RSPCA watch dog: RSPCA management fails animals despite the hard work of volunteers
Gala Ball 2006
Gala Ball 2006:
The blood is on us this time
Activists drip fake blood on their black tie dinner shirts outside the RSPCA Gala Ball
by Patty Mark

Grand Hyatt Melbourne
123 Collins Street
Friday September 26, 6:30 - 8:00 pm

A solemn candlelight vigil will be held to honor all the animals who have died to raise money for the RSPCA

Melbourne - Two opera singers will give homage to the animals who lost their lives for the RSPCA's Gala Ball, while activists stand in silence holding candles in their memory. Animal Liberation Victoria (ALV) wrote to RSPCA Victoria asking them to spare the lives of the animals intended for the menu of their annual $160 per person black tie fundraiser. ALV suggested they follow the lead of RSPCA in the UK who passed a resolution at their 2005 AGM to no longer serve animals at their AGM's.  There were 72 votes for the resolution and only 12 against.  Eight members from the floor spoke in favour before the vote; none spoke in opposition. Also, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) - the largest animal protection organisation, in terms of membership and funding in the USA, and probably the world, has a policy not to buy any animal products and thus never serves dead animals at any of their functions.

Animal Liberation Victoria acknowledges the RSPCA doesn't promote vegetarianism or veganism, but simply asked them to "abstain from serving or eating animals on a few occasions during the year such as the AGM, Gala Ball and Million Paws Walk".  Considering their enormous public influence, ALV pointed out this was a wonderful opportunity for the RSPCA to show their guests how easy it is to have a great night out without killing animals. But the RSPCA wrote back, "We...intend to give our diners a choice", and so many creatures great and small, will not be spared the horrendous fear, pain and torment of the abattoir.  

ALV President, Patty Mark said this morning: 

"The RSPCA persists in deflecting ALV's longstanding and sincere concerns regarding their failure to prosecute documented animal cruelty as a "vendetta" against the RSPCA.  They even go so far as to claim that I have 'a personal campaign against Dr Hugh Wirth' and that I lie and spread misinformation about them.  Nothing could be further from the truth. The only personal vendetta I have is against animal cruelty.  There's something really on the nose at the RSCPA, and it's not just what's on their plate."

Two years ago at the inaugural Gala Ball a young vet student and rspca volunteer threw a small amount of red paint on President Hugh Wirth. This student was also a member of Animal Liberation's undercover rescue team who had repeatedly witnessed dead rotting bodies and crippled dying broiler chickens in a factory farm near Melbourne. The suffering of these animals was reported to the RSPCA on numerous occasions, yet they failed to prosecute. The RSPCA is the only animal organisation in Victoria that is legally authorised to prosecute cruelty to animals.  The vet student and ALV apologised to Dr Wirth for the incident, promised it would never happen again and paid $728.30 to replace his dinner suit. This year, ALV will be dripping the fake blood on their own shirts in solidarity with the animals while observing a silent vigil.

ALV is also using this opportunity to launch it's new website: which will examine the failure of the current legal system to ensure the majority of animals in Victoria are protected from cruelty and the reasons why the RSPCA let so many animals down.


Patty Mark's original email to the RSPCA:

----- Original Message -----
From: Patty ALV
To: rspca vic
Sent: Tuesday, September 05, 2006 12:11 AM
Subject: attention: Hugh Wirth - re: GALA BALL

Dr Hugh Wirth, President RSPCA Victoria
September 4, 2006

Dear Dr. Wirth,

Re: Menu at the RSPCA Annual Gala Ball on September 29

Pasted in at the end of this email is the excellent news from the RSPCA UK regarding the resolution passed at their 2005 AGM to no longer serve animals as food at RSPCA AGM's.  There were 72 votes for the resolution and only 12 against.  Eight members from the floor spoke in favor before the vote; none spoke in opposition.  What an excellent result for the animals, especially considering the absolute terror and pain animals suffer at abattoirs prior to their deaths.  [note: the resolution did receive final acceptance at the following RSPCA Council Meeting]

We are asking you to now bring RSPCA Victoria in line with this positive and progressive development your counterpart in Britain is pursuing.  Of course this doesn't mean the RSPCA VICTORIA has to campaign for a vegan world (I wish), but to simply abstain from serving or eating animals on a few occasions during the year (AGM, Gala Ball and Million Paws Walk for starters).  I'm sure yourself and other supporters of the RSPCA will not, in any way, be inconvenienced by not eating animals at three or four meals out of the year. And what a wonderful gift this will be to the animals spared on those occasions while also demonstrating to your guests and any public who attend your events how delicious, nutritious and cruelty-free a vegan banquet or BBQ can be!  Everybody wins!

If we don't hear back from you regarding this easy, yet very compassionate suggestion we will assume you will continue to serve up some creatures, both great and small, at your Gala Ball the end of this month. If this is the case we'd like to let you know we will be holding a dignified candlelight vigil outside your event in memory of all the animals who had to die for the Gala Ball.  Please be rest assured we will not be entering the event and there will be no children's paint, tofu pies or anything tossed at anyone.  Your safety and well-being is our prime concern, as is the safety and well-being of all animals.

But we sincerely hope you consider this suggestion and we present it to you in genuine goodwill for all.

for animals, patty

Patty Mark
President Animal Liberation Victoria

Reply received by fax and postal mail from Maria Mercurio, CEO of RSPCA in answer to Patty's email:

7 September 2006

Patty Mark
Animal Liberation Victoria
394 Russell Street
Melbounre 3000

By facsimile: 9639 2993

Dear Patty,

I am responding to your emailed letter addressed to Dr Wirth regarding our upcoming Gala Ball.

As I'm sure you are aware, the RSPCA is not opposed to the use of animals as long as they are treated humanely. As well as enforcing the law via our Inspectors, the RSPCA lobbies governments, and attempts to inform and educate people in order to influence governments and the community at large about issues such as intensive farming, live exports, use of sow stalls, long distance transportation of animals, cat cruelty - and a further list too long to include here.

We believe this is the most effective way to bring about change and can point to a number of successes during the course of our 135 year history in Victoria and indeed, Australia. A vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is not what the RSPCA is all about. However, at all of our events where food is served, vegetarian options are always presented - it's an issue of free choice for individuals. We accept that Animal Liberation has a very different stance - but we don't publically protest because of those differences. We use our resources and energies to lobby governments and work to change industry and community practices which are cruel, not to target other organisations.

We know that ALV will continue to attend RSPCA events in Victoria and target our staff, volunteers and guests. We are continually asked why ALV don't hold their own events if they truly wish to get wide attention for their issues; why don't they lobby governments and why don't they try to influence industry, instead of targeting the RSPCA?

Many of our supporters, volunteers and some of our staff have previously supported ALV but more and more they are telling us that they no longer support you due to your campaign of targetting the RSPCA.

Your letter indicates that you intend to stage a protest outside the venue for our World Animal Day celebration. While you say it will be a peaceful protest and that you will not enter the venue, it is difficult for us to believe that considering the attack on Hugh Wirth at this same function in 2004. You also say that his safety and well being is of prime concern to you. If this was true then the attack on Dr Wirth would not have happened and you would understand the impact that had not only on him but on all of our staff and volunteers who now feel unsafe at our events.

In addition to attending our events and making people feel unsafe, your campaign of misinformation in regards to the Tolmie horses resulted in threats to RSPCA Inspectors. The Inspectors have a very difficult role and often face aggressive and threatening behaviour from alleged perpetrators of cruelty. Two of our Inspectors have in the past suffered injuries from direct attacks, resulting in the death of one. To receive threats due to a campaign of misinformation from another animal welfare organisation is just tragic.

While our organisations have different philosophies, I had thought that we at the very least shared a genuine interest in longer term animal welfare improvements. We are, however, again disappointed by your behaviour as you continue to target the RSPCA and it's President rather than the law makers who have the power to enact better, stronger legislation. We can never be equals around the table and enter into constructive dialogue while you continue to employ disruptive, often illegal tactics, and issue the RSPCA with ultimatums and veiled threats. And now you intend to demonstrate outside the venue for our major World Animal Day event - and on what issue?  The issue is - we are not vegans or vegetarians and intend to give our diners a choice. Your "genuine goodwill for all" rings very hollow.

Yours sincerely
signed Maria Mercurio

Maria Mercurio
Chief Executive Officer

RSPCA UK Press Release regarding serving vegan meals at their Anual General Meetings (AGMs):

 The RSPCA Veggie-states: Members Crucial Cruelty-free Vote - 26 June 2006

Food and beverages served at future UK RSPCA AGMs will be strictly vegetarian (i.e. vegan). A proposal to this effect was passed on 24 June 2005 at the AGM of the Society in London by 72 votes for, 12 against, and 7 abstentions.

The motion reads:
“Due to the cruelty surrounding the slaughter of all animals for the food industry, this meeting requests that food which has involved any mental or physical distress to an animal should not be served at future Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Annual General Meetings.

Eight members from the floor spoke in favour before the vote; none spoke in opposition.

This act and demonstration of the UK RSPCA’s increasing concern for farm animals and the spirit of self-denial that it connoted sends a powerful message to other organizations professing animal welfare interests and to the food and farming industries and government and consumer agencies. The UK RSPCA’s members are also expressing discontent with the Society’s own Freedom Foods Scheme and with other systems of approval on meat, milk, eggs, and fish and products derived therefrom.

We understand that the resolution will need final acceptance at a Council meeting in a few days’ time. The UK RSPCA had already acted at this year’s AGM to simplify the catering by uniting the “vegetarian” and “vegan” streams at lunch into one cruelty-free choice.

This demonstration will be of great support in VEGA’s campaigning and we shall offer the UK RSPCA every assistance in its implementation. We look forward too to greater involvement by the UK RSPCA in the issues elaborated in our Green Plan manifesto entitled "A New Kinder Farming" which comprehends the Society’s interests and many others.”