live animal exports: ‘RSPCA to listen to supporters over Ramsgate legal action’

Posted on December 20, 2012


Today (20th December), a news item was posted on titled ‘RSPCA to listen to supporters over Ramsgate legal action’.

‘… THE RSPCA has said it will gauge the response from its supporters before deciding whether to launch a further high profile, potentially costly legal battle over the decsion to allow live exports from Ramsgate port.

The charity was heavily criticised this week after it emerged it spent £327,000 in the successful prosecution of Heythrop hunt, in Oxfordshire.

Judge Tim Pattinson described the sum as ‘staggering’. The case resulted in total fines for the hunt, hunt member Julian Barnfield and recently retired master, Richard Sumner, of £6,800. The defendants’ costs were around £35,000 in comparison to the RSPCA figure. They were asked to pay just under £20,000 between them towards the RSPCA’s costs.

Mr Pattinson said the public could question whether the charity’s funds could have been better spent, while the legal bill has promoted a wave of criticism from the RSPCA’s detractors, notably the Countryside Alliance, and much media coverage.

The RSPCA recently announced it was considering launching a judicial review of the live export trade at Ramsgate. This followed the conclusion of a legal challenge brought by the exporters, Barco de Vapor, over Thanet District Council’s decision to temporarily ban the live export trade.

The temporary ban was imposed after 47 sheep died at the port, including more than 40 that were shot by the RSPCA and a handful that drowned, in an incident on September.

That case ended after the council lifted its ban and then, it is understood, agreed to pay damages to the exporters to reflect trade lost while the ban was in place.

But after the final hearing last week, the RSPCA said the judge ‘indicated that he would consider a fresh judicial review application on this issue in the New Year’. The RSPCA claims the port still has ‘inadequate facilities to help animals in the event of an emergency’ and has launched a ‘fighting fund’ to raise money for the case.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said the charity would only go down this route of it raised enough money in the ‘ring-fenced’ fund that will only collect money for this specific pruprose.

“The response will give us a measure of whether this is the sort of thing our supporters want to push ahead with. We have made it clear we will certainly do it if we can,” she said

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant has revealed that the charity spends £5 million a year prosecuting cruelty cases and has defended the charity’s expenditure on the Heythrop case.

He said it needed to prosecute the case itself as was unlikely the Crown Prosecution Service would take it on.

Referring to the RSPCA’s historic role in enforcing animal welfare law, he said: “We don’t apologise in any way, shape or form for bringing those people who abuse animals to justice.”

An RSPCA spokeswoman said the costs incurred in the hunting case were ‘due to the need for hours of footage supplied by monitors to be carefully assessed by our legal team’.

The controversy over the use of RSPCA funds to fight the case comes as the charity is in the middle of a restructuring programme to cut costs that will result in a number of redundancies.

The RSPCA’s membership has fallen from 38,600 in June 2004 to 25,500 in September 2012 and it has set about reducing its annual running costs by £10 million since 2009.It announced earlier this year it will have to cut around 130 jobs.

The spokeswoman said RSPCA has ‘huge public support’ but was ‘not immune from the economic climate’.

“Demand for our services has risen just when people are finding it harder to support good causes. As a responsible charity the RSPCA has undertaken a restructuring in order to meet these challenges.

“We have committed to protecting our frontline services which help abused and abandoned animals, and have managed to ensure there have been no compulsory redundancies.” …’

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