"We permit both the use of gas and maceration for the killing of day old chicks. Done correctly, both methods can offer an effective and humane kill and our welfare standards set strict parameters stating how both of these methods must be carried out to ensure this is the case." — RSPCA (England & Wales) (@RSPCA_official) May 7, 2018
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is an animal welfare charity that operates in England and Wales. Funded mainly by donations, it was founded in 1824 and is the oldest, and the largest, animal welfare organisation in the world.
The RSPCA's work has inspired the creation of similar groups, starting with the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (founded in 1836), and including the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1839).
The RSPCA is a registered charity (no. 219099) and states that its mission as a charity is, by all lawful means, to prevent cruelty, promote kindness and to alleviate the suffering of animals. The RSPCA is not a protest movement and work with police to protect animals.
The RSPCA also work to improve the lives of farmed animals, this includes them having a certain amount of input into the processes that animals have to go through, such as slaughter.
On May 7th 2018 the RSPCA tweeted:
"We permit both the use of gas and maceration for the killing of day old chicks. Done correctly, both methods can offer an effective and humane kill and our welfare standards set strict parameters stating how both of these methods must be carried out to ensure this is the case."
I had also seen RSPCA stickers on packs of meat, endorsing the methods used to produce the meat product. This didn't make any sense to me. How can you be wholly against animal cruelty but permit the maceration of one day old chicks? The electrocution of chickens killed for meat? The overcrowding, poor ventilation, lack of daylight and the absence of any positive stimulation that the animals suffer?
In an attempt to get an answer I sent them an email asking them to explain such a two-faced stance. Their response is below:
Almost a thousand million animals are reared for food in the UK each year, plus many millions of salmon and trout. As an animal welfare charity, the RSPCA is duty-bound to help improve their welfare - which is why it set up the RSPCA Assured scheme more than 25 years ago. The majority of people choose to consume meat, or other products from animals, and are likely to continue to do so - and therefore animals will continue to be farmed. From the outset, the RSPCA had a choice - either sit on the sidelines and do nothing to help the almost one thousand million animals farmed for food in the UK each year - or work with the farming industry to help improve the lives of all those animals. The RSPCA chose the latter and thanks to that choice, nearly one thousand million terrestrial farm animals and many millions of salmon and trout have had a better life thanks to RSPCA Assured. We are not encouraging people to eat meat but we are encouraging people who choose to eat meat, dairy, eggs or fish products to choose products that have come from an animal that has had a better life farmed to RSPCA welfare standards. These detailed documents cover every aspect of the animals’ lives, including feed and water, the environment they live in, how they’re managed, health care, transport and humane slaughter. The standards are designed to ensure animals have everything they need for a better quality of life, whether they’re kept on large or small farms, or in indoor or outdoor production systems. You can find out more about the standards and the difference they make to millions of farm animals here. Animal welfare charities in other countries have also set up similar farm assurance schemes - for example, RSPCA Australia has its ‘RSPCA Approved Farming’ food label and New Zealand SPCA has a blue tick food label. Finally, we have our 'eat less, eat better' campaign to help people cut back on meat, dairy, eggs and fish, and choose higher welfare options. You can find out all about our campaign here. Whilst you may not agree with the farming of animals we hope this helps explain what we are trying to achieve with the RSPCA Assured scheme.
Their response made it all make sense. I don't like it, farming, certainly the practices that are in operation today, are cruel and unnecessary. But, the RSPCA can't stop this, all they can do is try to minimise the suffering that the animals go through. Maceration is an example, is it right? No, but it is a lot faster than other methods that could be used to kill male chicks. The RSPCA's mission statement includes this:
"Over a billion farm animals are reared every year in the UK, as well as many millions of fish. It's a huge challenge to try to improve the welfare of such a large number of animals, but we're working hard to try to do so at every stage of their lives."
I can't argue that this isn't happening, that they're not trying to improve welfare standards. But, is not the responsibility of the RSPCA to tell people what to eat. For those who do eat meat, eggs, dairy, fish or other animal products, an RSPCA sticker may make them feel better about their choices. It's like the end of a film "no animals were harmed", only that's not true, not even slightly.