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RSPCA may lose royal patronage over countryside sports stance

The charity could lose royal support if it doesn’t return to its roots

The RSPCA could lose its royal patronage when Prince Charles becomes King, over concerns it is becoming too involved in the campaign against countryside sports.

The Queen is currently the Patron of the animal welfare charity however, according to reports, the Prince of Wales has privately raised “concerns” and disagrees with some of the organisation’s key policies. It has led to speculation that Charles would decline to support the charity when he becomes the monarch.

It would leave the RSPCA without royal patronage since Queen Victoria granted it in 1837 or a more junior member of the Royal Family would take on the role.

According to the reports, the Prince has been watching the charity’s activities closely with one source saying: “He wants it to be an effective animal welfare organisation but it has become something else.”

Prince Charles, who is actively involved in supporting farmers and environmental causes, has found himself against many of the charity’s messages. The RSCPA has previously campaigned against badger culling the UK, something the heir to the throne supports. He is understood to have been at loggerheads with the charity’s former CEO, Gavin Grant who said “Those who care will not want to visit areas or buy milk from farms soaked in badgers’ blood.”

In 2013, the Prince found issue with the prosecution of Heythrop Hunt members. The RSPCA was criticised by a judge over its prosecution costs, revealed to have been £326,000. The case against members of David Cameron’s local hunt saw some of the costs associated with bringing in external legal teams, despite the charity having its own in-house lawyers.

The Countryside Alliance, a group that promotes the interests of rural people, campaigns for country sports including hunting and shooting, both of which Prince Charles has long been a supporter. The Alliance’s chief executive, Tim Bonner, told the Sunday Telegraph: “Anyone considering taking on the patronage of the RSPCA would have to consider its future direction and whether it is going to continue down a radical campaign path.

“If it reverts to its traditional role as a welfare charity protecting animals I am sure nobody could have any reason not to support its work.”

The Prince of Wales, along with his wife Camilla and sons Princes William and Harry, have all previously been photographed taking part in the sports on The Queen’s Sandringham and Balmoral estates. Over the Christmas period, photos also emerged of the Earl and Countess of Wessex enjoying a day of the sport with their children.

Both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House have said there are no current discussions about the RSPCA’s future patronages. The Prince’s office said that the patronage has not yet “come up for review or consideration by Clarence House” as it is still held by The Queen.

As she enters her 90th year, Her Majesty has started to pass on a number of her patronages to other members of the royal family. Her husband Prince Philip, who will turn 95 this year, has also started to do the same.

Last month he passed the patronage of the Air Cadets to the Duchess of Cambridge, a role he had held for 63 years.

On the issue, the RSPCA has declined to comment on whether the Prince of Wales might decline its patronage and refused to mention the differing stances between the royal and the charity on various issues.

A spokeswoman for the organisation said it was “extremely proud that our royal patronage continues to this day” and paid homage to The Queen for “recognising the work we do for animal welfare.”

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