Did the RSPCA drive a man to suicide?
Alan Brough commited suicide after the RSPCA took his herd of Shetland ponies, writes Christopher Booker.
By Christopher Booker
Published: 7:00PM BST 31 Jul 2010
Several times in recent years I have reported on the change which has come over one of Britain’s richest charities, the RSPCA. Its officials too often seem bent on harrying genuine animal lovers, luridly misrepresenting alleged cases of cruelty in order to win the publicity which will keep funds rolling in, to the tune of some £115 million a year.
Last week I was alerted to a particularly chilling case by the SHG (Self Help Group, online at the-shg.org), set up to advise animal owners on RSPCA persecution. It involved Alan Brough, a 68-year-old retired builder from Newbiggin near the Cumbrian fells. He bought Shetland ponies 30 years ago for his daughters, who in time outgrew them. Mr Brough released them onto the nearby moorland of Caldbeck Fell where, thanks to his continued care – which included rising at five o’clock each morning to bring them hay – they flourished and became a herd. Eventually the picturesque sight of 90 wild ponies became something of a tourist attraction and a distinctive feature of that northern corner of the Lake District.
Eleven days ago, at the instigation of the RSPCA, Mr Brough was arrested at 8.30am and held in custody at Carlisle police station while officials of the charity put the ponies onto lorries bound for RSPCA-approved sanctuaries. When Mr Brough was released at 3pm and discovered what had happened, he was, according to his family, “trance-like”. He drove to a nearby church, then to a riverbank, where some time later his 18-year-old grand-daughter found him. He had hanged himself.
The RSPCA issued a statement: “We are saddened by what has happened, and our thoughts are with Mr Brough’s family.” They offered to return the ponies to his widow, but then insisted on keeping them, on the grounds that – although there was no evidence of ill-treatment – the animals might suffer sometime in the future. Mr Brough was cremated on Friday, The RSPCA were wise to stay away from his funeral.