RSPCA not an '˜animal rights organisation', says new chief

Years of misguided prosecutions, politicised campaigns and adversarial leadership at the RSPCA were a mistake, its new head has admitted.

The RSPCA is to soften its stance on foxhunting and the badger cull. Its new chief wants to "make friends and influence people".

Jeremy Cooper said his arrival heralds a new direction for the charity that will in future try to “make friends and influence people” and depart from the fiery rhetoric deployed in the past.

He said the backlash over the way the RSPCA had pursued its aims “hurts” as it detracted from the “fantastic” work of the charity’s 1,600 employees and volunteers.

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Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the incoming chief executive said he wanted to see the number of prosecutions brought by the charity reduced and virtually eliminated for fox hunting.

The RSPCA infamously prosecuted the Heythrop, Prime Minister David Cameron’s local hunt, with success coming after huge sums were spent. The charity also attracted negative publicity for its failed prosecution of a family for alleged cruelty to its cat.

“We have made mistakes,” Mr Cooper told the newspaper.

“We have to be honest about that. We have to admit that and acknowledge that. The important thing when you make mistakes is what you do about it.”

The dog owner, who will reportedly be paid £150,000 in the new role, said the RSPCA will move away from partisan tub thumping on big issues, such as the badger cull, which was seen to alienate farmers.

“We are going to be a lot less political. It doesn’t mean we won’t stand up for animals. But we are not a political organisation,” he said.

The charity’s next big campaign will be on tackling the illegal puppy trade, which Mr Cooper said was a “real problem”.

“People may have had the perception we were becoming an animal rights organisation. It is not the reality now and it won’t be in the future,” he said.

The former RAF corporal with a background in the supermarket trade took up the permanent post after it had laid vacant for nearly two years.

He said: “My style of advocacy is encouragement and dialogue. The (previous) leadership was too adversarial. If you want to shout and use rhetoric that’s fine, but it isn’t helpful to anybody. It is not going to “make friends and influence people”. People won’t like you for it.”