A groundbreaking new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee has suggested the RSPCA should be stripped of its role as prosecutor of first resort in animal welfare cases.
Chair of the committee Neil Parish said: “The RSPCA does important work investigating animal welfare cases. The committee is not convinced, however, that the RSPCA is in a better position than the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when it comes to prosecuting animal welfare cases. It should step back from making prosecutions itself, continuing instead to work closely with the police and prosecution service to protect the welfare of animals.”
The report also recommended increasing the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months in prison to five years, and said the Government should introduce an animal abuse register.
RSPCA chief executive Jeremy Cooper said: “Overall this is a very sensible report, but we do not agree with the recommendation that the RSPCA should no longer prosecute. We are extremely proud of our near 200 years of experience investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and our 92% success rate - which is currently a higher percentage than the CPS.”
The RSPCA has been under fire for a number of years because of its increasingly political stance on animal rights.
Upon his appointment, Mr Cooper admitted the charity alienated farmers with its aggressive campaign against the badger cull.
Although the current leadership continue to believe the cull is a ‘costly distraction’, it has moved away from previous demands farmers who participate should be ‘named and shamed’.
Other criticism of the RSPCA has stemmed from the election of Peta Watson-Smith to its ruling council last year. Ms Watson-Smith is a hardline vegan who once compared farming to the Holocaust, drawing condemnation from countryside groups and the Jewish community.
She has previously said more money should be spent prosecuting farmers and called for the charity to drop its Freedom Foods animal welfare assurance scheme, saying: “The RSPCA cannot make claims to protect farm animals while it condones slaughter through its ownership of Freedom Foods”.