drop of £7million in donations has left the RSPCA facing fresh questions over whether its political activity and prosecution policy is alienating its support base.

In a statement released last week, the chairman of the RSCPA Council, Mark Tomlinson, said that the charity’s financial situation was “clearly unsustainable” after a “net cash outflow” of £6.1m last year. He announced that as a result the charity would be forced to restructure, resulting in job losses.

The RSPCA has received negative publicity in recent years for spending large sums of money on bringing prosecutions under the 2004 Hunting Act.

In December 2012, the charity was heavily criticised by media and the public for its £326,000 prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt — 10 times that of the defence cost.

Last December, the RSPCA announced it had hired former chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Stephen Wooller to review its prosecutions policy.

The charity’s chief executive, Gavin Grant — who pushed the charity’s political stance — resigned in February due to “medical concerns”.

The director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, believes the drop in donations is a “direct reaction” to the RSPCA’s recent political agenda.

He said: “The RSPCA is now at a crossroads and it is a critical moment for the organisation. People across the board are unhappy at the direction it has taken.

“We hope that it can accept this and refocus on its core work, which is vitally important.”

But the RSPCA told H&H that the claim donations are falling because of its political stance is “not borne out by the figures”.

It has been reported that there was a £5.7m drop in donations from legacies in wills and only a £1.3m drop in public donations.

A spokesman said: “Income always tends to go up and down but was at its highest in 2012, which was the year when we were being accused of being our most political, so this clearly isn’t the reason.

It was legacies that were down last year and these are decided by those who chose to leave money to the RSPCA years in advance of us actually receiving the money.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (10 July, 2014)