[Warning: details of animal slaughter, fairly graphic video, and lots of speciesist language].
The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is getting a right old battering at the moment due to an Earthling Ed/Surge graphic cartoon [see below] about the killing of calves who are found alive when their mothers are cut open in slaughterhouses.
The RSPCA produce a series of guides on how to violate the rights of other animals (they are not an abolitionist or vegan organisation - never have been, never pretended to be).
For example, for "dairy cattle": https://science.rspca.org.uk/documents/1494935/9042554/RSPCA+welfare+standards+for+dairy+cattle+%28PDF+7.76MB%29.pdf/41638530-20de-c6cc-5e9c-7b73f9c8f4b7?t=1557731468543
In the "Slaughtering/Killing" section of the report (pp. 47-55), there is a page on the "Slaughter of pregnant cattle."
S 9.0 * Abattoirs must have a written protocol in place for dealing with animals in late gestation, and this must be made available to the RSPCA Assured Assessor or RSPCA Farm Livestock Officer.
S 9.1 * There must be a named person such as the AWO [Animal Welfare Officer] who is responsible for ensuring that the animals are treated according to the requirements laid down in the standards.
S 9.2 * Cows in the last third of their gestation period (i.e. ≥27 weeks pregnant) must not be sent for slaughter, except for disease control of emergency/casualty slaughter purposes.
S 9.3 * Producers sending pregnant animals to slaughter (see standard S 9.2) must inform the slaughterhouse of the impending arrival of any animals that may be, or suspected to be, in the last third of gestation.
S 9.4 * Any foetus in the last third of gestation (i.e. the dam is ≥27 weeks pregnant), or suspected of being in the last third of gestation, must not be removed from the maternal carcass until at least 5 minutes after maternal sticking, but preferably between 20-30 minutes after the dam is dead in order to ensure that the foetus does not gasp and start to breathe air.
S 9.5 * If, for any reason, a foetus is found to be showing signs of life upon removal from the uterus (i.e. a foetus that has gasped and is now conscious), it must be immediately killed with an appropriate captive bolt or by a blow to the head with a suitable blunt instrument.
S 9.6 * Attempts at reviving the foetus must not occur under any circumstances.
It is S 9.5 that Earthling Ed's recent cartoon highlighted. The RSPCA responded on Twitter with information from S 9.2 - that cows in late pregnancy should not be sent to slaughter (presumably, they are supposed to stay on the farm, give birth, have their child killed, or otherwise "dealt with," and *then" be sent to slaughter.) There are a few reasons why a pregnant cow would arrive at a slaughterhouse, stated in clause S 9.2 which explains why clause S 9.5 exists, but they are not supposed to the there in the first place.
However (surprise!), not all farmers and not all slaughterhouses follow welfare rules, so the chances are that considerably more cows in late pregnancy are arriving at houses of slaughter than the guidelines allow for. Due to this rule breaking, it may be argued that S 9.5 is "needed" more than ever, from an animal welfare point of view. I was told by a worker at an Irish slaughterhouse that farmers are supposed to starve cows 24 hours prior to arriving at the kill factory. However, because the farmers cannot be trusted to follow the rules, the cows are kept at the slaughterhouse for 24 hours and then killed. This results, of course, in the case in which the farmers actually abide by the regulations, that the other animals they bring are not fed for two days before they are killed.
The Reaction of Vegans to the Video.
The comments that poured in from vegans on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram were remarkable and, sadly, often ignorant. The chief problem seemed to be that many commentators did not know what the RSPCA is as an organisation, and that seems to be a product of a general ignorance of the difference between animal welfare and animal rights/liberation.
People responded to the video by saying that they were cancelling their subscriptions to the RSPCA, and responses were full of dismay from existing donors to the organisation who apparently thought the RSPCA "stands for veganism," and other such gross misunderstandings. Many people believed that "Prevention of Cruelty to Animals" simply implies a vegan stance.
It is worth noting again that the RSPCA is not an abolitionist or vegan organisation - never have been, never pretends to be. In other words, the organisation is not opposed to the USE of other animals, they just believe that the elimination or reduction in animal suffering while they are being used for human purposes is desirable. It begs the question as to how these vegan commentators were convinced to financially support the RSPCA in the first place.
Bottom line: it is not the RSPCA's fault that many vegans apparently have no idea what the organisation stands for, and who base their outrage on the simple basis that the "C" in RSPCA stands for the word "cruelty."
In Earthling Ed's (Ed Winter) recent book, This is Vegan Propaganda, he writes (wrongly in my view) that the RSPCA is a paradoxical organisation ("The Paradox of the RSPCA," pp. 51-56). He acknowledges that the RSPCA is "arguably the largest animal welfare organisation in the world." He complains that the actions of the RSPCA have allowed "cruel practices" to be inflicted upon other animals while, at the same time, allowing the consumers of animal bodies and their secretions to feel better about their consumption. This is essentially the same point Peter Singer made in 1975 in his book, Animal Liberation. Earthling Ed asserts that the RSPCA should be like the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and seek to "end cruelty," as opposed to normalising it. Would the NSPCC work alongside those who abuse children, he asks.
However, we live in a culture that is deeply speciesist. The NSPCC are not expected to regulate how millions of children are deliberately bred to be eaten, fattened, transported, and finally sent through slaughterhouses (unless that's how one sees children's homes, of course). Ah, rights! The NSPCC no doubt see human children as rights holders who should not have their fundamental rights violated. However, it is the RSPCA's job to oversee the violation of other animals' fundamental rights. This is why they write guide after guide about how different species of other animals' rights should be violated. The RSPCA will argue that they do work to "end cruelty" and their guidelines are means to this end. But, within the ideology of animal welfarism, ending animal cruelty and ending animal use is not seen as the same thing.
Comparing the RSPCA to the NSPCC is faulty, therefore. These are not like cases - significantly, perhaps, the main thing these two organisation have in common is the word "cruelty" is in their names.
So, what is going on?
Messing with the Definition of Veganism.
The current official definition of veganism was set in place by The Vegan Society between 1979 and 1988 (not 1944 as many vegans claim). In my view, this definition is weaker than earlier statements about veganism from the people who began the vegan social movement. For example, in 1945, Donald Watson made this solid statement: veganism is the opposition to the exploitation of sentient life. Leslie Cross said that veganism was about ending animal use and "was not so much welfare as liberation." Eva Batt argued that veganism is "a way of living which avoids exploitation."
What's the difference between modern-day vegans and the earlier pioneers? It seems to me that, although the people who began the vegan social movement certainly spoke about "animal cruelty" among other things (for example, in the 1940s, Fay Henderson declared that "dairy and stock farming" is "unnecessary, extravagant and cruel"), this language is now the chief - the absolute dominant - claims-making of those relatively recent to the movement. What modern-day vegans have done with the vegan definition is interesting too. The 1979-88 definition reads
"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
I owe a debt to Jeremy Hess at this point. When we worked together in the last couple of years on The Animal Rights Show, Jeremy noticed that vegan activists in particular were using, and promoting, an edited version of this definition. They - and incredibly The Vegan Society itself - had cut out what for me are significant parts of the definition, thus further weakening it. The word "philosophy" was cropped, unforgivably, as was much of the end section of the definition.
all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals - on this section of the definition, note that the word "exploitation" comes before the word "cruelty." I believe that, in the minds and talk of many modern-day vegans, those words have been reversed and then "exploitation" became largely neglected.
This left the definition of veganism, in the minds of many, being something like: Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude - as far as possible and practicable - all forms cruelty to animals.
I've noticed on the recently-used platforms such as TikTok that "animal cruelty" claims are absolutely dominant in the claims-making of vegan activists. This word is virtually the only word used to describe human relations with other animals.
I believe this is one of the major reasons why many vegans equate being anti-animal cruelty with being vegan, and may be why they would mistake a traditional animal welfare organisation like the RSPCA as a vegan group.