|RSPCA NOW EXTREMIST ACCORDING TO DAVID McDOWELL|
Last week, RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant was shown on national television warning that contractors and farmers involved in the planned autumn pilot cull would be ‘named and shamed’. In September he called for consumers to boycott milk not labelled as ‘badger friendly’ if the culls went ahead, suggesting ‘those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood’.David McDowell, a former RSPCA acting chief veterinary adviser, said he feared Mr Grant’s controversial approach was jeopardising the charity’s ability to work with farmers on animal welfare issues.
“It does not sit well with me at all – it might get some nice headlines for a day or two but it gets you nowhere in the long-term,” he said.
“If the RSPCA is going to be a credible welfare organisation, it has got to take a moderate stance and it has got to look at the science behind the issues.
Mr McDowell, who worked closely with farmers as a private vet in Otley before joining the RSPCA, worked for the charity between 1999 and 2007, specialising in equines.
Mr McDowell, who is now ‘effectively retired’ but has performed inspection work for RSPCA this year, said there was a ‘reasonable scientific approach’ within the farm animal department towards TB during his time at the charity.
But members of the RSPCA council ‘did not want the hard scientific facts to upset their comfortable prejudices’, he claimed.
Under Mr Grant, the RSPCA has gone further, increasingly giving the impression of being an ‘extremist organisation’, he added.
“He is just stirring, playing to the gallery of badger lovers,” Mr McDowell said. “I got the best results by talking to people and trying to learn the facts and see things other peoples’ way. I always argued that if you wanted to convert someone round to your way of thinking, you would not achieve it by starting off kicking them in the balls.”
Mr McDowell said, while, he did not support mass culling, there was a need to break the cycle of bovine TB infection between cattle and badgers that occurs on farms, particularly around feed troughs. “It makes sense’ to reduce badger numbers where they were doing the most damage,” he said.
He said the RSPCA should also be taking into account the welfare implications of bTB for both cattle and badgers.“Cattle are suffering, badgers are suffering and there is a risk of human suffering. If a badger is suffering with TB you can make an argument that the best thing to do is kill it as humanely as possible. Why wouldn’t you try and get a policy acceptable to all concerned?” he said.
He said he had chosen to speak because he was ‘infuriated’ at seeing farmers ‘vilified’ by Mr Grant who he claimed was either unaware of the facts surrounding bTB and badgers or deliberately ignoring them.
He added that the RSPCA as a law-enforcing organisation should be ‘scrupulously careful to work within the law’ and should ‘not be having a go at people doing their best to carry out a cull within the law’.
“Just going out on a limb and saying everybody who culls badgers is evil and we will name and shame them, what will it achieve other than cheap headlines?” Mr McDowell said.