April 22: RSPCA must focus resources

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THE latest animal cruelty figures could not be more disturbing on a number of fronts. Not only does Yorkshire appear to have the highest concentration of incidents outside of London, but the significant increase in neglect cases reported to the RSPCA in the past year does not correspond with a comparable rise in the number of successful prosecutions.

This disparity cannot be overlooked by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which has used today’s annual report to reveal some truly heartbreaking stories of abuse meted out by a number of inhumane individuals who clearly have no compunction of Britain’s supposed reputation as a nation of animal lovers.

Yet, while the increase in the RSPCA’s workload can be attributed, in part, to growing public awareness about the need to alert the authorities when they spot a distressed animal or pet in an emancipated condition, it is clear that the charity needs to do far more to bring the perpetrators of such misery to justice.

Unless it signifies a “zero tolerance” approach, and goes out of its way to persuade the courts to ban the worst offenders from owning animals for life, such horrific incidents are likely to recur.

However this will not happen if the RSPCA spends a disproportionate amount of time and money working as a political lobby organisation – it has incurred six-figure costs in the prosecution of hunts for relatively inconsequential breaches of the controversial legislation passed into law by Parliament just over 10 years ago and its former chief executive, Gavin Grant, wanted to name and shame those farmers who supported the Government’s badger cull. Those who support the RSPCA do so because they want the perpetrators of appalling animal abuse 
to be prosecuted, and this must remain the primary purpose of the charity’s work.

A Major challenge

Tories must accentuate positives

SELDOM given the credit he deserves as a Prime Minister who guided Britain through the turbulent early 1990s at a time when his party was tearing itself apart over Europe, Sir John Major is an astute politician whose opinion carries considerable weight.

Certainly it is to be hoped that his warning of the potential for long-term damage of a minority Labour government propped up by the Scottish Nationalists is heeded by voters who are still undecided as to which party to back on May 7.

Regardless of what Ed Miliband might say, Labour would surely be only too willing to enter some form of pact with the SNP if it delivered the keys to Downing Street – effectively holding Britain hostage to rabid Scottish nationalism.

However, as well-intended as Sir John’s intervention undoubtedly was, it meant that yet another day of the Tory party’s campaign was dominated by negative electioneering.

There are any number of compelling reasons to vote Conservative that could be used to woo undecided voters. Yet instead the Tory party continues to dwell on reasons not to support rival parties. This will do little to mobilise people to go out and vote, obscuring as it does the clear case for trusting David Cameron to continue leading Britain’s recovery.

Speaking in Leeds, Mr Cameron was right to categorically rule out asking Conservative supporters to vote Liberal Democrat in order to neutralise the threat posed by the SNP, but it is now time for his party – while it still has a chance to do so – to accentuate the positives of five more years of a Tory-led return to economic prosperity.

Another fact of life

Growing toll of dementia cases

AS with cancer, it is coming to the point in time when everyone will know a relative or close acquaintance whose final years have been blighted by dementia or a related illness. Within a decade, the number of sufferers is likely to reach

the one million milestone, hence the need for far greater understanding across society about the importance of inter-acting with such people in an engaging and empathetic manner.

Not only should there be an onus on training as many people as possible to become Dementia Friends so they can provide support to loved ones and so on, but it is imperative that community schemes for sufferers continue to receive appropriate levels of financial support.

As well as being of critical importance to those helpless people suffering the indignity of memory loss and so on, they are invaluable to those relatives struggling to come to terms with a loved one being unable to remember simple things like a name, birthday or anniversary.