THE animal rights movement has suffered a major blow after a leading charity climbed down on one of its key policies.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the UK has told farmers it will no longer target them over the culling of badgers.
Its a decision that is seen as a move away by the RSPCA from a more militant animal rights agenda and a step back towards its traditional role of animal welfare.
It comes after a split within the charity between those supporting its traditional role and those seeking a more political or radical agenda.
Chief executive Jeremy Cooper stepped down after coming under fire for being soft line – it was his decision to review the badger policy after his more militant predecessor Gavin Grant had threatened to “name and shame” farmers involved in badger culling.
The organisation also came under fire in the British Parliament for seeking more legal powers to allow hundreds of its inspectors to enter private property without a police officer and seize pets.
Now, following an external audit ordered by Cooper, the RSPCA has decided culling badgers does not breach its ethical farming rules.
The charity has accepted advice from “external auditors”, and is now exercising a “less adversarial” approach to the cull.
The RSPCA said it will still oppose the cull on scientific grounds, but won’t stop farmers who bait, trap or shoot badgers on their land.
An RSPCA spokesman said: “It would be unfair and futile to penalise an individual farm which is following government advice in the belief they are doing their best for the welfare of their cattle.”
The charity previously prompted outrage among farmers when it told them under its Freedom Food scheme designed to improve animal welfare that it was unacceptable to use lethal methods of wild animal control as routine practice.
The RSPCA spokesperson said at the time: “As such Freedom Food would regard it as unacceptable for any of its members to take part in a badger cull.
“To do so would also bring the scheme into disrepute and be a clear breach of the membership agreement, resulting in suspension.”