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Open Letter from Surge to the RSPCA

This open letter is a response to the statement published regarding our filmLand of Hope and Glory.

The film showcases 100 UK slaughterhouse and farm facilities and it is important to emphasise that the movie mostly depicts practices and routines that are legal and considered acceptable, even by the RSPCA. These include, but are not limited to;

– The gassing alive of pigs using carbon dioxide

– The intensive indoor farming of broiler chickens and other birds raised for meat

– The maceration and gassing of male chicks as soon as they are born

– The repeated and forced insemination of dairy cows and other livestock animals, including pigs

– The separation of calves from their mothers

– The production of veal.

The RSPCA wrote in its statement: “We always ask anyone concerned about the welfare of any animal to contact the RSPCA immediately so swift and appropriate action can be taken.” 

However, on June 22 the RSPCA was contacted immediately after activists found overheated and dying ducks being transported to slaughter and some of this footage can be seen in the film. 

It was witnessed that crates full of ducks were being thrown around and even stood on. However the RSPCA did nothing upon being notified of this. 

We would like to remind the RSPCA that its official title is the ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’, not Reduction of Cruelty to Animals. As such, permitting and allowing acts of cruelty to animals in farms is in breach of its own ethos and goes against its own foundations. 

Furthermore, advocating that cruelty to animals raised for their meat can be avoided by welfare regulations is the same as saying that cruelty to dogs involved in dog fighting can be avoided by better welfare regulations. 

The issue is not the conditions, the amount of space the animals are allowed or the device that is used to kill them, the issue is the entire system itself. A system that involves the unnecessary death or exploitation of an animal can never be without cruelty. It is an alarming and damning indictment of the RPSCA that it must be reminded of this.

Expanding on this point, the RSPCA said in a statement about bullfighting: “Tens of thousands of animals are suffering in the name of so-called ‘entertainment’. Bullfighting should be brought to an end immediately…” 

Surely it would be more in keeping with the philosophy of the RSPCA if it instead demanded that the bulls were raised in better conditions and killed more humanely? Perhaps instead of a sword the matador could attempt to weaken the bull with a captive bolt pistol before then stabbing him?

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals in the US, has categorically stated that a vegan diet is healthy and adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy. Therefore, raising and killing animals is completely unnecessary and is evidently done for enjoyment and sensory pleasure alone. 

In that respect, there is no difference between bullfighting and eating animal products – both cause harm to animals, both are completely unnecessary and both are done for nothing other than enjoyment.

The RSPCA believes that animals raised for food are slaughtered humanely in slaughterhouses. We therefore ask the RSPCA why it doesn’t take dogs and cats that need to be euthanised to slaughterhouses, as by their own standards this would be the most compassionate way of killing them? 

The fact that the RSPCA doesn’t stun dogs and cats with a captive bolt pistol or electrical stunning to the head, and that it doesn’t euthanise animals with a knife across their throat or in a gas chamber, very succinctly proves that the RSPCA’s standards for the slaughter of farm animals is not even humane by its own admission.

We would also like to remind the RSPCA that the word ‘humane’ means having or showing compassion or benevolence. How does one kill an animal that doesn’t want to die for an unnecessary reason in a compassionate or benevolent way?

If the RSPCA is so proud of its welfare standards and believes that its regulations provide farm animals with a happy life and death, then we ask the charity to release a list of the all the RSPCA Assured Farms in the UK. 

Failing to do this would not only show that the RSPCA has something to hide but also that it’s not as proud of its standards as it claims to be. 

The RSPCA states that its ‘vision is for all farm animals to have a good life and be treated with compassion and respect’. 

On this point, we all agree. 

However, it is intellectually dishonest and offensive to pretend that commodifying and exploiting the bodies of animals, taking away their children and ultimately taking their life can ever be done with anything close to compassion and respect. 

The only way a ‘farm’ animal is able to live a happy life is if they are shown genuine love and compassion and are valued as individuals with a worth of life equal to that of dogs, cats and indeed us humans as well. 


Ed Winters

Ed Winters (Earthling Ed) is a vegan educator, public speaker and content creator based in London, England. Winters is the co-founder and co-director of Surge, an animal rights organisation determined to create a world where compassion towards all non-human animals is the norm. In 2016 Surge founded The Official Animal Rights March which succeeded in a growth from 2,500 participants in London in 2016 to 41,000 participants across the world in 2019. Winters has spoken at over 1/3 of UK universities and at 6 Ivy league colleges, including as a guest lecturer at Harvard University in April 2019....