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‘Indefensible’ footage from RSPCA Assured farms leads to calls for scheme to be scrapped

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

An image taken at an RSPCA Assured farm. Credit: Animal Rising
An image taken at an RSPCA Assured farm. Credit: Animal Rising
A new investigation into RSPCA Assured farms has revealed scenes of dying animals and unclean conditions.

Activist group Animal Rising released footage taken at 45 RSPCA Assured farms which showed baby chickens dying in factory farms and pigs left dead for days in dirty sheds.

The group has also released a report called 'RSPCA Assured: Covering up cruelty on an industrial scale', which details all the findings of the investigation.

According to the scheme’s website, all RSPCA Assured farms “must comply with the RSPCA’s stringent higher welfare standards”.

The scheme has been widely criticised since the publication of the footage, including by RSPCA president Chris Packham who told The Times that what had taken place on certified farms was “indefensible”.

"I found [the footage] extraordinarily difficult to watch,” ​he said after being sent footage recorded by Animal Rising.

“I felt sick, frankly. Animal suffering is animal suffering no matter where it is, but when it's happening in your own backyard – when we should be in a position to guard against it ​ it hurts more."

'Drop the RSPCA Assured scheme'

In response to the findings, former RSPCA vice-president Peter Egan said the entire scheme had been called into question.

“The RSPCA has been failing animals across the UK,”​ continued Egan.

“In the past, I worked extensively with the charity because I believed – and still do believe – that the RSPCA must lead the way in protecting animals. I now see that cannot happen without dropping the RSPCA Assured scheme entirely.”

Animal Rising co-director Rose Patterson also called for the scheme to be scrapped: “This investigation has blown the lid off the RSPCA’s dirty secret; it is happy to rubber stamp cruelty on factory farms and industrial animal abuse. I’ve personally spent months investigating and cataloguing a litany of suffering across farms that the public is told to trust. Some of the scenes we’ve seen in the sheds endorsed by the RSPCA are beyond barbaric.

“The world’s oldest and most respected animal charity has clearly lost its way. The work they do for cats, dogs, and other animals is evidently not making its way to others like chickens and pigs. As the charity nears its 200th birthday it has a choice to make; will it step up, protect animals, and drop the Assured Scheme?”

To further promote the campaign, Animal Rising activists plastered posters on top of a painting of King Charles at the Philip Mould gallery in London. One was an image of Wallace from TV show Wallace and Gromit, while the other read: “No cheese, Gromit. Look at all this cruelty on RSPCA farms.”

'Investigation launched'

In response to the Animal Rising findings, a spokesperson for RSPCA said that an independent review of the scheme in 2021 found that it was making a "positive and significant impact on improving the lives of 136 million animals a year in the UK".

The spokesperson continued: "However, any concerns about welfare on RSPCA Assured farms are taken extremely seriously and RSPCA Assured is acting swiftly to look into these allegations. After receiving the footage on Saturday, RSPCA Assured has launched an immediate, urgent investigation. We have only just received the report but if there is any suggestion of systemic issues, we will carry out a review to ensure the integrity of the scheme."

During the annual assessment last carried out in 2023, 89% of the 3,842 farms assessed were "successfully meeting all of the RSPCA welfare standards or had less than five standards breaches, which can be something as small as incorrect paperwork or a broken fence".

"The majority of these breaches were resolved within 28 days of being raised. Twenty-three RSPCA Assured members had breaches significant enough to warrant suspension or withdrawal from the scheme, which accounts for less than 1% of the members of the scheme."

In other news, Morrisons has recalled packs of cooked chicken slices because they may contain small pieces of metal.

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