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MP's fury over RSPCA's stance on pilot badger culls

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 19, 2012

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A leading animal welfare charity is taking a cynical stance on the pilot badger culls in the South West, a Westcountry MP has warned farmers.

Conservative MP Neil Parish told a meeting of farmers on Friday that their industry must unite against the unhealthy “attitude” of the RSPCA. And he claimed that the RSPCA’s stance on TB – and calls by its chief executive Gavin Grant for badger marksmen and farmers allowing culls on their land to be named and shamed – had more to do with raising the organisation’s profile, and precious public funds.

Speaking to 60 farmers at the annual open meeting of the Devon branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “It is worth asking why the hierarchy of the RSPCA is taking this attitude.

“They have taken a position where they just want to raise money,” said Mr Parish, chairman of the Parliamentary Animal Welfare Committee. “By taking this attitude they have lifted their profile to enhance their support.”

Mr Parish, an ex-farmer who chaired the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee when he was an MEP, said he wanted to be controversial about the RSPCA because of the attitude taken over the culls, and Mr Grant’s statement on a BBC Panorama programme about identifying people involved in the cull.

Mr Parish had spoken in the Parliamentary backbencher debate on the proposed cull, which is part of the Government’s programme to prevent the spread of bovine tuberculosis, responsible for the deaths of 26,000 cattle last year. In that debate the Government had been soundly defeated, attracting only 28 votes in favour of the cull.

“That was because the Government decided it was a back-bench vote and did not get involved,” he said. “If that vote had been whipped (as in a full parliamentary debate) the Government would have won.” Mr Parish said it was right that the pilot culls in West Somerset and the Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire had been postponed this year because there was not enough time – but he was adamant they would go ahead next summer.

It had been a nonsense to try to start the culls so late in the year, he said.

“We have a long way to go, because people don’t understand what it’s really all about, which is disease control. Nearly 6,000 cattle were lost to the disease in Devon alone last year – and a lot of them were young dairy heifers.

“But the public does not understand the implications of that loss.

“We shall have to punch above our weight to get our message across.”

One way would be to recruit the Young Farmers’ Clubs to use social media and spread the message that way, he stressed.

Fran Barnes, the NFU’s head of strategic communications, said the social media was vital – and that wrong information published on it should not go unchallenged. She urged members to use Twitter to get across the true facts and to counter downright wrong information.

But the RSPCA’s opposition to the badger cull was not a publicity stunt, the charity insisted.

A spokesman said: “While it is true the charity is facing financial challenges – the same could be said of many organisations. It is unacceptable for the NFU and others to attack the RSPCA’s chief executive Gavin Grant, who has the full support of the RSPCA for advocating a position we have held for years.

“The RSPCA has a responsibility to advocate in accordance with our charitable purposes and that is precisely what we are doing on this scientifically flawed, inhumane and unnecessary cull of badgers.”

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 20 2012, 8:15AM

    p.s I started that last comment at 6.30 but owing to the fact that I had to keep shutting the system down it now looks like I am a late riser:((

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 20 2012, 8:13AM

    @eyeopener Good morning :) OK so I am an early riser occasionally, especially when I have the builders in. Re: Nuclear power.....that can be the only way forward until they can find something that is equally as reliable, which, possibly decades down the line they may have the good fortune to hit upon. Re: the rest of your comment. "because we are on other sides of the argument" I personally am on the side of a healthy countryside......I am a naturalist, therefore, I want to see healthy livestock and at least a fighting chance given to all other mammals. Re: "the other commenter" Their style of writing is forthright and I have no problems with that. I have been on the receiving end of their forthrightness on more than one occasion but instead of letting it get to me it has made me look at things from all points of view. I don't say that I agree with everything they say but, being the diplomat that I am, I have tended to ride the wave so to speak, unless it is something that I really, really disagree with :(( What they say on the subject of bTB , is, even though you and most others won't agree,( which is your right), is factual and knowledgeable. However ,like nuclear energy, perhaps a solution will be found that will be better placed to deal with all the problems associated not only with TB in animals but also in humans. Who would have thought that a crippled daschund would be given the use of his back legs, possibly leading the way to humans with damaged vertebrae being given any equal chance to mobility. Times move on and scientists can achieve amazing things, albeit very slowly. There is no quick solution to bTB at present and as I have said before it has to be attacked on all fronts. It can't be left to creep all over the country. Also, re. the other commenter, you won't find me being disloyal to them. I will however apologise for being snotty with you, I am going through very trying times at present, although that should not be an excuse. I have a naff network supplier, who, if they don't supply me with my MAC number within the next two days, will be hearing from my solicitor. Added to that somebody seems to be trying to break into my system so "high security alerts" keep flashing on the screen. It's just as well with the work that I do that I have more than one very good security system on the go. I shall continue to read your comments but will do so probably through gritted teeth.:)))

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  • 2ladybugs  |  November 19 2012, 9:08PM

    Where is this report going to turn up next? bTB has still got to be sorted by any means possible. It can't be allowed to go further across the country.

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  • E_Badger  |  November 19 2012, 6:49PM

    This story was published on the ThisIs Cornwall site two days ago; however, my comment remains the same... The "public" were made well aware of the NFUs poster propaganda by badger supporters who unlike government sources, actually discussed and revealed both sides of the debate and it was informed objective opinion that won the day in favour of badger, facts on the table, culling just doesn't stack up given evidence already collated. Number of Tweets is frankly a desperate red herring which just means the topic was being discussed and understood by many.

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  • Ted_F  |  November 19 2012, 4:43PM

    "an organisation which has a track record of animal welfare since 1824" bear in mind the RSPCA has transformed itself to the animal equivalent of the Taliban in recent years, they kill tens of thousands of animals every year and maliciously take elderly and impoverished owners to court for 'cruelty' having already destroyed their pet.

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  • eyeopener  |  November 19 2012, 12:43PM

    The public may not realise that in a league table of cattle being destroyed instead of going to slaughter, bovine TB ranks at the very bottom of that league. It accounts for less than 10%. Cattle lameness accounts for many animals being put down. "The NFU is a wealthy a very powerful lobby group. And it's all about money," said Peter Smith, chief executive of the Wildwood Trust in Kent. It's all about farmers wanting to offset the cost of intensive cattle farming and that's what causes TB." In the Parliamentary backbencher debate on the proposed cull, the Government had been soundly defeated, attracting only 28 votes in favour of the cull. Conservative MP Neil Parish said speaking to the farmers said "If that vote had been whipped (as in a full parliamentary debate) the Government would have won." In other words, the only way they could have got the necessary support to win the motion would have been by coercing their members to vote against. What kind of moral high ground is that? Who are the public going to believe the leader of an organisation which has a track record of animal welfare since 1824; or the politician and Conservative MP Neil Parish who is a member of a government that up to 31 May 2012 had performed 29 U-turns?

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