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Botham hits RSPB ‘dictators’ for SIX! Cricket legend savages charity for spending donated millions on TV ads and a £56m pension deficit while ‘forgetting the birds’
• RSPB forced to siphon off £5m from charitable income each year to fill a black hole in pension fund
• Charity lobbies for measures to tackle global warming, and supports wind turbines – which kill thousands of birds every year
• Hides fact that to protect birds on its 206 reserves, the charity shoots hundreds of foxes and deer every year
BBC to be renamed the Brussels Broadcasting Corproration-BBC has a pro EU pro immigration pro multiculturalism agenda
see also 2014 -017 From the Somerset Levels to the EU to the UN to the Club of Rome
and 2013 – 040 Comic Relief and most other Charities need thoroughly re-assessing.
The RSPB also gets considerable funding from the EU but it is conditional that they always fully support the EU.
By David Rose for The Mail on Sunday
Published: 22:01, 1 November 2014 | Updated: 08:37, 2 November 2014
Sir Ian Botham has launched a sweeping attack on the leadership of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, saying it is a ‘dictatorship’ that has ‘messed up its finances’ and betrayed bird lovers and the species that it is meant to save.
The England cricket legend’s attack, in an open letter published exclusively in today’s Mail on Sunday, is a key element of You Forgot The Birds, a new campaign by farmers and conservationists who want to force RSPB reform.
Sir Ian points out that the RSPB is one of Britain’s biggest charities, with more than one million members. His accusations include the following:
• The RSPB is forced to siphon off £5 million from charitable income each year to fill a black hole in the pension fund – a deficit that will take 17 years to pay off. ‘The RSPB is a pension fund with a charity attached,’ writes Sir Ian.
• ‘Misleading marketing’ downplays the vast cost of fundraising and exaggerates the amount the RSPB spends on conservation: ‘Your donations pay for its 405 fundraisers to ask you for more money so they can employ more fundraisers to ask you for still more money,’ claims Sir Ian.
• The charity lobbies for measures to tackle global warming, and supports wind turbines – which kill thousands of birds every year.
• It hides the fact that to protect birds on its 206 reserves, the charity shoots hundreds of foxes and deer every year.
Lack of democracy: at last weekend’s annual general meeting there were only three candidates for three vacant posts on the RSPB council.
‘I have a dream that the RSPB will one day represent all who care about bird life,’ says Sir Ian.
The RSPB has been misleading donors and competing unfairly with other charities
He adds that next year he will be ‘offering competition by putting together a list of reform-minded candidates’.
Sir Ian’s campaign has already scored one notable success. Following a complaint to the Charity Commission, the RSPB has been ordered to stop claiming that 90 per cent of its £128 million income ‘goes directly to conservation work’.
The commission says it must make clear that the 90 per cent claim did not take account of the cost of fundraising, on which the RSPB spends £21 million a year.
A commission spokeswoman said it could not rule on other complaints from Sir Ian and his colleagues, including that money earmarked for ‘conservation’ had in fact been spent on lobbying the Government over issues such as climate change. It was for the RSPB to decide how best to allocate its funds, she added.
Last night, RSPB chief spokesman Grahame Madge mounted a passionate defence of the organisation, claiming Sir Ian and his campaign had a ‘hidden agenda’ representing ‘shooting interests’.
Some rare species were vanishing, he said, because they were being ‘persecuted by the shooting community’ – such as some of Sir Ian’s campaign backers.
Mr Madge said the way the organisation reported its income and expenditure was ‘standard’ among similar charities. He admitted there was a large pensions deficit but said this was ‘common’ among charities.
‘Because we are so well run, this is not as much a concern for us as it is for others. If interest rates rise, the deficit will go down,’ he said.
As for shooting foxes and deer, he said: ‘We have made public the fact that we have to undertake a certain amount of predator control. But the difference between the RSPB and others is that we do it as a matter of last resort.’
The RSPB has a commercial tie-up with green energy supplier Ecotricity, which builds wind turbines.
Mr Madge defended the RSPB’s support for wind farms, saying: ‘We have a policy of favouring renewable energy only when its siting doesn’t cause problems to wildlife.’
It was true that only three people had stood for the three council posts, he added, but that was because no more individuals had come forward.
He is known and admired by millions for his titanic exploits on the cricket field. But these days Sir Ian Botham gets his sporting pleasure in a rather different way – as a committed countryman. Here, in a passionate open letter, he launches a scathing attack on the august Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds and details a devastating catalogue of failings which, he says, are betraying the countryside – and the wildlife – that he loves…
£6m of donations spent on TV ads. £56m pledged to pension deficit. A mania for bird mangling turbines – why country-loving SIR IAN BOTHAM’s got a beef with… The Bird Brains
Sometimes in cricket you don’t see a ball coming. The RSPB’s top brass have been taken aback with the idea that anyone could criticise them. Word has it that they hope the You Forgot The Birds campaign that I have helped launch will disappear. They are in for a disappointment, because a wave of farmers, landowners and conservationists are joining. We are very different. But we all love birds with a passion and we all agree that the RSPB is a national treasure that is being badly mismanaged.
It has royally messed up its finances. For 125 years people have been leaving money to the RSPB in their wills. That’s helped it buy 200 nature reserves. Yet today’s RSPB leadership has wasted this legacy.
The RSPB’s pension deficit has become so out of control that last week it was forced to pledge £56million – that’s almost half of those nature reserves – as security to ensure pensions get paid. The generosity of generations is being treated with contempt.
It gets worse. Last year £5 million of donations which should have been going on bird welfare got diverted into paying down the pension deficit. That’s going to continue for the next 17 years. The RSPB is a pension fund with a charity attached.
Misleading marketing. The RSPB is so hungry for money that it has been gratuitously misleading donors. When potential donors have seen the promise on its home page to spend ‘90p in every pound’ on conservation they have assumed that it means 90p in every pound they give goes on conservation.
Not so. The Charity Commission website shows that only 68p has gone on these charitable purposes. Now, following discussions between You Forgot The Birds and the Charity Commission, the regulator has told the RSPB to ‘correct its statement’. The RSPB has been misleading donors and competing unfairly with other charities.
Of the 68p left for charitable purposes, only 24p went on its nature reserves – the bit where birds actually get looked after. The RSPB’s focus has instead been on its ever growing fundraising army. Your donations pay for its 405 fundraisers to ask you for more money so that they can employ more fundraisers to ask you for still more money.
Even the RSPB’s remaining friends are disturbed by its obsession with money. The editor of Birdwatch magazine was brave enough last month to suggest that £6 million spent on TV advertising would have been better devoted to nature reserves.
At least in its core activity of running its nature reserves the RSPB must be very good? Well, not if you ask the birds. Time and again Britain’s endangered birds give a thumbs down to hanging out at RSPB reserves. There’s a great farmer down in Kent called Philip Merricks. His land is lapwing heaven. They breed away merrily. Next door at the RSPB reserve it’s lapwing hell. For every 100 lapwing chicks that successfully fledge on the farmer’s land, the RSPB manages only eight.
Why does the RSPB fail in places like Kent? It’s simple. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds doesn’t do enough to protect birds.
Everyone in the countryside knows that ground nesting birds have no chance if their homes are shared with foxes and crows. These predators steal eggs and eat baby chicks. If you don’t protect birds from predators they don’t survive. That leads to:
RSPB: ‘If there’s no home for nature there will be no nature’
The RSPB hides from us the predator control it does do. Have you ever received a mailshot from the RSPB telling you about the hundreds of foxes it shoots? Or the thousand deer? Didn’t think so. For some reason the marketing team avoid sending you images of Bambi’s mother after the RSPB had shot her dead. Nor do they want you to dwell on how your donations are being spent on bullets.
The RSPB’s ‘Vote for Bob’ marketing campaign features a cute looking red squirrel, but forgets to tell you that the way to save red squirrels is to kill grey squirrels.
Nature is full of hard choices, not cotton wool. If the RSPB really cared about wild birds it would campaign about our domestic cats which, to be blunt, butcher millions of birds every year.
But that would upset the donors. It would also be an inconvenient truth for it to say that our beloved songbirds cannot cope with the soaring numbers of birds of prey which wipe them out on our bird tables.
Just think that you are a migrating bird which has managed that long, long flight from Africa. Weary and tired, you encounter one of Britain’s thousands of bird mangling machines. Since wind farms are deadly to birds, you would expect the RSPB to be against them. Not in the slightest. Because much more important than protecting birds is protecting the planet from climate change.
So the RSPB enthusiastically backs its business partners (who must love the RSPB camouflage) to build ever more bird blenders in the sky. The end justifies the means. Now, climate change is important. The charities which do research on climate change and help us become more energy efficient have an important role.
But if you give to the RPSB you probably wish the money was going on looking after birds, not paying for blokes in suits to do political lobbying in Brussels.
There’s a reason why the RPSB puts so much effort into keeping its nominal membership above one million – so that it can intimidate politicians. And farmers. And everyone else who stands in the way of its world view. Am I making my case too strongly? No.
For the dirty little secret in Whitehall is that the environment department, Defra, and Natural England are scared of the RSPB. They do nothing without its permission. Policy sits on shelves for years because the RSPB doesn’t approve.
We will see it this week when the RSPB again blocks a scheme that would increase the number of hen harriers. The key reason the RSPB keeps obstructing this scheme is not because its donors are opposed – they overwhelmingly support it. It’s because the hen harrier is such a useful fundraising tool.
The mark of a dictatorship is that when they do elections they ensure that the number of candidates equals the number of jobs.
So guess what happened last weekend in the election for the RSPB’s governing council? Yes – three candidates for three jobs.
I have a dream that the RSPB will one day represent all who care passionately about bird life – not just a narrow clique.
So next year I will be offering some competition by putting together a list of reform-minded candidates to start cleaning out the mess created by the current leadership.
One final thought. Last week the RSPB threatened You Forgot The Birds with legal action.
Since the RSPB employs five law firms – with your donations – I await the legal letters.
But while politicians are intimidated, I am not.
As a young Somerset batsman, I once had a cricket ball knock out some of my teeth. I spat them out and played on until we won. I’ve not changed.