The oldest animal protection organization in the world, Great Britain’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is in the process of imploding as animal rights activists and their opponents vie for influence and control of the group. Evidence of the internal problems at the RSCPA were evident earlier this month when the organization expelled Olympic show jumper Richard Meade for his views on Hunting followed almost immediately by revelations of impropriety by Meade’s opponents.
Meade, who won three show jumping medals at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic games, was expelled by a unanimous vote of the RSCPA’s governing board. Meade’s offense was to trying to convince the RSPCA to abandon its anti-hunting and pro-animal rights stance in favor of returning the organization closer to its original mission of protecting animal welfare.
Meade actively courted members of hunting organizations, urging them to join and take part in the RSPCA to rescue the organization from the animal rights extremists who increasingly are setting the agenda at the RSPCA. In a December 1996 letter to hunters, for example, Meade urged them to “start to play a part in steering the RSPCA back to its traditional role of caring for animals, and away from animal rights…. So much more could be done to promote animal welfare of this charity were not being diverted to animal rights campaigning.”
This was more than the RSPCA could bear, and argued that Meade’s campaign to overturn the charity’s anti-hunting position “damaged the best interests of the charity.” After a British Court ruled that the RSPCA could exclude people who applied for membership in order to “infiltrate” the group, the organization took action against Meade and others (though apparently not against the animal rights members in its midst).
Meade’s expulsion was quickly followed by revelations that the charity spent almost 40 thousand pounds investigating him. The public also got a peek into the radical views of those in positions of influence at the RSPCA when a dossier which was part of an RSPCA investigation of ruling council member David Mawson was leaked to the media. The dossier revealed that Mawson urged the RSPCA to condemn the Queen — the patron of the RSPCA — after she was photographed killing a pheasant.
Mawson also made false allegations against a number of individuals, including RSPCA colleagues who did not accept his animal rights views. A Sunday Times (UK) story noted that the RSPCA had planned a campaign against medical research and was stopped only by the Charity Commission, which is a government watchdog that oversees charity groups in the UK.
Leak reveals new split in RSPCA ranks. David Leppard, The Sunday Times (UK), June 17, 2001.
Olympic star expelled as hunt lobby loses battle for RSPCA. Rob Evans and David Hencke, The Guardian, June 15, 2001.