RSPCA CEO Liz Walker

The RSPCA has been caught out saying one thing on duck hunting – and then saying another, to avoid scrutiny. 

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RSPCA SA wades in on ducks

A RECENT ARTICLE in South Australia covering the RSPCA’s objection to duck hunting, led us to doing some digging around.

Their story, which appears on their website titled “Protected one day, pierced with pellets the next” makes several allegations about the conduct of shooters, including, in their words, “appearing to consumer alcohol whilst shooting”.

It states the RSPCA “is not opposed to killing animals for food” which is not what they seem to actually advocate.

Then we did some digging around…

RSPCA Vic sets the pace

The RSPCA’s position, particularly in Victoria, is easy to find and speaks for itself.

As many of you are aware, the issue of duck hunting in Victoria was the subject of a report by Select Committee on Victoria’s Recreational Native Bird Hunting Arrangements.

In it’s submission, the RPSCA doubled down by making it’s position crystal clear.  Here is part of what they said:

(Click the image for a larger version.)

RSPCA submission statement

If you are unable to read the image, the statement says the RSPCA is “opposed to the hunting of any animal for sport” and says its submission says “why duck hunting should cease permanently”.

RSCPCA CEO, Liz Walker

RSPCA CEO, Liz Walker

DURING the hearings, RSPCA CEO, Liz Walker, told the committee:

“Based on the data that we have presented in our submission to the committee, we believe that there is no way to sufficiently mitigate the negative welfare impact of hunting native birds, and therefore we recommend on this basis that native bird hunting in Victoria be banned.”

The RSPCA’s position could not be any clearer.

In fact it seems to run counter to the RSPCA SA’s claim that the RSPCA “is not opposed to the killing of animals for food”.

Let’s back up a  bit …

Comrie RSPCA review

Neil Comrie AO, APM

In 2016, the RSPCA was the subject of a review conducted by former Victorian Police Commissioner, Neil Comrie.

The report, which was titled “Independent Review of the RSPCA Victoria Inspectorate”  was commissioned by the RSPCA in light of funding pressures it was facing at the time.

The report is of broader community interest – including to the Victorian State Parliament – because the RSPCA’s inspectorate activities are part funded by the taxpayer.

That’s because the RSPCA has statutory functions in relation to animal welfare issues, which places it in a very different position to other registered charities.

As it’s on the public payroll, the RSPCA’s activities aren’t just of interest to its members. It’s of interest to the broader Australian community.

Comrie’s finding

In the section of his report titled Advocacy versus Activism, Comrie noted, and referring to statements in the RSPCA’s Annual Report

[There ] “are a number of emotive and judgmental comments such as, “Sadly the 12 week duck shooting season went ahead in March. We witnessed this brutality first hand……….The horrific footage of the hunters in action…..””

Comrie’s report also said:

“The Review team raised this issue [of activism] with the Board and has recommended that the RSPCA disengage from public activism against the laws of the State but continue to advocate for necessary change through more traditional channels”

Comrie saw the RSPCA was too conflicted to be able to advocate ‘against the laws of the State’ while on the public payroll.

Here is the recommendation from his report:

RSPCA report recommendation 21

RPSCA withdraws “without reservation”

The RSPCA was faced with a political backlash if it chose to ignore Comrie’s finding and dug it’s heels in

 That’s why RSPCA chief executive Liz Walker said the society accepted the recommendation “without reservation”. 

In other words, Walker seemed to accept that it was improper for the RSPCA to advocate against duck hunting.

As noted in this SSAA article, the RSPCA then removed any reference to it from it’s website – but only after the matter was raised in Parliament by former MP, Daniel Young.

Remember, this was the outcome of a report that the RSPCA commissioned.  

It’s the same Liz Walker

The Liz Walker who accepted the recommendation “without reservation” in 2016, is the same Liz Walker who told a parliamentary committee the complete opposite in 2023.

In other words, Walker’s commitment to “without reservation” arguably went out the window as soon as the Comrie saga was over.

They did this while raking in $2.5m per year in licence fees for ‘certifying’ eggs, chicken and pork sold at supermarkets.

The story of Dr Robert Begg

Concerns over the RSPCA’s duplicity go further back in time.

Back in the early 2000s, one of it’s board members was a chap called Dr Robert Begg

Begg’s day job was to manage the Victorian State Government’s flora and fauna programs, which included duck hunting.

In other words, Begg was entrusted with a politically sensitive policy area, while also a director the RSPCA that held firm views on that area.

It was more than a problem: it was, in our opinion, a clear conflict-of-interest.

PR podcast image

AS A RESULT, in 2004, the Combined Firearms Council of Victoria, through yours truly, submitted a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman about this (alleged) conflict-of-interest.

While the government rejected the claim, Begg resigned from the RSPCA.

The then chair of the CFCV, Bill Paterson, told The Age that while the conflict had been resolved, it was only “a victory of sorts”

That’s because Begg kept his day job – even though his views were arguably anything but impartial.

Those events may now seem to be ‘water under the bridge’, but it shows that the RSPCA is, in our opinion, far from being above board when it comes to dealing with duck hunting.

PLUS, let’s not forget the RSPCA is on the public payroll – and continues to enjoy it’s charity status while clearly lobbying “against the existing laws of this State”.

Ombudsman again ….

There’s no doubt RSPCA has acted against it’s earlier commitment to remain impartial. 

That’s why Politics Reloaded has written to the Victorian Ombudsman to see what can be done here.

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