The UK RSPCA headquarters is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.
The UK RSPCA HQ is on the move again. The Society has been like a hermit crab in the past by discarding its shell every few decades when it got too big for it. But this time it is different. They are downsizing.
Their first headquarters which opened in 1869 was a magnificent five storey colonnade Victorian building at 105 Jermyn Street in the centre of London just metres from Piccadilly Circus & Trafalgar Square. I remember the building well when I worked for the RSPCA in London. It was a maze of offices, corridors and staircases with a creaky old lift and a musty atmosphere, but it was a friendly and cosy place.
The Society escapes to the countryside.
Having served as its base for 103 years the Society decided in 1973 to escape to the countryside and set up home in another grand old building in The Causeway, Horsham West Sussex, much to the regret of the staff and public at the time. This was especially so in regard to their well-known and invaluable night emergency service which had come to the rescue of thousands of trapped and injured animals throughout Greater London and given emergency treatment to the public’s pets for forty years. The building was sadly demolished after the sale.
There was also a backlash by certain sections of the public over the perceived cost and waste of money of their move. But in fairness the original one had passed its sell by date as a workable office.
On the move again to a £16m building.
Fast forward two decades and the Society was on the move again. This time to a lavish 72,000 square foot purpose-built building in Southwater, not far from Horsham. Costing £16 million pounds it again attracted adverse publicity for the Society over the perceived wastage of money that some thought better spent on helping animals. Personally, when I first visited it seemed a little over the top with its huge open plan space and indoor gardens and waterfall. It was more like an airport terminal or TV studio.
And now two decades later the Society is on the move again. This time it is slightly different in that they are apparently downsizing. They are moving to smaller cheaper offices nearby. The Society admits they have not been using their present facilities to the full for a while and because of the Covid hiatus the staff want to follow the trend of working from home.
It does beg the question why such a costly big palace of a building was required in the first place, but hindsight is an intangible thing. Will this be the final move? Time will tell. One good thing to come out it will be the release of funds for more ‘activity’ to help more animals as they expect to raise millions from the sale. So, there should be no outcry this time.
Returning to its roots.
Part of the relocation and reorganisation is its partial return to its roots in London. Offices are being leased from another charity in November 2021 to provide a “Hub” which will act as a drop-in for staff to work and have discussions probably over many cups of coffee. This should be a truly touching case of history repeating itself as the RSPCA was founded in 1824 in a London Coffee House in St. Martin’s Lane with its founders dropping in to discuss its future.
Why not find out more about the old RSPCA headquarters and its emergency service in this book:
Why do we lash out at those trying to help animals?
Proactive animal charities which concentrate on abject cruelty issues are increasingly coming under attack by organisations and groups who wish to maintain the status quo in regard to using and abusing animals. The charities that are targeted tend to be those and whose aims and actions become a nuisance and interfere with people’s pastimes, sports and hobbies.
Proactive charities spend large sums politicking, prosecuting cruelty, crusading, campaigning and educating and on some occasions taking direct action. By doing this they bizarrely attract excessive criticism and condemnation. Detractors criticise them for spending too much money on these activities rather than rescuing individual dogs and cats even though they often manage to achieve long-term improvements which benefit large numbers of animals.
Those on the front line of these attacks are the UK’s RSPCAand most other SPCA’s around the world and organisations such as Humane Societies of the United States (HSUS)and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).All of these come under fire from those factions who feel their livelihoods and pastimes are under threat by all their campaigning. It is rare to ever hear a bad word said about charities such as the Dogs Trust, PDSA or Blue Cross because we seem to have a confused concept of what animal welfare entails and where money is better spent.
Should it be spent prosecuting animal cruelty and tackling such issues as hunting, the fur trade, intensive farming methods and curtailing unnecessary vivisection or spent subsidising irresponsible pet owners and providing expensive state of the art facilities to house homeless animals.
Anything goes in making them the bad guys.
The RSPCAis continually lambasted for a perceived over-stepping of their remit of “preventing cruelty by all lawful means, promoting kindness and alleviating the suffering of all animals” with biased investigative documentaries, spurious news reports and hate websites. Hate websites exist for most SPCA’s around the world containing some extreme content and profane remarks. Go onto any search engine and type “hate RSPCA” and you will discover pages of sites decrying them for something or other mostly by misinformed people, but even the legal profession is not averse to stoking up the paranoia.
Some UK lawyers appear on a crusade to curtail animal cruelty prosecutions in the UK. Some lawyers advertise themselves as specialist defence lawyers against the RSPCA and arguably publish a lot of misinformation to muddy the waters. At least one firm posts quite extreme and lurid viewpoints about the charity on their website. One goes as far as to show an RSPCA sign dripping with blood stating the charity has ‘increasingly taken over the investigation and prosecution’ of animal cruelty in the UK and accuses their inspectors of being “sheep in wolves clothing“ by dressing in police style uniforms to dupe the public.
They also cite the RSPCA of slaughtering 1000 healthy dogs and cats annually and state that ‘there are few prosecutions that cause more anxiety and trauma than RSPCA prosecutions’.
Critics of Humane Societies of the United States(HSUS) have set up a watchdog site called ‘Humane Watch’ specifically to censure them on the basis that they spend most of their money campaigning ‘on the hill’ (US Congress) at the expense of local animal shelters, killing hundreds of animals unnecessarily and of misleading the public and donors into thinking they are a welfare organisation. Most of their rhetoric is unbelievably spurious and ridiculous but unfortunately many people fall for it. How animal lovers can be against organisations whose wish is to cut the number of animals kept in cages by stopping them from becoming unwanted, abandoned, cruelly treated or sick in the first place is difficult to understand.
HSUS recently fell foul of the powerful US gun lobby: the National Shooting, Sports, and Fishing organisation (NSSF) for trying to get the US Government to ban hunting on one-fifth of the total land area of the USA, which drew the perplexing response from the NSSF that they would expose HSUS as ‘the anti-hunting, radical animal rights organisation it is’.
Better to give money to “woolly charities?”
Using the term “animal rights” is a clever tool because it gives the impression that an organisation is in some way anti-society or violent and conjures up pictures of hooded people turning up in the middle of the night with bombs and making abusive telephone calls and death threats. By accusing them of being “animal rightist” they hope to persuade donors not to fund them, and they actively promote giving money to what some have described as ‘woolly’ charities which are viewed less threatening to their interests and who avoid any confrontation by solely finding homes for “fluffy animals“.
Statements made by critics that money is better used directly on ‘animal welfare’ by harmless rescue centres and not to pro-active animal charities highlights our increasing misconception that welfare is just about rescuing and finding homes for unwanted animals. Most of the rhetoric is aimed at making out that the aims of animal rights are far less meaningful than those of animal welfare.
The self-proclaimed world’s largest animal rights organisation PETAis probably the most maligned organisation on the planet and attracts criticism from all quarters including vegans and animal lovers. They are accused of hating animals and “furthering their own political interests“. A lot of this revolves around the impression that they want to ban pet owning, destroy most companion animals and stop us from having any fun with them, which is mostly taken somewhat out of context. Most of the good work they do on other issues is mostly overlooked such is our fixation with companion animals.
It is evident that as a society we are extremely split and misinformed when it involves the “rescuing” and “saving” of animals and we have great difficulty deciding how best to accomplish the best for all animals. It is unfortunate that we feel we have to lash out at those who do so much work to help them which only aids those that want to continue abusing animals.