‘Misleading and factually incorrect’ blazes the statement on the charity, Cats Protection website. It’s taking an easy swipe at the press. Yes, they always ‘get it wrong’ and of course ‘you can’t believe what you read in a newspaper.’ Their comments are of course made in defence of this article, Cats Protection cuts care for cats, that appeared recently in a Sunday paper.
So allegations against Cats Protection are all a load of rubbish then. That’s OK – it’s the newspaper’s fault, you can’t trust what any paper says anyway, let’s just sweep these allegations under the carpet and blame the messenger (the press of course!!) for writing any old stuff to sell a newspaper. And carry on paying the charity’s Chief Executive his £100K salary plus perks to boot…
Of course no-one can blame Cats Protection for wanting to shaft all blame for their bad publicity on the press – it’s much easier to do that than to take a long hard look at themselves and consider if they could do better. Indeed, even to ask themselves just why did a number of volunteers (there were more than three people but not all of them wanted to speak out on the record…) come forward to say what they did?
Ask yourself: Why did volunteers – lovely women – who are all passionate about cats and who have given up years and years of their time (all unpaid) want to put themselves on record, in the line of CP fire, in a national newspaper (for no money at all)?
Actually as someone who saw documents first hand on their own Cats Protection headed paper talking about how to save money – reduce neutering (Mary Millar was given just £1600 for neutering rather than the £9000 she’d asked for…), reduce vaccines (so a cat is not protected against chlamydophila), and saw the company accounts (they are publicly available online for anyone to look at) and could see for myself the huge amounts of money coming into Cats Protection – I believe CP should be taking a long hard look at themselves.
Do journalists just write any old allegation to sell a story? If only it were that easy! In fact Mary Millar first approached Featureworld in October 2013 and it has taken months of man hours to gather and go through all the documents, emails and letters from Cats Protection. The accounts have been looked at and number crunched by an accountant, several editors, journalists and lawyers. Dozens of people have therefore been interviewed (many anonymously as they were just too frightened to speak out as a whistleblower) and then at a national newspaper everything (even the smallest paragraph) must go to the legal department. The lawyers there go through everything with a fine tooth comb – just in case there is a complaint. Journalists are all asked, ‘where is the back up for this?’, ‘where is the document that proves this?’, ‘Would this interviewee making this allegation go to court and swear on oath it is true?’
Having gathered the evidence to back up allegations, we are duty bound legally to get a right of reply from the party about whom the allegations are made. So everything was put to CP and they had their chance to reply – which they did – and their replies, answers and justifications for the way they run their business (because business is how I would describe them) – were duly printed fairly in response.
What is most shocking and worrying though is how CP has personally attacked those whistleblowers on their own website. Take this extraordinary paragraph for example:
Unfortunately the article was prompted by two or three disgruntled ex-volunteers and we feel sad that they want to damage the reputation of the marvellous work of the huge numbers of wonderful people involved in our charity. Their action only serves to harm Cats Protection’s potential to help cats in the future so in the end it is cat welfare that suffers.
Wow! While you might expect a charity at the receiving end of such allegations to be looking at themselves and seeing if they could do better, Cats Protection is simply happy to put the blame firmly at the feet of those ex volunteers – who are cat lovers and simply feel that more money should be directed towards the cats rather than head office. I thought charities were supposed to be caring so that wasn’t the sort of response I was expecting… Woe betide any other volunteer who wishes to raise an issue about a ‘charity’ as this is what might happen to you too.
Meanwhile, in its efforts to defend itself, Cats Protection has made its own inaccuracies. In attempting to ‘set the record straight’ they claim the paper said Cats Protection receives £62million in donations – a figure they say is incorrect (they only get £37million, they say). In fact the paper never said they get £62million in donations but in ‘donations AND investments.’
Such a tidy sum that while I was researching this feature I wondered why with such a lot of money there is any problem with unwanted cats in the UK (surely that would be enough to neuter every single kitten!!)
So what are we to make of this?
Well, undoubtedly all those volunteers who work in the branches are passionate about Cats Protection and considering none of them are paid, they do a sterling job. However, it’s a great shame that rather than accuse a newspaper and some volunteers for all their woes, the paid staff at Cats Protection doesn’t simply admit in some areas it could do better – and then set about doing just that.