Royal SPCA, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, et al disregard & even promote cruelty on a shocking scale
LONDON, U.K.––The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Great Britain, the world’s oldest western-style animal advocacy organization, founded in 1824 and granted a royal charter in 1840 by Queen Victoria, wants you to know about the long widely recognized accidental harm done to animals by plastic waste and litter, especially to marine life.
This is something that ANIMALS 24-7 has been reporting about, incidentally, for more than 30 years.
(See Which are more deadly, balloons or alligators? for a recent update.)
Decries hundreds of cases, overlooks millions
The Royal SPCA would apparently prefer, however, that you not notice the much less recognized but vastly larger deliberate harm done by fishing, which ANIMALS 24-7 has also been reporting about for more than 30 years.
Summarized Guardian environmental correspondent Fiona Harvey on February 4, 2019, “Plastic litter led to 579 cases of damage to wildlife or pets that were reported to the RSPCA in England and Wales in 2018, up from 473 in 2015.
“Water birds and marine animals were particularly at risk,” the RSPCA observed and Harvey recited, “with 28 incidents involving seals hurt by plastic litter in 2018, compared with five in 2015. Among birds, swans were among the worst affected, followed by geese and gulls.
“But the biggest source of damage to wildlife from litter comes from angling, according to the RSPCA’s findings,” Harvey continued, “with discarded equipment such as lines, nets and hooks causing more than 3,200 of last year’s reports.”
Explained an unidentified RSPCA spokesperson, “[Fishing] lines can wrap around necks, causing deep wounds in flesh and cutting off the blood supply. Hooks can pierce beaks or feet, become embedded in skin or get caught in the bird’s throat, and weights can be swallowed causing internal injuries and blockages.”
All of this is also true of what fishing does to fish. But the RSPCA spokesperson said nothing about that.
“Only takes one to endanger an animal”
Instead, the RSPCA spokesperson told Harvey, “We would strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious when packing up to make sure no litter is left behind.
“It only takes one careless person to endanger the life of an animal,” the RSPCA spokesperson reminded in conclusion.
Note that the Oxford Dictionaries define fish as “a limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins living wholly in water.”
Fish also happen to be the most numerous order of vertebrate animals, meaning animals who have evolved essentially the same structures for sensing and suffering pain as ourselves.
RSPCA still promotes salmon farmers who shoot seals
Meanwhile, mentioned Animal Concern Scotland secretary John Robins, “Last August was the tenth anniversary of my first asking the RSPCA to stop endorsing salmon farmers who shoot seals,” through the RSPCA Assured program that certifies “humanely produced” meat, eggs, and dairy products.
“I also told them what to put in their contract with the salmon farmers to ensure they didn’t have any excuse to shoot seals,” Robins said. “We are now into the eleventh year of the RSPCA repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot over their unforgivable failure to deal with this properly.”
Scottish salmon farms shot an average of 267 seals per year between 2010 and 2016, according to the most recent available data.
Institutional cruelty to wildlife
Disregard of cruelty to one species on purported behalf of another is not, however, unique in the United Kingdom to the Royal SPCA, nor to situations in which the cruelty has an evident economic motive.
Similar attitudes permeate the attitudes and policies of British, Scottish, and Welsh agencies and organizations entrusted with protecting wildlife and habitat, just as those attitudes permeate “wildlife management” in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, among other nations which have long notoriously sought to “save” certain animals by killing others, with many more failures than nominal successes.
The most obvious difference is simply that since Victorian times the United Kingdom has often been described as “a nation of animal lovers,” in which public displays of cruelty are not tolerated––except for fox hunting, banned by law if not in practice since 2004, and profligate bird shooting, a frequent pastime of the British royal family.
The goat hunter
Along with importuning the Royal SPCA to recognize the suffering of all animals, not just a favored few, John Robins has also been striving for some time to highlight the hypocrisy of Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and two of her cabinet secretaries, Michael Russell and Roseanna Cunningham, for their purportedly shocked and horrified responses after U.S. trophy hunter Larysa Switlyk in October 2018 infamously shot a wild goat on the Isle of Islay, then posed for photos with the corpse and a sex toy.
Robins recognized from the information about the incident published in media accounts, obtained mostly from Switlyk herself, that Switlyk apparently violated section 11a of the Firearms Act 1968, governing the lending and use of firearms in Scotland. Robins petitioned to have the Firearms Act enforced against Switlyk, should she ever return to Scotland.
“Played into the hands of the huntress”
But Robins also recognized that the underlying issue was scarcely limited to Switlyk.
“Goats have been on the quarry list of Scottish shooting tour holiday companies for as long as I can remember,” Robins wrote to Animal Concern donors. “Despite there only being around 1,500 wild goats in Scotland, you can book an organized trip to shoot one for as little as £250.
“My calls for protection of these animals have fallen on deaf ears in government circle,” Robins recalled, “but at least the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds responded by replacing bullets with contraceptive darts when they shoot goats on the shores of Loch Lomond.
“Hire Switlyk to teach government cullers how”
“Forgive the sick pun,” Robins continued, “but Larysa Switlyk has been made a scapegoat by senior government ministers. Their knee-jerk response to social media posts of Switlyk posing with the animals she killed, in full camo gear and full make-up, played right into the hands of the huntress.
“The free publicity enhanced the notoriety Switlyk relies on to promote her TV show [about trophy hunting] and the wide range of merchandise she endorses and sells,” Robins pointed out.
“My tongue was only half in my cheek,” Robins continued, “when I suggested to Nicola Sturgeon that she employ Larysa Switlyk to teach government cullers to make a clean kill instead of causing extreme, unnecessary suffering to the birds they maim and leave to die slowly from festering wounds.
Massacring barnacle geese
“While Larysa Switlyk paid to humanely and legally shoot a goat on Islay,” Robins explained, “the government was paying some farmers and landowners on Islay more than a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s annual salary to kill and maim thousands of geese on the same island. Hundreds of these birds were left to die a slow, lingering death from their injuries. The government even has a word for this. They call it ‘crippling.’
“Scottish Natural Heritage,” the agency responsible for maintaining Scottish wildlife and habitat, “openly accepts that 10% of the shot geese are ‘crippled’ rather than cleanly killed,” Robins said. “To accept that any birds will be crippled is bad enough, but our evidence shows the figure to be at least six times higher than Scottish Natural Heritage claim.”
“Swap his gun dog for a guide dog”
Responded Scottish Natural Heritage, “Goose management on Islay is carried out in the most humane way possible with the aim of reducing the significant level of agricultural damage caused by grazing geese and maintaining the population of barnacle geese at close to the current level of around 30,000. An independent shooting expert has confirmed that our skilled marksmen are following best practice in carrying out their role.”
Said Robins, after posting video of some of the goose culling, “I think it is time for the Scottish Natural Heritage ‘independent shooting expert’ to swap his gun dog for a guide dog.”
Natural Resources Wales licenses shooting endangered & threatened birds
Joining Robins in his criticism of the Isle of Islay goose massacres was blogger Jason Endfield.
Endfield went on to review the recent records of several other major conservation agencies and nonprofit wildlife protection organizations serving the United Kingdom.
“In the wake of the shocking news that both Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England have been issuing licenses to shoot some of our most treasured birds,” Endfield found, “Natural Resources Wales, the body that claims to ‘maintain and enhance biodiversity, ‘ has been busy issuing its own licenses to kill.
“Figures from a Freedom of Information Act request show that in less than two years, from January 2017 to September 2018, 73 licenses were issued, covering a staggering 2,348 birds of at least 20 species,” Endfield learned.
“Red” & “Amber” lists
Among the targeted birds were linnets, song and mistle thrushes, redwings, lapwings, meadow pipits, and skylarks.
Natural Resources Wales “issued licenses to kill up to 617 herring gulls, 499 lesser black-backed gulls and a staggering 922 starlings,” Endfield observed.
All of these birds are on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds ‘Red’ and ‘Amber’ lists, meaning that they are considered endangered or threatened.
“There will be many, many more birds killed under different licenses which do not appear on this list, for example ravens and pigeons,” Endfield continued.
Foxes, deer, & grey squirrels
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds meanwhile killed or hired private contractors to kill more than 8,000 animals from 2012 through 2017, including 1,760 foxes, 2,008 red deer, 1,734 roe deer, 906 Sika deer, 508 fallow deer, 160 muntjacs, 1,715 crows, and an unrecorded number of rabbits.
Endfield went on to denounce both “new laws about to come into force making it illegal to rescue and release ‘invasive’ species,” and “advice from the British Association for Shooting & Conservation that captured grey squirrels should be ‘emptied into a sack and dispatched through a swift, heavy blow to the head.’”
Grey squirrels are slated for extermination, with the enthusiastic endorsement of Prince Charles, among other luminaries, as a purported threat to the survival of red squirrels.
Persecuting red squirrels opened habitat to the now persecuted grey squirrels
“During the early part of the 20th century,” recalled Endfield, “gamekeepers and others viewed red squirrels as pests and a bounty was offered on their tails. In Scotland alone, between 1903 and 1946, 102,900 red squirrels were slaughtered,” opening the way for grey squirrels, imported from the U.S., to establish themselves.
“Now that memories of this mass killing of red squirrels have disappeared into the murky past,” continued Endfield, “our newly found concern for the survival of the species has come too late, along with a scapegoat, the grey squirrel. Marketing the red as a ‘national treasure’ and the grey as a ‘pest’ merely transfers the label from one innocent species to another,” Endfield suggested, “when all along the real problem, as usual, has been human interference in nature.
“Disregard for compassionate public”
“Whatever the reason for wanting to ‘eradicate’ this now naturalized animal,” Endfield continued, “a delightful creature whom the people of this country have largely taken into their hearts, it is surely nothing to do with ‘protecting our countryside’, ‘preserving our woodlands’ or ‘saving our red squirrels.’
“It has more to do with agencies that have been given the job of protecting our countryside, but seem to have a skewed appreciation of nature and a regrettable lack of human kindness.
“At best their efforts appear erratic and insensitive,” Endfield assessed. “At worst, they show a total disregard for the concerns of the compassionate British public.
“They belong to all of us”
“The least we can do,” Endfield finished, “is to treat any animal who somehow manages to coexist with us with kindness and compassion. If we don’t start treating all of our remaining wildlife with compassion and respect, then we will doubtless lose some of our most iconic species.
“Foxes, crows, rabbits––they are not pests, they are our natural heritage. Native or introduced, they belong to all of us, and we don’t necessarily want their survival decided by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Natural England or anyone else.”
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