Members of the RSPCA have voted in favor of removing meat and dairy from catering at internal and external functions.
At the organization’s annual general meeting (AGM), 76 percent of its members voted for 100 percent plant-based food at RSPCA-hosted meetings and events.
The RSPCA told Plant Based News (PBN) that there is no guarantee the move towards plant-based will happen, however, as it’s up to the board to decide on whether or not they act on the vote.
“We have publicly called for people to eat less meat and when they do to choose higher welfare options,” a spokesperson said. “We also support the UK Government-commissioned National Food Strategy which sets out a 30 percent reduction in meat consumption. In line with this public stance, our current policy is to provide plant-based and vegetarian options at events along with dairy or meat which meets RSPCA welfare standards.
“This is only at events where catering is required as in most instances staff bring their own food.”
‘A step in the right direction’
Alec Bond, an RSPCA member who seconded the resolution, said in a statement that he was “incredibly happy” to see RSPCA members support it. “The RSPCA ought to be leading the way on bettering the lives of animals in this country, and I hope this impacts how everyone feels about animals in our food system,” he added.
While the vote has been praised by a number of well-known animal and environmental figures, some have also urged the RSPCA to go further. The RSPCA, which stands for Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has previously been criticized for its decision to certify meat and fish products with its “RSPCA Assured” scheme. Vegan activist group Animal Rising, which has helped pass similar plant-based motions at a number of UK universities and councils, described the vote as a “step in the right direction.” The organization added, however, that it’s an “empty gesture” if it continues to give meat and fish products its “seal of approval.”
“As a nation, we pride ourselves on our love for animals,” said Robert Gordon, spokesperson for Animal Rising and former RSPCA Animal Care Assistant. “So how is it that our leading animal charity, the RSPCA, has overseen and supported the mass expansion of animal and fish farms in the UK over their 200-year history? An expansion that has come at the cost of our climate, the countryside, and the well-being of the animals themselves.”
Responding to the RSPCA vote, George Monbiot, an environmentalist and well-known advocate for a plant-based food system, wrote on Twitter: “Well done. About time. Now, when will they stop putting their stamp of approval on livestock farms?”
The problem with ‘RSPCA Assured’
RSPCA Assured is an assurance label that supposedly indicates a meat or fish product has come from a high welfare farm. While there are a number of criteria farms must meet before receiving the label (such as “no cages,” “more living space,” and “humane slaughter”), the label has been criticized, with some groups believing it gives a false impression that a food product is ethical.
Animal Rising previously called on the RSPCA to publicly acknowledge that the current food system “cannot protect or respect animals.” What’s more, a number of investigations have exposed brutal realities of some RSPCA Assured farms.
In March of this year, Animal Equality released footage of conditions at a number of salmon slaughter boats in Scotland. The investigation uncovered a “string of abuses.” Workers were seen throwing salmon, and some were left to suffocate or were thrown into the stun-kill machinery while still conscious. Some of the animals were from RSPCA Assured farms.
In 2021, PETA conducted investigations into three RSPCA Assured “Happy Egg” farms in the UK. The organization found that hens were “miserable, bleeding, decomposing, or dead.” Hens were packed into sheds with thousands of others, and were pecking each other due to the stress of the conditions. The RSPCA suspended its approval at one farm, but later reinstated it after reportedly being satisfied the birds were well cared for.
PETA Vice President of Programmes Elisa Allen told PBN that “it’s hard to talk about cruelty to animals if your mouth is full of their flesh,” adding that it’s “only right” that the RSPCA has voted towards a plant-based transition.
“We hope the absurd RSPCA Assured standard will now be abolished,” she continued. “As investigations into the living and dying conditions of animals raised and confined for food repeatedly show that the only label that truly prevents animals from being tortured is ‘vegan’.”