More turmoil at RSPCA as chief executive leaves

The RSPCA’s chief executive Jeremy Cooper has left his position after just one year in the role, suggesting further turmoil at the charity.

Mr Cooper (pictured right), a moderate figure who was previously chief executive of the RSPCA Assured, the charity’s food welfare labelling scheme, had promised to build bridges with the farming community after the damage done by his controversial predecessor Gavin Grant.

He took on the top job at RSPCA last April after a two-year gap following Mr Grant’s departure on ill-health grounds in 2014.

No official reason was given for his departure from the reported £150,000-a-year post, just a fortnight before the charity’s annual meeting. The Third Sector reported that Mr Cooper was asked to leave last week, although in a statement the RSPCA said he had decided to move on.

The RSPCA said: “After four years with the society and over a year as chief executive of the RSPCA, it is with regret that we announce that Jeremy has decided to move on to pursue other business opportunities. Jeremy has been an asset to the team and has contributed to the continued success of the RSPCA.”

It said chief operating officer Michael Ward would become interim chief executive with immediate effect.

The Times said Mr Cooper, an RAF veteran who spent 24 years in various positions at Tesco and Waitrose, is now described on his Linkedin profile as strategic business consultant at West Sussex based JC Consulting.

‘I’ve always wanted to do something in consultancy and this was a great opportunity. Sometimes it’s just time to move on and try something new. I’d been there a year and a half and it felt like the right time,” he told the newspaper.

The RSPCA has been under pressure on many fronts on recent years, suffering from falling membership, an internal battle over the direction of its its political campaigning, heavy criticism from the media over its handling of hunting and other prosecutions and relations with farmers that, particularly under Mr Grant, had become strained to breaking point.

Mr Cooper was seen as a much more reasonable figure than his predecessor, who notoriously threatened to ‘name and shame’ farmers participating in the badger cull. Mr Grant was also involved in a controversy over a decision by RSPCA to euthinase sheep after an incident at Ramsgate port.

Mr Cooper had planned to reform the organisation and introduced a five-year strategy for 2017-21, which emphasised the need to ‘create a modern, transparent and efficient organisation.

Last year, he apologised for previous mistakes. “For me it is about recognising those mistakes and then doing everything we can to prevent them happening again,” he said.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.