THE WA Shooters and Fishers Party has joined the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC) in questioning whether the RSPCA is becoming more radical.
Shooters and Fishers' MLC Rick Mazza told the Legislative Council last week there were concerns the RSPCA "maybe transitioning into an animal rights group".
Mr Mazza, whose support for a two-year trial of approved amateur hunters being able to shoot feral and pest animals in some State parks and reserves has drawn opposing fire from the RSPCA, called for a select committee inquiry into the WA RSPCA's operations.
He called for five MPs with himself as chairman to be appointed to inquire into the RSPCA's funding from government, objectives and use of its powers.
"The reason I bring this motion to the house is that there has been a fair bit of criticism of the RSPCA by different industry groups, members of the public and also ex-staff members of the RSPCA," he said.
"The RSPCA has the very unique situation whereby, as a non-government body, it is empowered to lay criminal charges against people who breach the Animal Welfare Act.
"At this point, there is no government scrutiny of the RSPCA's actions in undertaking that inspectorate role.
"If we are going to outsource the animal welfare inspectorate to a non-government group, that inspectorate should have oversight by the government."
He referred to comments made last May by Nationals MLC Paul Brown after an RSPCA inspector threatened to invoke emergency powers of the Animal Welfare Act against a Greenough equine veterinary clinic over shelter for 24 horses, despite contrary advice from three qualified veterinarians.
At that time Mr Mazza had joined Mr Brown in calling for a review of the provisions of the act.
He also referred to claims, reported in Farm Weekly last week, by ALEC chief executive officer Alison Penfold that the RSPCA used "selective statistics" to mount a campaign against the live export trade, and also to its endorsement in Victoria of anti-duck-shooting advertising.
"(We) do not know who is being employed by the RSPCA," Mr Mazza said.
"We do not know what their ideologies are.
"(Radical animal rights activists) could become involved with the RSPCA and work for it and prosecutions could be made - even if those charges are unsuccessful in court, there is a stigma attached to being charged with mistreating an animal."
He said changes to the RSPCA's constitution in December 2013 removed requirements for its board to contain a veterinary surgeon and police and Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) representatives and made it easier for new RSPCA members to join the board.
Mr Mazza said DAFWA made an annual grant of $500,000 to the RSPCA for certain activities detailed in a memorandum of understanding.
"If it is government money we should have scrutiny over where that money is going," he said.
Debate on whether an inquiry into RSPCA activities should be initiated was adjourned last week.
However, RSPCA WA president and former national RSPCA president Lynne Bradshaw said she believed Mr Mazza had a "credibility gap" in the arguments he put to parliament.
"Part of his credibility problem is that his fact basis is wrong, he is not taking a balanced view," Ms Bradshaw said.
"We (RSPCA) are not trying to put farmers out of business, we are actually trying to help them understand what the new world order is.
"The RSPCA is a good barometer of where public opinion is at.
"We are a registered charity, we rely on public donations to exist, if we did not reflect public opinion in our aims and objectives we would not receive that support from the public.
"He (Mr Mazza) has been talking to a small group of people - and it is a small group - that still feel disgruntled over what happened with the (2011) live export ban.
"Our position is that we would like to see a transition away from live export, but we feel much more comfortable with it (live export trade) since ESCAS (Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme) was introduced."
Ms Bradshaw rebutted Mr Mazza's claims of concerns the RSPCA was moving to an animal rights group, and that changes in its constitution made that possible.
"Even if they (animal rights activists) wanted to, they wouldn't be able to do it (take control of the RSPCA).
"They would either have to be elected to the board by our members or nominated (on the RSPCA WA board seven directors are elected and five are nominated)."
The constitutional changes resulted from a corporate governance review recommending animal welfare specialists like veterinarians should be employed rather than on the board where strategic direction and governance expertise was needed, she said.
The agreement with DAFWA for the annual $500,000 grant was quite specific in where the money was spent, Ms Bradshaw said.
It was to fund a 24-hour animal cruelty reporting service, training of RSPCA inspectors and public education on and enforcement of companion animals legislation.
"It's all about companion animals, not farm animals," she said.
Ms Bradshaw agreed however, that a "Meat exports vs live exports, the real story" pop-up link to the national RSPCA website, displayed prominently on the state website, could give a casual browser the "wrong impression" of the RSPCA's objectives.