly to assess risk and often relies solely on trustees’ assurances. Where it does identify concerns in charities, it makes little use of its powers and fails to take tough action in some of the most serious cases. This undermines the Commission’s ability to meet its statutory objective to increase public trust and confidence in charities. We conclude that the Commission is not delivering value for money.”

A good example of the problem is the non-adherence to Charity Commission guidelines, one of which states that, “A charity can campaign using emotive or controversial material, where this is lawful and justifiable in the context of a campaign. Such material must be accurate and have a legitimate evidence base.” In relation to the bovine TB issue, the vaccination of badgers has been the rallying call for many groups, including the RSPCA, as if once that has been achieved the disease will have been beaten. But that is not the case – the real victory will be when incidents of bovine TB in cattle have dropped sufficiently and the reservoir of the disease in wildlife brought under control. There is no vaccine as yet that has been proven to be able to do this in the field. Scientists have not been able to find a 100% effective treatment for TB in humans, so it would surprising if one had been found for badgers.

So not only is the RSPCA advert wrong in using the wording ‘exterminate’, it is also in breach of Charity Commission guidelines in implying that the argument for vaccination has a “legitimate evidence base”.

This is all quite apart from the question of the charity pursuing such an aggressive prosecution policy.

In addition, organisations and groups that have been used to operating unhindered by such restrictions find it hard to re-adjust when they achieve charitable status. The League Against Cruel Sports thinks that trespass, setting up covert cameras, being party political and using self-appointed hunt ‘monitors’ in support of a flawed law is all charitable. Care for the Wild, another charity, is quite happy to make unsubstantiated claims about the brown hare population, but can’t provide any evidence in support of their statement. What is even more surprising about this is that the Charity Commission says that there is nothing that can be done about such a claim, despite it being against charity guidelines. So charities appear to be able to say pretty much anything they wish.

The government has now announced a consultation on extending the Charity Commission’s powers to tackle abuse in charities.

One suspects that there will be plenty of material to assess.

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