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RSPCA “at risk” of losing Royal support

Media sources suggest the wildlife charity may lose the support of the Royal Family due to its attacks on country sports

HRH Prince of Wales

HRH the Prince of Wales' support of country sports is well known

The RSPCA is in danger of losing the support of the Royal Family due to its continued political campaigning, it has been claimed.

A source told the Daily Telegraph last month that HRH the Prince of Wales has “fundamental disagreements” over many of the RSPCA’s key policies and has “privately voiced concerns” about the charity.

HM the Queen is the current RSPCA patron, but she and the Duke of Edinburgh have begun to hand down their patronages to younger members of the Royal Family in recent years. It is speculated that Prince Charles could refuse to take on her role if offered. The snub would mean that the RSPCA might have to drop “Royal” from its name.

Disgreements over issues

The RSPCA and Prince Charles have disagreed over a number of issues in recent years, including the badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis and the charity’s decision to spend £326,000 to prosecute members of the Heythrop Hunt for a breach of the hunting ban. The organisation has also been criticised for becoming increasingly politicised and MPs said in July they feared that it would “lose credibility” after electing animal rights activists to its ruling council. These were Peta Watson-Smith, who once compared farming to the Holocaust and Dan Lyons, who believes people should pass an exam before being allowed to own a pet.

The Daily Telegraph source said: “Prince Charles has privately voiced his concerns about the RSPCA. He has taken a close interest in the RSPCA and what has been happening there. He wants it to be an effective animal welfare organisation, but it has become something else. It would be interesting to see how he could be a patron of an organisation with which he has had fundamental disagreements.

“Charles and Camilla are very supportive of hunting and shooting; so too are Princes William and Harry. They would have to take the view that the RSPCA has moved on from its position two years ago. A lot will now depend on who becomes chief executive. That has to be critical in whether Prince Charles can ever take over the patronage.”

Jim Barrington, welfare consultant for the Countryside Alliance, told Shooting Times: “We do not want the RSPCA to lose its Royal patronage, rather for it to change its direction and become worthy once more of Royal support. Recently the RSPCA has moved from an animal welfare organisation to one whose views are more representative of the animal rights movement — specifically its comments on the trial badger cull to halt the spread of bovine tuberculosis and wildlife management with dogs.

“The RSPCA needs to return to its roots as a charity concerned with combating cruelty and neglect to animals. We hope this focus on the issue of Royal patronage will spur the next chief executive of the RSPCA to execute this change in direction.”

Perceived change in focus

The RSPCA has faced many criticisms in the past year about its perceived change in focus. In September, it was among those charities that were blasted over the trading of personal information. It was found to be using the data of supporters to assign them a “wealth rating” and money that was donated to prevent cruelty to animals was instead used to pay investigators to find out how much donors might leave the charity in their will.

Then in December, the charity was accused of putting itself above the law by threatening to penalise farmers who take part in the badger cull by suspending their membership of RSPCA Assured — the quality control label formerly known as Freedom Food.