“In the Anti-vivisection Society case [National Anti-Vivisection Society v IRC  2 All ER 217], the principle was clearly stated in that any assumed public benefit from the advancement of morals amongst people, which could, or might, result from the society’s efforts to abolish the practice of vivisection was far outweighed by the detriment to medical science and research, and consequently, to the public health, that would result if the society succeeded in its object.”
[Comment 1: This detrimental impact was defined and proved to the Court – see below]
“[The] Main object of The National Anti-Vivisection Society (“NAVS”) was the “total abolition of vivisection and (for that purpose) the repeal of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, and the substitution of a new enactment prohibiting vivisection altogether.”
[Comment 2: Such an extreme abolitionist object cannot be compared to or seen to be in any way analogous to one that merely seeks to “focus attention on the harmful nature and consequences of [some vivisection]. Nor can it be seen to be analogous to a charitable entity’s object that seeks “to foster public awareness of the benefits to social economic and moral welfare of [the] community” by reducing our dependence on live animal experimentation to test products in industry etc. Fostering public awareness through education of the perceived ‘moral evils’ of “cruelty to animals” is central to a wide range of “animal rights” registered charities in New Zealand (e.g. SAFE – Save Animals From Exploitation.]
[Comment 3: NAVS expressed its extreme abolitionist campaign (the TOTAL abolition of vivisection) by indulging in blatant “political advocacy” – pressing for the repeal of legislation and its substitution by a new enactment. An analogous example of this political activity is the case of a certain New Zealand Family-oriented charity pressing for the repeal of the ‘anti-smacking legislation’ and its substitution by legislation incorporating the proposed “Burrows amendment”. Other analogous examples are charities like Barnados and Save the Children that aggressively pressed for the repeal of the s. 59 clause in the Crimes Act 1961 and lobbied for its substitution by the ‘anti-smacking legislation’ championed by Green Party ex-MP Sue Bradford].
“On balance the object of the society [NAVS] was [ruled to be] gravely injurious to the public benefit and hence could not be charitable. Lord Simonds protested against the notion that the court must see a charitable purpose in the intention of the society to benefit animals and thus elevate the moral character of men but must shut its eyes to the injurious results to the whole human and animal creation. … [that would follow total abolition of vivisection].
“It was proved that: – (a) a large amount of present day medical and scientific knowledge is due to experiments on living animals; (b) many valuable cures for, and preventatives of disease have been perfected by means of experiments on living animals, and much suffering both to human beings and to animals has been either prevented or alleviated thereby. If vivisection were abolished, a very serious obstacle would be placed in the way of obtaining further medical and scientific knowledge calculated to be of benefit to the public. Any assumed public benefit in the direction of the advancement of morals amongst people, which could, or might, result from the society’s efforts to abolish vivisection was far outweighed by the detriment to medical science and research, and, consequently, to the public health, that would result if the society succeeded in its object. On balance the object of the society was gravely injurious to the public benefit. It was not charitable.
“Where on the evidence before it the court concludes that however well-intentioned the donor, the achievement of his object will be greatly to the public disadvantage, there can be no justification for saying that it is a charitable object…. The test is to be applied from evidence of the benefit to be derived by the public or a considerable section of it, though a wide divergence of opinion may exist as to the expediency, or utility of what is accepted generally as beneficial. The court must decide whether benefit to the community is established. He cited with approval authority to the effect that:
“There is probably no purpose that all men would agree is beneficial to the community: but there are surely many purposes which everyone would admit are generally so regarded, although individuals differ as to their expediency or utility. The test or standard is, I believe, to be found in this common understanding.” But, the court must still in every case determine by reference to its special circumstances whether or not a gift is charitable.
“4.6 Where a particular practice or doctrine includes something contrary to the law in England and Wales, or in contradiction of public policy, public benefit cannot be established and hence the body will not be a charity (despite the public benefit otherwise established from the totality of the practices and doctrines).”
[Comment 4: A charity that merely seeks to “focus attention on the harmful nature and consequences of [some human activity e.g. smoking, alcohol abuse, fraud, corruption, human pollution of the environment, or the destruction of Monarch Butterfly habitats etc], rather than using political means to abolish such activities by seeking to change the law, cannot be accused of indulging in non-charitable activities. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 protects the fundamental rights of those involved in charities to impart information and inform people, promote debate etc on controversial topics. It safeguard’s New Zealanders rights to “freedom of expression”. The majority of fair-minded New Zealanders would NOT view the expression of views by registered charity workers, that are pertinent to fulfilling the charitable objects of a charitable entity – e.g. “supporting] responsible freedom of expression”, as in breach of the The Charities Act 2005].
Source of extracts quoted above:
Analysis of the law underpinning Public Benefit and the Advancement of Moral or Ethical Belief Systems.
Charity Commission. September 2008. pp. 6, 9.
Note: SPCS Comments 1-4. inserted in square-brackets…[…]