A RADICAL push has been staged within the RSPCA to endorse vegan diets as the best way to prevent cruelty to farmed animals.
One of the supporters of the push has been elected to the board of the RSPCA SA branch and will stand for the presidency.
A motion to the taxpayer-assisted body's annual general meeting on Wednesday called for it to adopt a range of controversial policies, including:
RECOGNISING egg, milk and chicken, pig and rabbit meat production "inflicts high levels of physical and psychological suffering on tens of millions of animals each year".
ACKNOWLEDGING a vegetarian or vegan diet was "the most effective way to significantly reduce cruelty to animals farmed for meat, eggs and milk".
ASKING RSPCA members to consider changing to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Vegan diets exclude any animal product, including dairy food.
The motion was put by a "reformer" - one of a group within the RSCPA that aims to make the organisation more proactive on animal rights.
However, critics within the RSPCA have slammed the policy push as "pie in the sky" and out of touch with community values. While the motion was defeated, one of the reformers, Rosalie McDonald, was voted on to the RSPCA board and will stand for president in the ballot next week.
Ms McDonald said the motion was defeated only because it was presented at the end of a long meeting and "about half the members had left by then".
"I voted for it because there is nothing wrong with it," Ms McDonald, 67, said.
"They say a high fibre diet is much better for you."
Ms McDonald, a semi-retired businesswoman who said she was not personally a vegetarian, described herself as a "reformer".
"I feel the RSPCA management or president may represent us as . . . lunatics but with my particular background I hope they all realise I'm not a nutter," the former teacher and local government councillor said.
The "reformer" who proposed the motion, former Animal Liberation president Peter Adamson, admitted he was branded a "food Nazi" at the meeting. But he defended the push and said the general public should consider vegetarian diets to reduce animal cruelty.
"It would be very educational for the RSPCA to encourage its members to be vegetarians and this is something I would like the general public to consider," the former teacher, 62, said.
Ms McDonald said she wanted to become president to "reform the RSPCA to do what it is supposed to do".
"It's supposed to get out to the public arena and advocate the abolition of cruel practices . . . factory farming, battery hens and pork production."
Ms McDonald also wants to increase RSPCA membership and funding.
But RSPCA member and veterinarian Andrew Carter said resolutions like the one supported by Ms McDonald "would put off middle-of-the-road people and have a negative impact on membership".
"The message from that resolution is the RSPCA is trying to tell people what to do . . . but I don't think becoming a vegetarian will solve problems of animal cruelty," Dr Carter, who joined the RSPCA a year ago to represent mainstream values, said.
The motion was also attacked by former RSPCA national president Hugh Wirth who said the issue of animal food production and animal cruelty "won't be resolved by a few people changing their dietary habits" and to think so was "pie-in-the-sky" thinking.