RSPCA face charity status probe

  • The Charity Commission has pledged to look into a complaint about the RSPCA’s charitable purpose, political activities and campaigning over the issue of hunting.

    A letter from pro-hunting Tory peer Lord Willoughby de Broke and conservationist, former MEP and author Stanley Johnson to chief commissioner John Stoker raises two clear points. The letter asks whether promoting a ban on hunting is a charitable aim, and whether the campaign is being conducted in a way that flouts rules on political campaigning.

    “In these two respects,” argue the writers, “the RSPCA’s . . . activities in support of a hunting ban may contravene its charitable status.”

    The letter, written independently and not in an organisation’s name, is expressly not an attack on the RSPCA as a whole, but its activity in this specific area. The case is backed up by detailed reference to Charity Commission regulations, the Burns report and various other authoritative sources.

    Stanley Johnson, once himself the recipient of an RSPCA animal welfare award, says: “We had been thinking about the line being taken by the RSPCA for some time, and decided it was a serious enough matter to be looked at by the Charity Commission.

    “First, is the method of campaigning compatible with the Charity Commission rules? Second, with the animal welfare benefit of banning hunting highly dubious, is this action really in the public interest? I hope the commission takes this seriously.”

    A spokesman for the Charity Commission says: “We have regular contact with the RSPCA’s trustees and have offered guidance on what sort of campaign activity is appropriate. We have received a letter of concern about the charity’s campaigning activities to which we will give our full consideration.

    “As with any concern we receive, we look at the grounds for it that are presented to us, and whether the charity is complying with law.”

  • Read the full story in the current issue of Horse & Hound (19 February).

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