RSPCA Australia has been accused of moving towards “extreme animal activism” in livestock farming and hunting, while ignoring its core animal welfare responsibilities.
Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie made the accusation this week when revealing she’d also taken the unique step of writing to the Queen requesting the RSPCA be stripped of its royal entitlement.
Senator McKenzie believes the RSPCA has lost its way and is urging the agency to switch its focus away from animal activism and back to core animal welfare duties.
“In my home state, the RSPCA’s original focus was to promote the welfare of horses in colonial Victoria, the primary mode of transport at the time,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The RSPCA evolved into a body promoting welfare issues for domestic animals such as cats and dogs and in more recent years it would be best known for its work running animal shelters and the successful Adopt a Pet program – a truly wonderful initiative.”
But Senator McKenzie said in recent years the RSPCA’s mission had shifted from compassion and education to extreme animal activism to the point where they now resemble the political arm of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“At the present time the RSPCA’s focus is spread far and wide and it is now opposed to animals in sports and entertainment, hunting, horse racing and farming, including Australia’s $2 billion a year livestock export trade,” she said.
Senator McKenzie said iconic Australian movies such as Babe and Red Dog would never have seen the light of day if the RSPCA had its way.
She said she’d been a lifelong RSPCA supporter but her mind was changed after a recent letter urged her to stop the live export trade and the group’s repeated attacks on law abiding hunters.
“I will petition the Queen to highlight that the RSPCA are trading on the Royal Family’s status to attack Australian industry, film, sport and law-abiding hunters,” she said.
“The Queen is a well-known farmer, hunter, horsewoman, owner of racehorses and a passionate animal welfare advocate as the patron of the RSPCA.
“The Queen is living proof that hunting, farming, horse racing and animal welfare are not mutually exclusive pursuits.
“We know many of our farmers, hunters and those in our racing industry hold animal welfare close to their heart and at the front of mind.
“Equally our live export trade, which generates around $2 billion a year and 10,000 jobs, has positively influenced animal welfare conditions in our export countries, particularly those in Asia.
“Australia has put in place measures which lift the welfare standards in these countries to a point where only 0.16 per cent of our exported livestock face a potential adverse animal outcome.
“The RSPCA must understand that if we stop exporting livestock to these countries the gap will be filled by other countries that don’t maintain or enforce our high standards of animal welfare, which would lead to terrible outcomes.
“Instead of demonising our important local industries the RSCPA would be better placed spending its advertising dollars promoting our world leading animal welfare practices to other nations.”
Senator McKenzie said her resolve had been bolstered after former WA RSPCA president Eric Ball recently said the iconic institution had lost its way.
“Eric Ball, who was awarded the Order of Australia medal for his service to animals, has turned his back on the RSPCA after witnessing what he describes as a culture of care and compassion being replaced by one of provocation and punishment,” she said.
Senator McKenzie said she feared where the RSPCA would go next.
She said, “Will the RSPCA call for a ban on fishing or a moratorium on killing cane toads?”
But RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil hit back at Senator McKenzie’s accusations saying her group had been preventing cruelty to Australian animals for 150 years.
“We’re one of the nations most trusted and respected charities and we plan to continue to undertake our important work,” she said.
The RSPCA declined to respond directly to Senator McKenzie’s accusation of “extreme animal activism” but Ms Neil said, “We will not turn our backs on any group of animals including those used in farming where there are more than 850 million animals that need a voice”.
“The RSPCA has a strong and long standing relationship with many individual farmers and farming groups, right across Australia,” she said.
“A great example of this is the work we do through the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.
“As part of the Scheme we work directly with more than 300 producers and so far 330 million farm animals have lived a better life thanks to the RSPCA standards.
“The vast majority of Australians, including farmers, care about animal welfare and want to see more improvements to animal welfare.”
Ms Neil said when the movie Red Dog was released, the RSPCA worked closely with the film creators and promotors.
“In fact $1 from the sale of every DVD sold in Coles supermarkets during the 2011 Christmas period went to the RSPCA to assist in all the important work we do,” she said.
Senator McKenzie’s stance was also criticised by Labor and the Greens.
Labor Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said Senator McKenzie “clearly has delusions of grandeur”, in writing to the Queen about the RSPCA.
“Good luck with a response,” he told ABC radio.