UPDATED: Is it the RSPCA’s role to help flood affected livestock?

James Nason, 21/02/2019

This article, originally posted on Tuesday, has been updated to include a reply from RSPCA Queensland 
Media and Community Relations manager Michael Beatty – scroll down to read

Hay dropped to flood affected cattle in north western Queensland. Picture courtesty of Cloncurry Mustering Company

SHOULD the RSPCA be playing a role in helping to assist cattle affected by floods in north western Queensland, now widely recognised as one of the greatest animal welfare disasters in Australian history?

The charity, the various arms of which around Australia collectively draw close to $100 million in donations each year to support animal welfare, has not commented publicly on the unprecedented losses or indicated whether it will provide some resourcing or offer to use its large support networks to provide assistance.

Comparisons are being drawn between the organisation’s silence on the animal welfare crisis caused by northern flooding and its active political campaigning to shut down the $1 billion per year livestock export trade on animal welfare grounds, despite Government reports showing more than 99.8 percent of livestock exports comply with ESCAS standards.

A number of social media posts in recent weeks have questioned the RSPCA’s role and whether it should be using donated revenue to fund political campaigns or to assist animals in direct peril.

Estimates suggest hundreds of thousands of cattle have already died as a result of the floods and many remain under threat from potential starvation, thirst or disease in the aftermath of the event.

Supported by advertising promoting its role as charity for “all creatures great and small”, the RSPCA’s national and state organisations collectively attract close to $100 million in donations every year.

Australian Army MRH-90 aircrewman, Sergeant Kieran Dan, helps coordinate the delivery of feed to flood-affected farms near Cloncurry. The 5th Aviation Regiment of the Australian Army has delivered 43 tonnes of feed flood affected cattle in the region in recent days.

The RSPCA does not disclose its annual income on its websites but as a registered charity it is obliged to submit an annual information statement and an annual financial report to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Reports on the ACNC website shows that the Federal and State entities of the RSPCA collectively report annual revenue in excess of $180 million, of which donations and bequests accounts for close to $100 million (in additions to donations the RSPCA also earns revenue from providing goods and services, membership subscriptions, royalties from the Approved Farming Scheme and Government grants).

By comparison figures reported on the ACNC website show animal rights group Animals Australia received $9.3 million total income in 2017-18, $8.9m of which was from donations and bequests, and PETA Australia reported earnings of $2.1m in the same year, all from donations.

RSPCA revenue reported to ACNC:

RSPCA Australia (2016-17)

Total income $9.8m (includes $3.3m in donations and bequests, $5.5m in revenue from providing goods and services, $2m in membership subscriptions, $1.9m in royalties, $1.5m from Approved farming scheme)

RSPCA Victoria (2017-18)

Total income $38.7m ($21m in donations and bequests, $12.2m revenue from providing goods and services,  $2m in Government grants $2m)

RSPCA Western Australia (2017-18)

Total income $10m ($6.9m in donations and bequests, $2.2m in revenue from providing goods and services $2.2m, $600,000 in Government grants)

RSPCA Tasmania (2017-18)

Total income $3.3m ($1.9mm in donations and bequests, $12.2m in revenue from providing goods and services, $2m in Government grants)

RSPCA ACT 2017-18

Total income $5.5m ($2.6m donations and bequests)

RSPCA Queensland 2017-18

Total income $51m ($21m donations and bequests, $25m in revenue from goods and services, $3.7m in Government grants)

RSPCA South Australia (2017-18)

Total income $10m ($6.2m donations and bequests, $2.6m in revenue from goods and services, $1m, govt grants)

RSPCA New South Wales (2017-18)

Total income $59m ($32m donations and bequests, $12m in revenue from goods and services $12m, govt grants $1m)


Beef Central has emailed questions to the RSPCA asking if the organisation has a role to play in assisting with the welfare of livestock in the flood-affected region, but has yet to receive a response. We will update this article with the RSCPA’s response if and when a reply is received.

Under State and territory legislation the RSPCA has powers to investigate and enforce animal welfare law and to issue fines and initiate prosecutions.

The RSPCA website says the charity works closely with the farming sector to make a positive impact on the lives of farm production animals by providing an environment that meets their behavioural and physiological needs.

The RSPCA’s role is clearly focused on the prevention of cruelty, but is there an expectation from the many supporters who donate to the charity that it should also use its resources to assist in a mass welfare event?

Some on social media believe it should:

Click on image to link to original post to the Ringers From the Top End group on Facebook.


As mentioned earlier in the article we will publish a response from the RSPCA clarifying its role in relation to natural disasters involving livestock if and when it replies.

RSPCA Queensland reply

In the days prior to publishing the above article Beef Central emailed questions to RSPCA Australia and, when no response was forthcoming, then to RSPCA Queensland. We appreciate RSPCA Queensland Media and Community Relations manager Michael Beatty, who was attending workshops in Sydney earlier this week, taking the time to respond to our questions yesterday – his response appears below:

“As previously mentioned RSPCA Qld offers its sincere sympathy to graziers who have lost unprecedented numbers of stock due to the massive floods in North and NW Queensland. It realises that the graziers and the State Government have done what they can to save lives in unbelievably difficult situations. To have that much needed rain appear on the horizon, only to see it descend and slaughter the animals that had been so desperately needing it is surely the cruellest of ironies.. The heartbreak felt by the graziers is echoed throughout Queensland.

“RSPCA Qld  is obviously always concerned about the welfare of animals caught in natural disasters. However DAF have been working collaboratively with other Queensland Government agencies such as Queensland Fire & Emergency Services, Department of Environment and Science, Queensland Health, and the Queensland Reconstruction Authority in a multi government approach, backed by the Australian Federal Government,  Australian Defence Force, multiple Councils and multiple industry bodies such as Agforce.

“If we had unlimited resources we would obviously be able to pull staff away from other areas and send them to offer what assistance they could. But we are a charity and cannot simply abandon other areas where our Inspectors, ambulance officers and veterinarians are already under immense pressure. Even in areas where we do have staff and volunteers we simply don’t have the capacity to deal with large numbers of livestock. These jobs are handed over to DAF.

“In all areas, whether serviced by RSPCA or DAF, responsibility for the care of animals usually lies with owners and persons in charge of those animals. So whether it be a cat, dog or bird in a suburban backyard, a koala or kangaroo in the care of a wildlife carer, or pigs, chickens or cattle owned by farmers – the responsibility to care for these animals lies with owners and persons in charge. RSPCA Qld can assist with advice and education, rescues in emergencies, and sometimes enforcement action, to ensure that people provide appropriate care for their animals.

“In cases where animals are not owned, or are abandoned, RSPCA Qld takes responsibility for their rescue and care where possible and where lawfully permitted to do so.

“However with disasters of this magnitude, where what has occurred is beyond the control of the people who own and are caring for the animals, we must leave it in the hands of the people and agencies who have the resources and the expertise to deal with the complexities.

“Sadly we can only physically service major cities on the East Coast. We do offer other resources outside of these regions by way of receiving calls, referring callers to relevant agencies and providing advice. But I must stress that we operate almost entirely on funding received from donations, and sadly, there are simply not enough resources available to allow us to provide these services to the more remote areas of Queensland.

“In times of disasters, we appreciate that owners of animals needs assistance beyond what is normally provided by RSPCA, DAF or other entities, and we are aware that this assistance is currently being provided and coordinated by government for farmers in affected flood areas.

“We have 22 Inspectors in the State and even if all these staff were taken from their vital roles they perform daily and deployed to assist with flood affected animals, the impact we would have would be negligible, give the unpreceded overwhelming numbers of animals involved. We simply do not have the capacity to deal with a situation of this enormity. Perhaps the only body that may have resources capable of making an impact in this situation is the defence force, and we understand that they are part of the response that is being coordinated by government.

“We deal with over 52,000 animals every year. The workload of our Inspectors, veterinarians, animal ambulance officers, animal attendants and back up staff and volunteers is monumental. Sadly many people seem to think we can fix every animal issue in the State. We can’t. We’re sorry. We simply can’t.”



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  1. a jacobs, 01/02/2020

    North Western QLD Extreme Monsoon Trough Event Richmond and Julia Creek areas.
    Just last year in February in an area the size of the state of Victoria- 69 thousand hectares most ground dwelling wildlife died. Because this area is sparsely populated most Australians never heard about it, as it was not dwelt on by the media. It was NOT a Bushfire but an extreme flood and instead of burning, millions of creature drowned. As there are mostly only cattle stations in this area most recovery plans were focused on people infrastructure and stock. Even getting info on this event is difficult as it has never been properly documented. There are very few folk concerned with wildlife in this affected area, it is VERY different from the populated areas of the NSW South Coast and Gippsland. there are no holiday homes in the area and sparse tourist attractions. Its not an area populated with folk who have time to think about the environment much past keeping their stock alive in the drought preceding this extreme weather event. There are no National Parks so there is no National Parks Rangers or Facilities. But nevertheless the ecological disaster is as serious as the bushfires.There is no where to donate to even access the info on the enormous wildlife devastation.
    In a trick of fate I visited this area in August 2019 and was shocked at the empty land. There are birds as they didn’t drown but no reptiles or ground insects or even ants, let alone mammals. Surveys are desperately needed to assess what is gone but no one is doing them. I have done extensive research as to why no one is concerned and more than anything else it is because no one knows.
    The only group i have contacted that has understood my concerns is the FNQ Naturalists Society and whilst they would volunteer to undertake the surveys they have no funding for the expense.
    The state government relied on information from councils to formulate the recovery plan for this disaster and as the councils were predominantly concerned with people and stock no mention apart from a small amount re erosion and riparian areas was included. Even the Climate Council folk have missed this one. Please comment and share

  2. Hugh Winwood-Smith, 02/03/2019

    I don’t think it’s the role of the RSPCA to help protect the profits of the animal ag industry. That’s all this is. The rest of the time you want them to butt out, and not get involved in animal welfare, only when your profits are disappearing down the toilet do you suddenly want them involved.

  3. Millie Scott, 22/02/2019

    If you want RSPCA to help then donate. It’s that simple. No point sitting around whining when you have no right to expect them to do something. They aren’t a public service. They do what they do every day because they choose to do it . They’re not a government agency that you have a right to expect service from because you pay taxes . They can’t cover the whole state if they don’t receive enough funding, and they aren’t a charity for people remember. They’re a charity for animals. They certainly shouldn’t be spending their money that they don’t have propping up industry that won’t take responsibility for itself. Where to you get the idea they have millions? Read the full financial reports. They spend more than they bring in. It doesn’t matter how much comes in if it’s not enough to fund what’s needed. They are your cattle. You earn from them. So you look after them. It’s not the RSPCA’s job to look after your animals. I don’t donate so they can help you turn a profit. I wonder how many of you have donated to RSPCA when you’ve had good times? None by the sounds of your comments. I am devastated for the cattle and for the people who are suffering, but when you all pick on the soft target charity with no regard for the facts, then you don’t get my sympathy or my money. And as for live export, whatever RSPCA does to make it more humane for the animals should be appreciated as much by you as it is by me.

  4. henry.d.ramage 0428604014, 22/02/2019

    Well what a surprise no help. from rspca. My experience of rspca is one of no help.Have you ever tried to inform them of a sick animal that needs help.????. I am a real estate agent and I see the times that little old ladies leave their money to rspca and we find out later that rspca has taken the money to another place and not carried out the donars wishes. Trty writing to hq and one does not even get a reply.
    One would have thought that with the queensland floods that rspca would have been the first to help. Maybe they are too busy collecting money from those who say rsvp approved.

  5. Tim Burrow, 21/02/2019

    “Sadly we can only physically service major cities on the East Coast…” The majority of animals live outside the cities! I believe they have “worked” outside of these geographies when it suits them, prosecuting rural animal cruelty perpetrators, perhaps that’s for publicity? 52,000 animals in distress in Qld cities every year, many more than all the “live export” animal concerns p.a., where is the community ground swell to stop pet ownership if its that cruel?

  6. Helen Armstrong, 21/02/2019

    It would do the RSPCA a great deal of good being exposed to on the ground conditions in NQ.

    They want to have input in normal times of what happens – like banning live export, but dont want input and offer no support other than sympathy at this time.

    If they went out now, they might have an idea of what would happen if a ban did eventuate, but they prefer to keep their head in the sand. Im sorry but the response from RSPCA smells like butt covering, and no mention of any financial help, not even taking donations on behalf of NQ.

    Pathetic, RSPCA.

  7. Bill Humble, 20/02/2019

    Folks, if you wish to donate money for disaster relief look no further than , The Freemasons Hand heart pocket project. Lions Aust. Rotary International, QCWA. They all donate 100% of money’s given to the cause. Thank You.

  8. Deb Turner, 20/02/2019

    Farmers are in the business of feeding the entire country, providing food – meat, vegetables, fruit & milk. They are a huge part of Australia’s economic growth, and their business relies heavily on Mother Nature’s good grace, or otherwise. This devastation isn’t about a few bad business decisions by a few inept economists using shareholder funds inappropriately. It’s about Australia’s entire agricultural future, economically and practically. I won’t fund ‘big business’ either, particularly those who don’t pay taxes and are based offshore…but our farmers have only ever served us as best they can, through drought and flood and whatever else is thrown at them…excises, land taxes, etc., I figure it’s morally correct to give them something back, particularly when your credo states ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’. The RSPCA needs to understand it has a falling approval rating, people are losing faith in the beliefs and values of the society. Assisting in the animal euthanasia/rescue/rehabilitation efforts in FNQ should definitely come under their banner, imho….

  9. Kylie Saggers, 20/02/2019

    I can’t believe that they wont help or even support animals. My family have property in gympie and they’re taking time off for their life on the farm for a week to go out and help the farmers off their own back. That’s what country people do we dont care if other farmers need help then they will do it. I dont understand how the government n that wont help. I have even heard the greenies say that the farmers should have stopped the flood how the hell r u suppose to stop the flood wen its flat land out west r they that stupid these city folk have no concept or have no idea of anything.

  10. Carol Thompson, 20/02/2019

    In its name itself yes of course. In its ethos yes of course! Morally its up to all of us….to help the most vulnerable , particularly if they are suffering is our duty. We as humans are becoming more and more apathetic, complacent and in that we are guilty of being cruel.
    Yes the RSPCA should assist and do what they can!
    And so should we!

  11. Jim Kerr, 20/02/2019

    live export is the single biggest improver, ever, of cattle welfare in Northern Australia and SE Asia. Daylight second.

  12. Hugh Barnet, 20/02/2019

    I would be careful in getting the RSPCA involved, but the organisation needs to acknowledge the efforts of all the producers caring for livestock and trying to save animals in this disaster.
    This article needs to be spread across the wider media so city folk are aware and not just rural media.

  13. Sam Grima, 20/02/2019

    As a grower who has to conform to RSPCA standards, we find them hypocritical to say the least.
    They should be made spend some of their exorbitant earnings for the actual good of our country instead of trying to bring its industries down.

  14. Sandra Jephcott, 20/02/2019

    JAN KENDALL – this flood was NO ordinary flood. IT WAS A NATURAL DISASTER. The army and others, including the State government are helping businesses and residents in Townsville so an animal welfare organisation like RSPCA should be offering a helping hand (with NO strings attached) where animals are affected by a NATURAL DISASTER. Some cattle properties in the path of the NATURAL DISASTER have lost over $1 million and will have expenses but no income until 2021 at the earliest.

  15. Sandi Jephcott, 20/02/2019

    I agree totally with the article and social media comments. After RSPCA response to live export, and now this, as a veterinarian, I continue to refuse to donate anything to RSPCA

  16. Graeme Condely, 20/02/2019

    How can the RSPCA claim it’s protector of cattle and try to shut down the live export trade because of claimed cruelty yet sit and watch cattle die after a natural disaster.. ?? Just seems wrong .. Not even a donation or use of its name to encourage donations??

  17. Jeniene Glass, 19/02/2019

    Our farmers deserve more than they are getting and it’s a disgrace. If The RSPCA are there to help animals, I can’t think of anyone more deserving of your help than Aussie farmers.

  18. Bruce Collins, 19/02/2019

    I wouldn’t want RSPCA near my place thank you. They appear more interested in shutting us down.

  19. Lilly Beare, 19/02/2019

    There’s a VERY interesting FB group, RSPCA Exposed… The stuff put on there that they get up to, they need a RC into ALL their activities…

  20. Will Richardson, 19/02/2019

    What a joke the media and politions should get hold of this ASAP , the rspca are worried about a few cattle dying on the boats and there is hundreds of thousands potentially going to die of starvation .

  21. Jan Kendall, 19/02/2019

    I don’t donate to the RSPCA and Animals Australia and others to see them use my money to prop up farmers. I grew up on a farm and we never put out our hand for help. Nor did we expect it. Farmers need to put money aside for eventualities. Floods and drought are part of farming in Australia. Like any business – they need contingency funds to get them through. If the local shop goes broke, no-one is expected to help him. You can’t confuse the role of the RSPCA and Animals Australia with climatic disasters. These organisations focus on making sure animals – including farm animals- are treated with the respect they deserve. They are not there to bail out farmers. It is a terrible tragedy but don’t expect these animal welfare organisations to contribute. They simply don’t have the funds to do so.

  22. Val Dyer, 19/02/2019

    Very disappointing. Donors should become aware of how their generous donations contribute to assisting stressed animals. Cannot believe the silence of these ‘so called’ charities.

  23. Steve, 19/02/2019

    My hat goes off to the farmers and families that have endured such a cruel, cruel thing to ever happen. We are going through the pain of drought and feeding cattle, I could never imagine what you are going through now.
    What has happened to the RSPCA moto of “all creatures great and small”
    Aren’t our cattle good enough for them?

  24. Peter Ahern, 19/02/2019

    Is it any wonder those paid phone fund campaigners for the r.s.p.c.a scratch their heads as to why they receive a frosty reception from most farming people they make contact with.To receive tax free status they should be seen to be neutral with lndustries such as live cattle exports,to me they are no different to peta,animals Australia & any other lame brained vegan fad mob trying to row a leaky boat up ship creek.

  25. Peter Vincent, 19/02/2019

    The dust, the flies, the heat, the rain, mud and mosquitoes.
    The heartbreak, the disbelief and despair.
    To survive, to rebuild, to say “this is who we are”.

    All a bit beyond those who choose to destroy a life on the land.

  26. Dennis Wilga, 19/02/2019

    This information should be forwarded to the print & broadcasting media in view of the publicity they received and no doubt financially benefits, in relation to the export trade.

  27. Michael VAIL, 19/02/2019

    No, they may be well-meaning, but I’ve experience of the ethos prior … perfect for small animals and hobby-farmers to ensure animal health and welfare … but keep them away from the broad-Acre, grazing industry in arid and semi-arid zones … generally speaking, they ‘nit-pick’, and have been given far too much power … they have a uniform with chevrons, and a ‘Warrant-Card’ … what was the ‘Royal Humane Society (Against Cruelty to Dumb Animals)’ is no longer about purely safe-guarding the health of dumb-animals; it is about Activist Veganism and ‘finding-fault’ … IMO … even Vampires and the Devil must ask permission prior to entry … 😈 So be careful for what you wish for …

  28. Sally Black, 19/02/2019

    Perhaps their alliance with PETA over live export tells you all you need to know.

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