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