This is the newsletter published by and for members of the RSPCA. Because of the deep discontent that it shows within the membership we feel that it should have wider publicity than it currently receives. We have maintained the content accurately, but have lost some of the formatting. Past editions will be added as time permits. We hope that publishing this will do some good and lead to a much needed reform of the society. contains links that might be of further interest.
|NEWSLETTER NUMBER 3||
We have been told that Branch Corrmittees have been advised to tear up copies of the RSPCA Members ’ Watchdog Newsletters. Why ? Is the Council afraid of the truth ?
In our second newsletter we promised further information about why Mrs Felthouse, Chairperson of the Council, and her associates have issued frequent dire warnings concerning damage to the Society if their advice was not heeded.
On 31st March, 1981, a very secret meeting was held in Suite A of the Regent Centre Hotel, Carburton Street, London. The arrangements were made by two members of Headquarters staff, one of whom attended the meeting.Seven RSPCA members were present, among them, Mrs Felthouse.
It appears that the sole purpose of the meeting was to draw up a letter to be sent to all 210 branch committees warning that the Society was in danger and could only be saved by electing candidates to the Council who had been chosen by those present. Similar letters were to be sent out every year at the tine of the Council elections.
We have been told by a witness of the events at the meeting that those who attended were to keep the meeting absolutely secret and not to mention the RSPCA whilst in the room. The meeting was referred to in military terms as an "exercise" and great precautions were taken in the circulation of the letter "to avoid any one person being identified as the focal point of the exercise". Many innocent people have been victims of this "exercise" and RSPCA members should demand to know where the money came from for it.
Evidence in our possession points to charitable
funds being used – funds given for animals. Charitable funds were also used
for the recent letter from Mrs Felthouse to all RSPCA members to the tune of
£4,000. RSPCA members should ask in whose interest it is for unsubstantiated
allegations to be circulated and of what benefit it is to animals. It is the
kind of behaviour that could be expected from those with a vested interest in
the exploitation of animals.
We were shocked to be told by Cindy Milburn about her resignation as Head of the RSPCA Education Department as a result of lack of support for educational initiatives from Officers of the Council.
Philippa Rickard, Literature Officer, responsible for producing all of the Society's literature,has resigned in support of Cindy.
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Members have the right to propose resolutions for discussion at the Annual General Meeting held in June.
The Council rejects many of the proposals sent in by members claiming that the discussion of such proposals would be detrimental to the interests of the Society. RSPCA members would like to know just what the Council considers to be detrimental to the interests of the Society. For, on 24th April, 1982, Mrs Joan Hurst, a member of the present Council, whilst chairing a Regional Conference, accepted for discussion the following motion proposed by Mr J. Felthouse, husband of the present Chairperson:
"that in view of the present financial crisis, the Society should temporarily dismiss all Inspectors for a period of three months during which time they would be eligible for Social Security benefit and the Society would not have to pay salaries"
Should this motion have been accepted for discussion ? We think not. We believe it was a cruel and insensitive proposal, insulting to the Inspectorate and detrimental to the interests of the Society. And yet, Mrs R. Smith, Treasurer of the Council, was also present and should have overruled Mrs Hurst. Did the Inspectors know about this proposal ?
At the Annual General Meeting in June, the Steering
Group of the RSPCA Members’ Watchdog will be supporting proposals to alter the
rules of the Society in order to make the RSPCA democratic and the Council truly
accountable. We will be proposing resolutions aimed at giving real protection
to animals. It will be interesting to see how many of our resolutions are rejected
and how time the Council will waste at the Annual General Meeting, thus cutting
down the time needed for essential debate.
On 2nd February,1988, in the Wolverbampton Express and Star (Cannock edition), Mrs Joan Felthouse is quoted as saying:
’It is ridiculous to say we are closing down branches. If a branch has a problem in raising the quota, then it can be reduced or waived’
This must be cheering news for branches threatened with disbandment and for those already disbanded. Pressure from WATCHDOG has forced a change of heart.
As long ago as 25th June,1980, the Branches Director at RSPCA Headquarters, Major J.C Langham stated:
’I have to say that I have no knowledge of any plan to disband branches, nor would I for one moment contemplate or support any argument for such folly’
this statement, dozens of branches have been disbanded. The following are currently
under threat: London NE, Wimbledon, Chiswick, Enfield...........
RSPCA members who have been refused branch membership have the right to demand that they are given the reasons for that refusal. A ruling by the RSPCA Legal Officer (letter to Mrs M. House 17/5/82) states:
'The present position is that, if challenged in particular instances by an aggrieved individual, the branch would have to give an explanation of its refusal.’
In a letter to Mrs House (8/2/88) the Executive Director, Mr Andrew Richnond states:
’I would not disagree with the statements Mr Jarvis may have made to you in 1982: they do not contradict anything which I stated at our meeting with regard to Branch membership. If an explanation is not forthcoming from the Branch I do not see that the Council is required to intervene’.
In other words,
although the Council is happy to interfere in the running of branches, it would
not necessarily intervene to protect the rights of individual branch members.
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An RSPCA HQ spokesperson has told Life Science Research that they can see nothing wrong with RSPCA members doing research on animals in their laboratories !
Life Science is known to test household and other products for industry by using the notorious LD50 and Draize Tests in which animals are poisoned or have noxious substances dripped into their eyes. Presumably the RSPCA believes such work to be acceptable treatment of animals by an RSPCA member.
This revelation follows on from a recent press report in which an RSPCA official, having seen a film shown publicly on animal experimentation, commented that the other side of the story was not shown. Many of us are not aware that we should be promoting animal experiments in the way the RSPCA feels we should !
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"Spaying is not of benefit to an individual animal"
Mr Terence Bate Head of RSPCA Veterinary Clinic,
Sunday Telegraph 21/2/88
POINTS TO REMEMBER
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Activists Campaign to oust RSPCA Leaders
By David Brown Sunday Telegraph 31 January 1988
A Bitter row has broken out in the RSPCA over a campaign to unseat Mrs. Joan Felthouse, who chairs the ruling council, and three other key members who are accused of favouring farmers and others to the detriment of animal welfare. A new pressure group, RSPCA Members' Watchdog, also claims that the charity's hierarchy is preventing grass roots volunteers in inner London, and "deprived areas" of England and Wales, from carrying out valuable animal welfare work by demanding cash levies of £4,250 a year from each of its 210 branches. The group says it is close to gathering more than the 500 members' signatures needed to force the society to hold an extraordinary general meeting at which Mrs. Felthouse, a farmer's wife from Penkridge in Staffordshire, and her three closest officers will be called upon to resign. The other three,who, together with Mrs. Felthouse, face a motion of no confidence "for the management of the affairs and proceedings of the RSPCA over the past six years", are Mr. Anelay Hart, deputy chairman, Mrs. Rachael Smith, treasurer, and Mr. Arthur Stones, deputy treasurer. A newsletter, setting out a list of complaints and claiming that disillusionment among members is now "widespread and deeply felt", is being distributed by the new group which is trying to force a showdown with Mrs. Felthouse and her colleagues before the society's normal annual general meeting in London in the summer. Mrs. Margaret House, a former RSPCA Branch official and veteran campaigner for animal welfare, one of the founder members of the group, said: "It appears that the council wants to take money away from the branches which have proved effective campaigners against factory farming. "It appears that the RSPCA is influenced too much buy the National Farmers' Union. One way of curbing the efforts of the branches is to make life so hard for the members of the branches that they spend most of their time fund-raising instead of campaigning. "Some members feel the RSPCA would rather have no branch as opposed to a hardworking branch of dedicated animal lovers who cannot afford to pay the full quota. Some branches have been closed down and others face closure." Mrs. Felthouse, who was not available for comment, has hit back with a letter on behalf of the officers of the council, which has been sent to all 21,000 full adult members of the RSPCA at a cost to the society of about £4,000. She vigorously defends the ruling council's record and warns that to support the Watchdog groups' call for a special meeting would "disrupt our progress and would undermine much of what we have done and our exciting plans for the future." The issue threatens to blow up into the biggest controversy in the RSPCA for years and marks growing unrest among activist members who feel the society is too concerned with maintaining a respectable image and is becoming increasingly reluctant too upset the farming industry and its own moderate members. An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "The newsletter put out by the Watchdog group contains a number of wildly inaccurate claims and sweeping generalisations. It is easy to spread alarm in the society, but if the group collects at least 500 signatures we will be obliged to call an extraordinary meeting. "As Mrs. Felthouse has pointed out in her letter, a special meeting would involve the society in considerable cost. It would cost the society about £5,000 at least to stage the meeting whereas everything could be dealt with at the forthcoming annual meeting."
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RSPCA chief in
fight for job
Express and Star (Cannock) 2-2-88
National RSPCA Chairman Joan Felthouse, of Penkridge, is fighting a bid by a group of members to force her to resign.
An action group, calling itself RSPCA Members Watchdogs, claims she and her committee are closing poorer branches at the expense of the charity's animal welfare role.
RSPCA member Mrs. Margaret House, who is heading the campaign against Mrs Felthouse and three of her committee colleagues, said:
"There is great dissatisfaction with the present management among many RSPCA members. Branches in deprived areas gave been forced to close because, instead of paying the £4,250 quota they are required to contribute to the charity's running costs, they are spending the money on animal welfare. Many members have left in disgust," added Mrs House, of Horley, Surrey.
She is petitioning 500 members of the charity to allow her to call a special meeting and force Mrs. Felthouse to resign.
But 63-year-old Mrs. Felthouse, who runs Pillaton Cats Hotel near Penkridge, hit back at her critics and said the charity had never been so prosperous.
"It is ridiculous to say we are closing down branches. If a branch has a problem in raising the quota then it can be reduced or waived. The charity is now getting more money than it ever has, the Government has got confidence in us and we keep trying to improve things all he time. I can see no reason for the claims Mrs. House is making." added Mrs. Felthouse.
A spokesman for the RSPCA said the charity had complete confidence in Mrs. Felthouse.
"There is no reason not to support the current leadership. And, so far, we have not received the 500 signatures needed to call a special meeting of RSPCA members." she added.
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Another Victory............Biting back
The RSPCA is to take on more inspectors to improve its service following complaints by animal welfare activists.
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The newspaper cutting pictured here has had its text reproduced
below for ease of reading.
What price shares
in animal cruelty?
The Sunday Telegraph February 21 1988
We may not be as nice to animals as we thought, and even the RSPCA isn't blameless. Megan Tresidder reports When it comes to animal charity, the British public seems to be like the traditional pantomime horse, but with a head at both ends.
Never, according to the RSPCA, has there been such a year for reported animal cruelty. "We are not a nation of animal lovers." The Society told us last week. Yet the RSPCA is enjoying record levels of public sympathy.
It has moved in the past three years from 20th to 12th place (thus overtaking the NSPCC in 13th position) in the Charity Aid Foundations' league table, calculated on the amounts each gets in voluntary donations. It is way ahead of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (27th) and the World Wildlife Fund (33rd). Animal Aid and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection do not even figure in the top 300.
It is this paradox, between the RSPCA's protest that the British public is cruel to animals and the public's protest, registered in pounds sterling sent tot he RSPCA, against animal cruelty, that has started to stir up criticism of the Society.
The RSPCA may be the big one, the St. Bernard, in the pack of animal charities in Britain, but it is, its critics allege, bounding to the scene too late, and with its legs tied.
The RSPCA says it is dealing with cruelty earlier than ever before, and that this is why the number of convictions for cruelty (1,805 out of 85,419 investigations) has dropped.
The RSPCA Members' Watchdog Committee, founded last summer buy Mrs. Margaret House, an ex-branch secretary, to snap at the heels of the Society, disagrees. "The Society does nothing to get to the root of the problem," she says. "You cannot have a better illustration of where the RSPCA is going than the way it has forced the resignation of Cindy Milburn."
Cindy Milburn, head of the RSPCA's Education Department for eight years, left this month in protest at the lack of expenditure on educating the public. The RSPCA spend £374,000 last year - double the previous year's amount - in education. Its inspectorate, which the Council argues is the raison d'etre of the Society, costs many millions of pounds and accounts for 60 per cent of the Society's spending.
"They're doing things the wrong way round," argues Mrs. House. "Of course there will be an increase in cruelty if the Society does nothing to get to the root of the problem."
A huge part of the work of the RSPCA is the destruction of unwanted animals. By the Society's own admission, 350,000 - or more than four times the number of animals investigated for neglect - are put down in one year. Mr. Ossie Glover resigned as an RSPCA Inspector last year because of the number of healthy animals he was destroying, often, he says, in the back of his van, using a drug kit. He is now selling photocopiers "until the Society changes".
One of the simplest changes to the killing job that inspectors are required to perform, he believes, would be to provide national neutering clinics. Research but the Scottish RSPCA has shown that in countries where cheap clinics have been introduced, the numbers of strays have been reduced by up to 58 per cent.
The RSPCA, however, has a written agreement with the British Veterinary Association by which "the RSPCA will not neuter cats of dogs belonging to the general public at any of its clinics or hospitals, except in special cases…."
The Society's head of the Veterinary Clinic, Mr. Terence Bate, explained: "It is not a question of having a cartel with the BVA OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. The Society has not performed neutering or spaying itself, because it believes it can be done in the private sector.
"Our clinics are there to provide treatment for suffering," Mr. Bate added. "Spaying is not of benefit to an individual animal." Nor, one could argue, is the proposed increase in the dog licence fee - which the RSPCA strongly endorses - of direct benefit to the dog itself.
The RSPCA is a large and growing organisation, with 227 inspectors, 212 branches, and an income, at the last count, of nearly £17 million. It is left huge bequests - which have increased from £8 million in 1985 to over £12 million in the last accounts - for the valuable work of countering the kind of depravity in this country where bull terriers are tortured in the name of sport, or headlines detail deliberate sadism on puppies.
The Society argues that the problem is getting bigger - "cruel videos, cruel times," said the head of the Inspectorate last week. Its critics counter that the Society is confronting not cruelty, but only its manifestations.
A head-on confrontation would involve, for instance, the Society's jettisoning a large part of its investment portfolio. The companies in which the RSPCA invests include several which experiment on animals. Among them are Beecham, which used 96 beagles to test the effect of chloroform in toothpaste. Ten of the dogs, according to Beecham's report, died after convulsive fits.
Another, Fisons, has tried Paraquat weedkiller on animals and birds using the so-called LD50 test (signifying, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection explained, that 50 per cent died from a lethal dose). The Union argues that alternative "Ethical Investment Trusts" could provide a return on investment for the RSPCA equivalent to the animal-hurting companies they already back.
The RSPCA's executive director, Mr. Andrew Richmond, disagrees. "We have looked into ethical investment very carefully and found that it is almost impossible to find a company with a clean bill of health."
He gave Trusthouse Forte as an example of an apparently innocuous company, yet it is implicated in factory farming. He pointed out that one of the firms the RSPCA invests in - Glaxo - produces drugs vital to the veterinary industry.
In 1986, Glaxo tested the pain-killer Clonodine on seven beagles, whose teeth had been wired to receive electric shocks. "It is not an ideal world," Mr. Richmond said. "To sustain the work we do in preventing cruelty to animals, we have to invest our money. We won't get the sort of return we do if we invest in the very few companies that are perfectly innocent."
Like the rest of us, the RSPCA is implicated in a world of cruel times.
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