Charity Commission rejects complaint against RSPCA over badger cull campaign

The regulator dismisses a claim by the National Farmers' Union that the charity's head, Gavin Grant, advocated the naming of farmers involved in the cull

Gavin Grant (right) with musician and campaigner Brian May
Gavin Grant (right) with musician and campaigner Brian May

The Charity Commission has rejected a complaint made against the RSPCA about its campaigning activities opposing the badger cull and the live export of animals for slaughter.

The commission said it had been assessing the complaint made against the animal welfare charity in February and in a concluding statement published yesterday said it had no outstanding regulatory concerns.

The complaint was made by the National Farmers' Union, which announced on Tuesday that it was carrying out a pilot cull of about 5,000 badgers in controlled shootings in a bid to prevent the spread of bovine TB.

It raised concerns that the RSPCA’s chief executive, Gavin Grant, had called for farmers involved in the cull to be named and said this could lead to them being threatened, intimidated and harassed by others.

But in its concluding statement, the commission says that the RSPCA told the regulator categorically on behalf of its trustees, chief executive and staff that it does not and will not advocate the naming of farmers involved in the cull. The charity’s statement to the commission also made it clear that it condemns any personal intimidation.

Other NFU concerns related to a milk boycott against farmers that took part in the cull. The commission said it had clarified that the RSPCA had no plans for a milk boycott.

"We are satisfied that it is reasonable for the RSPCA to decide that campaigning against the badger cull and live animal exports is justified in furtherance of their objects," the commission says in the statement.

"We have emphasised the importance of continued scrutiny by the trustees, because the RSPCA undertakes campaigns in controversial areas and needs to consider the consequences and reputational risks that may arise from this."

The RSPCA said the commission’s statement confirmed that campaigning and political activity were legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake to further their charitable purposes.

Mike Tomlinson, chair of the charity’s council of trustees, said: "In a week that has seen the start of the badger cull pilot, we are unsurprised that the commission has found no grounds whatsoever for the NFU’s complaint.  

"The RSPCA only ever conducted campaigns to further the charity’s animal welfare purposes in a lawful manner. In relation to our badger cull and live animal export campaigns, the RSPCA will continue to be a strong, loud and ethical voice for the animals, with our position rooted in science and evidence, unlike the government’s badger cull programme."

Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, said: "I am extremely grateful to the commission, which took the NFU's complaint seriously. The RSPCA has now clarified its position on the naming of farmers involved with the badger cull and that it condemns personal intimidation. The RSPCA has also now confirmed that it will not call for a boycott of milk. This gives us some comfort on behalf of our farmer members."

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