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The RSPCA’s controversial chief executive Gavin Grant resigned on 25 February “due to health concerns”.

Chair of trustees Mike Tomlinson said that Mr Grant had made a “very significant contribution” to the RSPCA.

But his 2-year tenure was controversial, particularly the decision to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on private hunting prosecutions at a time when there is an epidemic of neglected horses.

In spite of this, Mr Grant’s salary, calculated from the RSPCA annual accounts released last year, was reported to be at least £150,000, around 36% more than his predecessor Mark Watts.

The charity would not confirm the figure but commented that it was “within the parameters for the going rate of major UK charities”.

In 2012, the RSPCA spent £326,000 on legal action against the Heythrop alone.

Mr Grant further angered rural communities due to his views on live exports and calls for farmers who culled badgers — known carriers of TB — to be named and shamed.

His resignation prompted rural organisations to comment on the society’s future.

The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner said: “We hope this is a signal that the RSPCA is going to focus on the laudable work it has traditionally undertaken in promoting animal welfare, rather than using charitable donations for pursuing a political agenda.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 March 2014)