Radicals mustn’t ruin the RSPB
COUNTRY people hate cruelty and instinctively recognise the need to protect farm and domestic animals from those few people who beat and starve defenceless creatures. Sadly, more and more of us have ceased to back the organisation that was once dedicated to stopping that cruelty—the RSPCA—WHEN it moved from its crucial central role into the territory properly occupied by the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS).
No one would deny the right of those who wish to campaign against country sports and instigate prosecutions against hunt members, but to take over and radicalise the RSPCA was no way to proceed. The charity alienated large numbers of supporters and loss of funding meant the ability to eradicate cruelty to domestic and farm animals was reduced.
Such takeovers are a continuing threat. In Amnesty, a coup damaged its important work fighting for prisoners of conscience by insisting that the body should also campaign for easier abortion. There is a place for those who wish to increase the availability of abortion, but not at the expense of those unjustly incarcerated. They should raise their own money and fight their own cause and not drive away those for whom the original purpose is paramount.
Sadly, another putsch seems to be on the cards. This time, it’s within the immensely respected RSPB. For years, the charity has worked with the GWCT to ensure that grouse moors are managed properly. It has supported the blocking of thousands of miles of drainage channels to ensure that blanket bogs could be restored. Indeed, the RSPB has welcomed the significant scientific research done by the GWCT and recognised the rising populations of wading birds on the managed moors. On the subject of shooting, the RSPB has properly maintained a neutral stance. It is for others to argue that case and there are strong views on either side.
The fear is that this sensible, moderate position is about to be challenged by a radical minority. The RSPB has established a worldwide reputation and built a membership in Britain of more than one million. It has done so primarily because it has kept to its knitting, stuck to the science and insisted that it is a broad church, not a campaigning sect. As a result, the influence of the RSPB on Government has been considerable: it is often the leader of major environmental reform.
It’s that influence, reach and capacity to raise funds that attracts minority groups who want to capture it for their own narrow purposes. Rightly, the organisation’s leaders have been determined to protect its unique brand and its ability to use that brand to protect birds, enhance habitats and save failing species. Worryingly, that sensible attitude is increasingly being challenged by its own staff.
The previous Director of Conservation left to campaign against grouse shooting and the present one seems to see nothing wrong in standing with the LACS on some issues. Recently, the Senior Upland Officer delivered a diatribe against shooting in which he attacked the GWCT, besmirching their scientific research and berating what he called their ‘phoney claims’.
Not only was all this nonsense, but it was in direct contradiction of the RSPB’S stated policy, its cooperation with the GWCT and everything it does to bring country people together to protect birds and their habitats and defeat illegality. If these radicals gain the upper hand, the RSPB will cease to be a great national and international institution and become instead a sect driven by destructive, extreme doctrines. We must never allow that to happen.
‘If these radicals gain the upper hand, the RSPB will cease to be a great national institution
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