Edi­tor’s com­ment

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - mike.lowe@archant.co.uk Fol­low Mike on Twit­ter: @cot­slifeed­i­tor

THERE is a run­ning joke in our house that if the dogs don’t get ice lol­lies and a pad­dling pool when it’s hot or get Spam on their Sun­day din­ner, they’ll phone the RSPCA ne­glected pets’ hot­line. (You may mock, but never un­der­es­ti­mate the an­i­mal cun­ning of a lurcher and a whip­pet work­ing in tan­dem.) Well that ‘joke’ isn’t quite so funny af­ter it was re­vealed that the RSPCA is cur­rently seek­ing new po­lice pow­ers to al­low hun­dreds of its in­spec­tors to en­ter pri­vate prop­erty and seize pets. The ‘char­ity’ is in talks with the Gov­ern­ment about new statu­tory pow­ers which would al­low it to take en­force­ment ac­tion with­out in­volv­ing the po­lice. This is de­spite the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s some­what che­quered past in which it has spent part of its £140 mil­lion an­nual bud­get on po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated pros­e­cu­tions of hunts and farm­ers; ac­cu­sa­tions of per­se­cut­ing the el­derly, ill and vul­ner­a­ble by tak­ing away and killing their fam­ily pets; and the loss of yet an­other chief ex­ec­u­tive af­ter just one year. In­deed, the Char­ity Com­mis­sion has re­cently stated that “the gov­er­nance of the RSPCA re­mains be­low that which we ex­pect in a mod­ern char­ity”. This may come as a sur­prise to the child drop­ping a few shillings into a col­lec­tion box or the wealthy spin­ster writ­ing her will, but there is a dan­ger that a self-ap­pointed para­mil­i­tary force may soon be ‘car­ing’ for an­i­mals in dis­tress while act­ing as judge and jury on those per­ceived to be re­spon­si­ble. Sadly, we all know that if you give a quasi-po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion power, then it won’t be long be­fore it starts to abuse it. I cer­tainly don’t want this. I’m sure many of you don’t ei­ther. The RSPCA needs to re­vert to the car­ing, com­pas­sion­ate force that it has been in the past as op­posed to an un­think­ing uni­formed army that will kick your door in and con­fis­cate your Corgi.

IT is only when flick­ing through these pages prior to the mag­a­zine go­ing to press that I re­alised that for a Pets Is­sue, we were some­what light on one kind of pet – the cat. In fact, only one sin­gle fe­line makes an ap­pear­ance. In­stead we have dogs, sheep – and even a lizard, although you’ll have to search all the way to the back to find it. This is, of course, an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of the Cotswolds where dog own­er­ship is prac­ti­cally com­pul­sory, while the sheep made us what we are. Not that I have any­thing against cats – I was once the guardian of a pair of pi­rat­i­cal Burmese – but you can’t send a cat to col­lect a downed pheas­ant (well, not if you want it back) and you can’t turn to a cat for a cud­dle when you’re hav­ing a bad day. They’d just sneer at you and tell you to ‘man up’. Cats merely pass through your life; dogs are an es­sen­tial part of it. They are lov­ing, loyal and a per­fect, un­com­plain­ing com­pan­ion. Just don’t let the RSPCA find out that you for­got to put Spam on their Sun­day din­ner.

AL­MOST un­no­ticed, one of the pil­lars of our child­hood has been al­lowed to slip into near obliv­ion. A re­cent episode of Blue Peter, a pro­gramme that once at­tracted eight mil­lion view­ers, was watched by pre­cisely ZERO peo­ple. Ad­mit­tedly this was a re­peat, shown at 2.30 in the af­ter­noon on the CBBC chan­nel, but even so...

How have we let this hap­pen? Blue Peter is wo­ven into the ta­pes­try of our youth, each gen­er­a­tion re­lat­ing to its own team of pre­sen­ters. I was a Peter Purves and Va­lerie Sin­gle­ton man. When John Noakes died last month, it was as if we’d lost a mem­ber of the fam­ily. We sent them our milk bot­tle tops and used stamps; we built that highly flammable coat-hanger Ad­vent crown with them; we started to con­struct Tracy Is­land out of bog rolls and wash­ing-up liq­uid bot­tles, but then gave up halfway through; we grieved over the van­dal­ism of Percy Thrower’s gar­den; and we never, ever, man­aged to get a cov­eted Blue Peter badge.

Blue Peter is just as im­por­tant to­day as it was back then. It rep­re­sents in­no­cence and hon­esty, in­ven­tion and in­spi­ra­tion. This ship can­not be al­lowed to sink.

I have noth­ing against cats – I was once the guardian of a pair of pi­rat­i­cal Burmese

This month’s cover: Jack Rus­sell in the sun Smit/shutterstock

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