Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Freedom Food Egg Saga continues

Alice Clark, senior farm animal scientist with the RSPCA, said she was working with the egg industry to gather the evidence necessary for the RSPCA to be able to support the change. She said the RSPCA had asked scientists at Bristol University to look into the issue, but Tom Vesey said, "We don’t have that much time. The suspicion is that the RSPCA is prevaricating. I get the feeling the RSPCA finds it best to say nothing. It says it is looking for evidence, but that is like proving a negative. This could drag on for 12 months or more and there could well be a shortage of eggs. The shortage could be filled with imports, many of them of questionable welfare standard. That would do nothing for animal welfare."

Alice Clark told the Ranger that she was just as keen as the egg industry to press on with an evaluation of the potential impact on welfare. "It’s not something that we have closed the door on; we are keen to look at it," said Alice. She said the evidence about the potential effect on animal welfare did not exist at the moment, but she had been holding meetings on possible trials.

She said the RSPCA was asking scientists at Bristol University to look into the issue as part of an existing study under way at the university. The study was set up to look into range enhancement. Scientists are one year into a three-year project. "Bristol are very keen to do that, so that should be under way."

Read it all...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why isn't RSPCA Week a success?

RSPCA week does raise significant amounts of money for animal welfare, but why isn't it more successful than it is?

Every year we appeal for volunteers to help collect, but very few actually come forward. As a comparision: over four thousand calls were made to the rehoming line, set up when the St Bernards became available for adoption, within the space of a few days.

I think there are several, interconnected reasons for the difference:
  • The St Bernards appeal offered a single, heart-tugging story. "Bread and butter" collections to support routine animal welfare work don't have the same immediacy.
  • People may genuinely believe that the RSPCA doesn't really have a pressing need to generate funds. I've even had kindly-meant offers of help to take donated sales goods to the Sue Ryder shop to get rid of it so that it doesn't take up storage space.
  • Most branch committees are run by very few, over-worked individuals. This means the people organising RSPCA week are generally also trying to do other things. Volunteer collectors may get the impression that things are disorganised and badly-run, and they may feel unappreciated if they don't get their collection results back quickly after they've returned their boxes.
  • Most collectors expect to be putting in a few hours as part of a well-organised rota of hundreds of individuals. There seems to be a vicious circle whereby the volunteer who finds she is the only person collecting at a particular store decides the organisers can't have put in very much effort to recruit collectors and that she probably won't bother next year.
  • People who are already very involved in caring for animals are often quite dissatisfied with the RSPCA — sometimes because they feel RSPCA campaigns aren't radical enough; sometimes because they think our campaigns go too far, and sometimes because they have unrealistic expectations of what is physically possible for us to do in terms of practical animal welfare. This means our potential volunteers and helpers are probably drawn mainly from a population which is initially less committed (people who might collect for an hour, but wouldn't expect to be asked to put in a whole day, for example).