Rad­i­cals mustn’t ruin the RSPB

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor -

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

Fol­low @agromenes on Twit­ter

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