8 June 2001

RSPCA candidates raise fears of tough stance on farming

By Jeremy Hunt

CONCERN is growing that the RSPCA will toughen its stance against farming as candidates campaigning ahead of the societys council election branded farmers cruel and greedy and called for a tightening of welfare legislation.

The candidates for the council, which shapes RSPCA policy, severely criticised the society for not being tough enough with farmers and demanded more stringent welfare codes covering livestock produced under the Freedom Food system.

The most bitter attack on farmers was made by Jacqueline Denham, a business adviser from St Austell, Cornwall, whose manifesto states: "Farmers are more interested in their pockets than the welfare of their animals. Cattle are left standing for months during the winter, hemmed into a byre, inches deep in slurry. This practice, which is currently perfectly legal, is to prevent the animal exercising and needing more fodder.

"The present financial situation has encouraged farmers to cut corners as far as feeding and attending to the medical needs of their stock is concerned. The only recourse is far reaching legislation which is properly enforced and the offenders severely dealt with."

Another candidate, Susan Drake from Southwold, Suffolk, says the RSPCA condones the inherently cruel conditions involved in livestock reared under the Freedom Food system.

"I do not support Freedom Food; it is unworkable. The RSPCA condones cruel conditions, mutilations, and the same long transport and slaughter as non-accredited farms."

She adds that continuous campaigning is needed to "raise awareness of the brutality and suffering within the euphemisms of meat and food production".

Dairy and beef producer Rupert Nuttall, who farms near Yeovil, Somerset, is a member of the RSPCA, but is incensed at the stance being taken by these council candidates. "I am deeply insulted and angered by these accusations but equally saddened that the RSPCA is being infiltrated by these extremists.

"The RSPCA will be extremely influential in the future government policy on farm animal welfare. It will be the agency the government turns to for recommendations on welfare codes on a host of issues and that is something that should sound alarm bells for every livestock farmer in the country.

"Every RSPCA candidate in the societys council election has radical anti-farming views. I think every NFU member should receive a copy of this manifesto so farmers know exactly what they are up against."

An RSPCAstatement said: "Our council elections are entirely democratic. People should read each manifesto carefully; they are entitled to vote for the people they support." &#42