Farmers Union of Wales tackles RSPCA over badger cull claims

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has urged the Charity Commission to take action against the RSPCA to prevent the organisation using what it terms “misleading” information to oppose any badger cull.

Gareth Vaughan, FUW president, complained to commission chairwoman Suzi Leather, that the RSPCA was encouraging the public to use its website to send e-mails to politicians using a claim that 95% of people surveyed opposed a cull.

“But it fails to acknowledge the vast majority of those responses were generated by an RSPCA advertising campaign, part of which, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) ruled breached advertising standards by using ‘untruthful’ and ‘unsubstantiated’ claims,” said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

“Following the ASA’s ruling, in response to a formal complaint by the FUW, the then junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw admitted this adverse influence would have to be taken into account when considering further deliberations.

“The RSPCA is, therefore, using what it knows to be statistics relating to a public consultation that were, in effect, manufactured by their own discredited campaign, in order to influence the political process.

“Moreover, it is actively encouraging the general public to engage in such misleading political lobbying.”

Following the ASA ruling, the RSPCA agreed not to use the statements in further advertisements. However, they continued to do so on their website for a further 15 months until they were contacted by the Charity Commission on 12 November, 2007.

The FUW has now contacted all AMs and MPs to alert them that the RSPCA’s lobbying campaign was encouraging the general public to use the society’s website to send politicians a standard e-mail opposing badger culling.