Philanthropist ‘tips the bucket’ on RSPCA Tasmania’s CEO Rick Butler

Transcript from Stateline Tasmania 07/03/2008

Interview Jan Cameron; Broadcast: 07/03/2008

Reporter: Airlie Ward

AIRLIE WARD: The reclusive founder of outdoor clothing and equipment brand Kathmandu, Jan Cameron, knows how to make money but the multi-millionaire is passionate about animal welfare and all profits from her latest venture, “Dog’s Breakfast”, will go towards improving the lives of animals.

I spoke to the philanthropist earlier today.

Jan, you don’t normally agree to do interviews. In fact, you normally refuse. Why now?

JAN CAMERON, PHILANTHROPIST: Well, this is a new project which we hope will be delivering some positive outcomes for animal welfare, I think that’s a different cause. I am speaking to that.

All profits from this new enterprise will be going into animal welfare projects, primarily in Tasmania but also around the rest of Australia, also.

AIRLIE WARD: In terms of your interest in animal welfare, you have recently withdrawn funding from the Tasmanian branch of the RSPCA. Why? And how much?

JAN CAMERON: Well, that was a very disappointing experience that I had with them. I donated something like a quarter of a million dollars to build a vet clinic at the Hobart centre and that has been built now for 15 months and it is scarcely being used. From what I can tell, a vet is operating there about eight hours a week.

And I have offered to manage and fully staff and fund the clinic for them but they’ve refused.

There was a big breakdown at the board level last July when Michael Kent and two other people walked out of the board. That was over the CEO’s basically lying to the board.

AIRLIE WARD: You’re saying that Michael Kent, who was at that time, I believe, chairman of the board, and two other members of the board… we know there were three resignations last July and one of them Michael Kent. You believe that was because of the CEO, Rick Butler, not telling the truth?

JAN CAMERON: Correct. And he has admitted that in a letter to the board.

AIRLIE WARD: Have you seen this letter?

JAN CAMERON: Yes, I have seen it.

AIRLIE WARD: And how is it that he’s lied?

JAN CAMERON: He was making up stories about events that never occurred. And even supplying false reports to the board about actions that he had taken which he hadn’t taken involving other people, third parties. Very bizarre.

AIRLIE WARD: So as a consequence, you, what, ceased your offer for on going support?

JAN CAMERON: Yes, I ceased the offer for ongoing support because I’ve just had no faith in the board or the executive of this organisation as it currently stands.

AIRLIE WARD: In your opinion, is the RSPCA here in Tasmania doing the job that it’s chartered to do?

JAN CAMERON: Well, it’s probably partially doing it. Certainly, the personnel at the grassroots level are fantastic. They do a great job. A lot of them are unpaid but I think they’re being really poorly let down by the board and the executive of this organisation.

AIRLIE WARD: In what way?

JAN CAMERON: Well, I really don’t think they’re focused on delivering good animal welfare outcomes.

AIRLIE WARD: Are you trying to fill a gap that you basically consider is not being filled by the RSPCA?

JAN CAMERON: Exactly. We’re not a charity, we’re a business.

We can spend our money however we want. We’re not compromised.

AIRLIE WARD: How much have you put into Dog’s Breakfast and what sorts of… do you have specific projects and programs in mind that you want it to fund or what?

JAN CAMERON: Primarily desexing of domestic animals and we plan to open up a number of clinic s around Australia, sometimes in conjunction with the storefronts, but not always. Um, native wildlife in Tasmania.

AIRLIE WARD: You’re also behind a fund for the sponsor the prosecution of animal welfare… of cruelty cases in Tasmania. I mean, how… you must be very passionate about animal welfare.

JAN CAMERON: Yes, they’re getting a really raw deal the animals, I think.

And bodies like the RSPCA I think are too compromised to really stand up for them.

The inspectorate is largely funded by the Government, so I can’t see how the inspectorate can act independently from the Government. If an organisation is relying on funding from source, they’re not… they’re compromised. There’s a conflict of interest.

AIRLIE WARD: You’re hugely successful business woman. Yet you’ve chosen to settle, have your base in Tasmania, have you?

JAN CAMERON: Fantastic, wild, pristine. It’s ah… Tasmania has a lot of potential, as if you want to call Tasmania a brand, it has a huge potential that’s not being realised.

AIRLIE WARD: Jan Cameron, thank you.

JAN CAMERON: Thank you.

AIRLIE WARD: The RSPCA CEO Rick Butler says the board accepted his apology for lies he told. Mr Butler also says money being offered by Ms Cameron came with strings attached.


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