Questions remain over the decision by RSPCA Victoria to renounce its activist campaigns, including attacks against the farm sector, while the group retains its seat on the board of its parent organisation RSPCA Australia, according to the Victorian Farmers Federation.
The VFF has called on RSPCA Victoria to commit fully to its pledge to cease campaigning by using its influence to petition RSPCA Australia to follow suit.
“RSPCA Victoria has made a clear commitment to stop campaigning, but unless it washes itself of any connection to activism at both state and national levels, the perception will be that it is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, masking its campaigns behind the activities of a powerful national body,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
“There is a clear conflict of interest when RSPCA Victoria has a memorandum of understanding with the State Government to regulate animal welfare laws for farms while RSPCA Australia is actively campaigning against farming practices.”
The push comes after an upper house inquiry in the Victorian parliament into RSPCA Victoria’s practices found the animal welfare group needed to improve community engagement and transparency around its powers, and should only investigate allegations of cruelty to commercial animals in emergency situations.
RSPCA Victoria CEO Liz Walker said the report’s three recommendations would be followed in full, but Mr Jochinke said stronger action was required for the organisation to gain the trust of farmers.
“Farmers get a lot of pleasure out of producing food and feeding people, but their jobs are complicated when the RSPCA media machine condemns normal animal welfare processes” Mr Jochinke said.
“If RSPCA Victoria wants to end its campaigning and repair relationships with farmers, we need real assurance that this behaviour is going to change at all levels, and that there is no potential for RSPCA Victoria to use RSPCA Australia to attack farm practices.”
Mr Jochinke said the VFF was frustrated the inquiry didn’t explicitly advocate for changes to Victoria’s current animal welfare system.
“The fact that the report doesn’t recommend any pathway to change suggests we are dealing with a perfect system, but that is not what we said in our feedback and it is not representative of farmers’ experience,” he said.