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The Murder of Crow correspondence between myself and the Scottish SPCA 26th April - 29th September 2010


My junior membership of the Scottish SPCA certificate, 4th August 1994


Introduction “I promise to be kind to all living creatures and to do my best to protect them from cruel treatment� Ignoring the spelling mistake, these words are very important to me. I have always considered myself to be an animal-person, and have always tried to live a life that reduces cruelty in the world. I understand that no person and no organisation is perfect, but I never thought I would be using the quote above against the charity that originally wrote them. On the 15th of April 2010, my partner and I were making our way home from work. We were yards away from our front door when we spotted a crow that seemed unable to fly. I caught him swiftly enough. One of my neighbours came out and told me that they had reported the crow to the Scottish SPCA, but no one from their organisation would come out until they had caught the crow. I thought that was a bit odd, but my partner and I brought the crow home with us and contained him in a cat carrier while I contacted the Scottish SPCA myself. Eventually I managed to speak with someone, and was advised that an ambulance would come out to collect the bird in the morning. The crow was collected the following afternoon, and even though his injury was not lifethreatening, he was euthanised. The following pages are copies of the correspondence between myself and the Scottish SPCA regarding this crow's death.


26th April 2010 Dear Sir or Madam, Injured Crow (possible broken wing). Reported by phone to 03000 999 999 on 15.04.10. Collected by your team 16.04.10 On the evening of Thursday 15th April I caught a crow with an injured wing. He was perfectly healthy otherwise. My partner and I placed him in our cat carrier and contacted your team using your 03000 999 999 number and was advised that nobody could pick up the injured bird until the following day. Some of our neighbours came out and told us they had reported the injured bird to you two days before, but were told that nobody would come out to help unless the crow had already been caught. On the afternoon of Friday the 16th of April, the bird was collected from my home by an SSPCA ambulance driver called Jean. Jean told that they would do what they could, but if he was too badly injured he may have to be put down. My gut instinct told me that something was up, as she did not come to my door with a carrier box for the crow. I asked her if she could keep in touch with me to tell me how he was doing. She said this wasn't possible, but I could phone your animal home at Milton of Dumbarton, where Jean said the crow would be taken to, to check on his progress. After Jean left with the crow I tried calling the Milton AWC to ask that if the crow could not have his wing mended by your team, I wanted him returned to me as I have other contacts I could ask to give the crow specialist care. I am a volunteer park ranger and I also have years of experience in animal welfare and care from my work on a community farm. Over the years I have made a few contacts in wildlife care and rehabilitation. Despite what Jean had told me the woman at the Milton AWC said she couldn't tell me anything about the crow as she had no knowledge of him/her, and that I was to call your 03000 999 999 number again. I explained the situation to the person who answered the call, and she was very uncaring and argumentative – telling me that the crow couldn't live a good life without the use of his wing, so that euthanasia was the best option. I strongly disagree, as apart from what looked like a clean break on his wing the crow was perfectly healthy and I’m fairly sure his wing could have been repaired if a sanctuary could be found for him. The woman continued to tell me that the crow would prefer to die over a life in a sanctuary. Though I personally think a life in a sanctuary is preferable to no life at all, I was saying that his wing could be treated and he could be released back into the wild. I find the idea that you employ such negative people deeply disturbing. Again, I would like to mention my experience with animals, and add that I am not a “fluffy” person who opposes all euthanasia. Apart from the injury the crow seemed perfectly healthy and could recover and live a great life. This woman told me that she would pass my concerns on to Jean, and would ask her to call me back. I did not get a call-back from Jean. I was feeling anxious about the crow’s welfare, so I called your 999 999 number again in the afternoon of the 16th to ask if Jean would give me a call to let me


know how the crow was doing. The person who answered this call was very polite and understanding, and said she would message Jean to ask if she could call me. Just after 3 o’clock I was called by your Inspector MacIntosh who told me the crow had been put down as its injury was beyond repair. When I asked who took the decision to kill the crow, he said that the driver or one of your own vets would have made the decision, but didn’t know exactly who took the decision, or why. When I challenged the decision, he got very aggressive and lectured me on how the crow was too badly injured or distressed to help and that it would have been cruel for the animal to be kept in a sanctuary. I would argue that as Inspector MacIntosh did not know why the crow had to be euthanized that he could not make such a judgement. I told Inspector MacIntosh that had I known the SSPCA were just going to kill the crow I would have taken him down to Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue in Beith. Inspector MacIntosh then told me that the SSPCA pay Hessilhead £2,000 a month to care for injured birds on behalf of the SSPCA. He also said that Hessilhead get really angry at your staff for bringing birds to them when they can't be saved and that Hessilhead would have just put him down anyway, because that is what they do although they never admit it to the public. He also said that the SSPCA don't hide things from the public and that people know that the SSPCA put down injured animals and birds. I would argue that this is not so, that the public believe you to help animals recover from their injuries. I would be grateful if you could tell me exactly who decided to kill this crow and what was done to determine the extent of his injury. For instance was he seen by a vet and was his wing x-rayed? Where was he taken for assessment, as the Milton AWC didn’t have any knowledge of this crow? Is it your policy to kill all injured wild animals and birds? I look forward to your reply. Yours faithfully, Emma-Jayne Easton


30th April 2010


4th May 2010 For the personal attention of the Chief Executive Dear Sir/Madam, Injured Crow I am writing in response to the reply of 30th April which I received from Anne Edmunds regarding my letter dated 26th April 2010. I am afraid to say that I have found her reply to my original concerns to be woefully inadequate. I would really appreciate a proper reply this time. • •

• • •

My letter was addressed to the Chief Executive, not to the Head of Administration. If the crow was suffering as badly as Anne has claimed then why, when my neighbour originally reported the injured crow to you (I believe through your centre in Milton) was she told that your organisation would not assist until she had caught the crow herself? Do you always ask the general public, who have no training or equipment and could put both the casualty animal and themselves at risk, to catch injured wild animals before you will even send someone out? Anne has claimed that the crow was put down not only because of his broken wing, but because he was “also very emaciated”. I would say this is inaccurate – the bird was well fed by the neighbours who tried unsuccessfully to catch him and he was a challenge for me to catch. No bird as ill as Anne claimed the crow was could have put up that much of a fight. Anne also said that the crow had “on going problems”. I would like to know how this assessment could have been made if the crow was in your custody for such a very short time, and not x-rayed or otherwise assessed by a qualified vet. Apart from his injured wing I entrusted a very healthy crow into your care. Anne did answer my question about who took the decision to kill the crow; however I still would like to know where the crow was killed. Was he taken to your centre at Milton for assessment, as your Ambulance Driver Jean said she would do? Or was he, as I suspect, killed by Jean in the back of her van as soon as I turned him over to your care? In my letter, I raised complaints about the attitude of two of your members of staff – a female who was manning the phone line during one of my calls and Inspector MacIntosh. This was not responded to at all. Inspector MacIntosh made claims about the SSPCA's involvement with Hessilhead and about how Hessilhead routinely kill animals although they do not let the public know they do this. I would like these claims confirmed or denied. If you pay Hessilhead £24,000 a year to care for casualty birds and animals on your behalf, why did Anne Edmunds suggest one of the reasons for killing it was to spare it “a long and painful journey to the Wildlife Centre in Fife”? Hessilhead is only 24 miles from Dumbarton and it would have taken about 35 minutes to take the crow there. Inspector MacIntosh claimed that the public knows that the SSPCA regularly kills animals turned over to your care. As a member of the public I know this to be false. Most people believe that when we hand over an animal or inform you of an animal needing your help that you treat and care for the animal before returning it to the wild. Can you please show me where you publicise the fact that you put animals down rather than devoting time to caring for them?


•

I asked if all injured wild animals and birds were killed rather than helped by your organisation. This was left unanswered. At this point I assume you only save the photogenic ones that make for good news stories.

I used to donate ÂŁ3 a month to the SSPCA. I also sponsored a dog kennel at your home in Milton and a cat pen at your centre in Glasgow. I withdrew that support when a member of the public found my injured cat and could not get any help for him from the SSPCA. Thankfully the man phoned another organisation for advice and as a result my cat was saved and, thanks to his microchip, returned to me. I am disgusted to learn that you are no better at providing care for wild animals and birds as you were at providing help for my cat. I am currently in contact with Corvid Aid, a no-kill charity based in Yorkshire that specialises in assisting the crow family. While my contact there cannot make a full assessment of the crow's health, from the photographs I took and from my original description of the crow's condition, she strongly believes that this crow would have recovered well enough to be released back to the wild or at least to live out his remaining days in a sanctuary. Why did the SSPCA, without having him x-rayed or checked by a vet or corvid expert, deny this crow any chance to live? This time, I would value some proper answers. Yours sincerely,

Emma-Jayne Easton


5th May 2010


7th June 2010 7th June 2010

Injured Crow Dear Mr Early, It has been over a month since I last had any contact from you or your organisation (the last letter I received was dated 5th May 2010) and I wanted to enquire as to how your investigation into the treatment of this crow, and the other points I raised, was progressing. I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely

Emma-Jayne Easton


9th June 2010


14th June 2010 Dear Mr Earley, Injured Crow Thank you for your letter dated 9th June 2010. Unfortunately it neither addressed my concerns nor reassured me of your commitment to animal welfare. In truth, it has made me more concerned about your organisation and it's branding as “Scotland's animal welfare charity”. Your claim that you are “open and transparent” doesn't seem to stand. I shall address the following points from your letter dated 9th of June 2010: •

• • •

• •

My neighbour was extremely upset that you doubted her description of events. She did contact your centre in Dumbarton, and the member of staff at your centre did tell her that she had to catch the crow first before they would send someone out to collect the crow. My neighbour spent days trying to catch the bird, but thankfully I was able to. The crow went without help from the Scottish SPCA for days, though thankfully my neighbour and her partner didn't give up trying to assist him. I do understand that you have loyalties to your staff, but from the tone of my contacts with your organisation, I am more inclined to believe that your staff may be giving you misinformation to cover their own backs. As for the bird being emaciated, my neighbour informed me over the days she was keeping an eye on him he was feeding just as well as the other crows in the area, and was able to climb trees. I also do not appreciate being told what I should and shouldn't know as a volunteer. What I do know is that the crow had a chance to be cared for and if not released to the wild, be able to live a long and happy life in a sanctuary. You say that the crow “may have been suffering for a considerable period of time” and that his injury could lead to “ongoing problems if not detected and remedial action taken at an early age”. Perhaps if a member of your staff came to assist the crow when my neighbour first reported his injury, your organisation might have felt it was worthwhile to try and save his life? You say that the crow's injury was “not fatal or immediately life threatening”, then why was the crow not taken for assessment by a qualified vet/corvid expert? You boast that you have 9 qualified vets and vet nurses on your staff, were none of these people available? His life was not in any immediate danger and adequate assessment and after care may have given him a chance to live. If the crow was not going to be taken to Dumbarton, then why was I told by AD McKay to phone there to find out how the crow's recovery was going? In regards to my discussion with your member of staff on the phone, if the crow was unable to survive in the wild then quite obviously he should not be returned there. However, in discussions with the staff at Corvid Aid, the crow should have been given a chance to allow to recover. Corvids are highly intelligent animals and can quite clearly indicate if they no longer wish to fight to survive. He could have had a long and happy life in a sanctuary. Chief Inspector MacIntosh claimed that the public knows that the Scottish SPCA regularly kills animals turned over to your care. As a member of the public, I was unaware of this. And my neighbour was too. We would not have approached your organisation for help if


• •

we knew this. As I have said in phone conversations, I would have taken the crow to my local vet for a proper assessment. The crow may still have had to have been destroyed, but I would have known that this was the right action to take. (I addressed this point in my previous letter, dated 4th May 2010). I agree that not every animal can be saved, but that crow could have been. As you have said, his injuries were not life threatening. I work with death on a daily basis, so I know how difficult the decision is to humanely destroy an animal. The tone of your letter seems to imply that I am some sort of daydreamer who doesn't understand the natural cycles of life and death, or that I am too silly/selfish to know when an animal needs to be put out of its misery. I have absolutely no problems with an animal being put down when necessary. As the crow's injury was “not fatal or immediately life threatening”, I would argue that destroying him was the easy option for your organisation, not a challenging decision as your letter implies. The challenging option, and the ethical option, was to take the crow to be assessed properly and to be given a fighting chance to live, even if that life had to be in a sanctuary. You may not approve of sanctuaries, but surely the crow should have been given the chance to try living in one? Corvids are bright, inquisitive and sociable animals so after some time in captivity you would see if the choice to live in that environment was right for the crow or not. I am not saying that your organisation kills animals out of some “sick desire”, but in this instance destroying the crow was the quick and easy option for the Scottish SPCA. It is a real shame you have not heard of Corvid Aid, they do a lot of excellent work rehabilitating wildlife, and could offer your organisation some advice on how to correctly assess and assist injured corvids. While I admire the training your staff undertake, 9 months of training and a quick examination in the back of a van is not comparable to having an animal checked by a qualified vet or someone who has years of experience of caring for corvids, such as Corvid Aid.

I would also like to return to some points raised in my letter dated 4th May 2010 that have not been addressed: •

• •

I would still like to know where, when and how the crow was killed. I would hate to think that he was killed right outside my home after I entrusted him into your care. As stated earlier, if this was the best “care” you could have provided, I would have taken him to my local vet for assessment. In my phone conversation with Chief Inspector MacIntosh, he made a fuss of how much it would cost for me to help the crow myself. As I mentioned in my previous letter, my cat was not offered assistance by your staff when he was injured, so I am well aware of the cost and effort of re-cooperating a severely injured animal. Chief Inspector McIntosh stated that the Scottish SPCA pays around £2,000 a month to Hessilhead to cover the costs of their caring for injured animals and birds on your organisations behalf. If this is true then why have Anne Edmunds and yourself repeatedly mentioned your centre in Fife which is nearly an hour and a half from here? It would take 35 minutes to get to Hessilhead from Dumbarton - surely after days of being left outside and a night in my home, that 35 minutes would have been worth it? Can you tell me if the Scottish SPCA does indeed pay Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust £2,000 per month to care for injured wildlife on your behalf and, if this is the case, why was this crow not taken there for expert assessment and possible treatment? Chief Inspector McIntosh also suggested that the people at Hessilhead routinely destroy injured birds – on what evidence does the SSPCA base this statement?


I am disappointed that you continue to spend time attempting to quash my complaint and protecting your brand as “Scotland's Animal Welfare Charity�. Instead, why not accept that my complaint is valid, and that your organisation failed to do what was in the best interest of this crow? My issue with how your organisation treated this poor bird will not go away, but a review of your policies regarding these cases would prevent such unnecessary tragedies from occurring again. The public also has a right to know that their donations don't go towards protecting the animals they believe it does. Yours sincerely,

Emma-Jayne Easton


26th July 2010 Dear Mr Earley, Injured Crow My last letter to you (dated 14th June 2010) has not yet had a response. In case it was lost in the post, please find another copy of it enclosed for your reference. I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely

Emma-Jayne Easton


3rd of August 2010


8th August 2010 Dear Mr Earley,

Re: Injured Crow Thank you for the copy of your letter dated the 18th of June, which I received on the 5th of August. Your original letter did not reach me. It has been evident in our correspondence to date that you have failed to answer many of the questions I have put to you, in particular the following questions; •

When, where and how was the crow killed?

Why did your fully trained and equipped staff fail to respond to my neighbours’ initial report of the injured crow?

What was the reason for not taking the crow to Hessilhead for assessment?

I have checked through all of my correspondence from you, as you suggested, and you have not addressed the aforementioned questions in any of them. As these questions have failed to be addressed during our communications to one another these past months, I am left with doubt as to if you will ever answer my queries fully and honestly. Furthermore you have also completely failed to acknowledge the very serious allegations your Chief Inspector McIntosh made regarding the Hessilhead Wildlife Trust. I would be grateful if you would confirm or deny what he told me. 1) Does the Scottish SPCA pay Hessilhead £24,000 a year to deal with wildlife casualties on your behalf? 2) Do the people at Hessilhead automatically put down all birds with broken wings? 3) Have the people at Hessilhead ever criticised your staff for bringing them birds with broken wings instead of killing them on the spot? Yours sincerely,

Emma-Jayne Easton


16th September 2010 Dear Mr Earley, Injured Crow My last letter to you (dated 8th of August 2010) has not yet had a response. In case it was lost in the post, please find another copy of it enclosed for your reference. I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely

Emma-Jayne Easton


17th September 2010


29th September 2010


And now … I am angry that “Scotland's Animal Welfare Charity” could act this way towards a bird that was entrusted into their care. I am frustrated that the Scottish SPCA cannot accept their failings, and instead seek to blame others for their poor behaviour. And I am saddened as this is not the first time they have acted in ways that do not benefit animals, nor will it be the last. Very few people criticise the Scottish SPCA openly for fear of legal action. But I cannot keep quiet, and I hope that I can encourage others to step forward and point out their flaws. I am not sure how others feel about this situation, and it would be unfair for me to assume that you are as disappointed in the Scottish SPCA as I am. In sharing this correspondence, I hope that you will think carefully about which charities you support. Do they do what you expect them to do? What do they spend their money on? Do they engage in unethical practises? Are they fit for purpose? I used to volunteer for the Scottish SPCA, as a member of the fund-raising committee for the Milton Animal Welfare Centre. I have been a member on-and-off since the midnineties, and in the past I have sponsored a dog kennel and a cattery. I will no longer support the Scottish SPCA, and neither will my friends and family. I ask you to think carefully, and to ask yourself if the Scottish SPCA is a charity you are happy to support. Please feel free to share this e-book around. Larger/clearer copies of the letters are available on request. Emma-Jayne Easton melee.meles@gmail.com 3rd October 2010


The Murder of Crow