The demonstration coincided with the big memorial service in Westminster Abbey for the Sep 11 victims...lots of people under umbrellas so our motley crew and one two-legged sheep(Well done, that sheep!) were a little overshadowed. However, as always, it was quality not quantity. Many photos were taken; I answered questions in a somewhat tongue-tied cross-eyed way to reporters from Farmers' Weekly and the Today Programme. (But this won't be on tomorrow so I am not a celebrity, alas. It will be part of a longer report later on) I'm glad they also interviewed Alan Beat and Peter Ainsworth who will have made a great deal more sense than I did. I'm not at my best when someone sticks a microphone under my nose. It was lovely to meet Sue and her friends, to see Dot again, Astrid, Lawrence, Karen, Hilary, Bryn and Carole, Adrianne, Ann, Carol, Phil, Jean, Rosie, Charles, Chipps and all the other stalwarts who will forgive me I expect for not mentioning them in my exhausted brain-dead state tonight.
I thought the meeting went better than I could have hoped. All the speakers were good - and I will try hard to do a compilation of the best bits quickly. Peter Ainsworth MPspoke first and is a fluent, intelligent and very nice chap, knowledgeable about the bill and not over party-political about it. Roger Windsor endeared himself to me very much by speaking up for the animals and for animal owners, referring to Kirstin (although not by name) and the treatment meted out to so many like her. He spoke of Defra trying to hide its mistakes in a sea of blood. .. Barbara Jordan the solicitor was clear and measured about the iniquities of the bill and the criminalisation under the terms of this new bill of anyone who stands up to Defra - you can read what she said on warmwell already since I'd asked her to repeat what she'd said when i reported on it last time. Roger Green, the president of the RCVS was good on the ethics - and the position that legislation puts vets in. He did not disagree with Roger Windsor who'd said that he would try to ensure that vets withdrew their cooperation if there was a 'next time'. Lawrence Alderson, Director of Rare Breeds International was scathing about the losses already to our native breeds and warned about the muddled thinking behind the scrapie issue (much of what he said is also on warmwell) . Mark Richer the RCVS honorary adviser to the RSPCA was good on how this dreadful bill puts all the power in the hands of one person, effectively sidelining even the legislature and judiciary. He quoted Oliver Cromwell and the Bible - which was rather a contrast with his ear and eyebrow rings! Many of the speakers and questionners spoke of the necessity for a proper full public inquiry. I'll try to be more informative later on about the main points made.
There were lots of visitors including Barney Holbeche (NFU) and Soil Association, RBST, National Trust, Swaledale vets, Devon Farm Crisis, British Llama association and others and really quite a few MPs, including Ann Winterton, David Drew, Tim Boswell, Bill Cash, Nick Harvey and Diana Organ. There were other MPs who came and went but i'll need to look at the lists to name them. Charles Clover of the Telegraph was there with a photographer, and a reporter from the excellent Western Morning News.
I was particularly grateful to Baroness Byford, who joined the panel after Peter Ainsworth had to leave. Jolly good questions asked by Bryn, Adrianne, Lawrence, Peter, Guy Thomas-Everard, Alan Beat, Edmund Marriage, Bill Osborne and several others whose names I need to look up. Janet Bayley very sensibly proposed a resolution opposing the bill on 5 separate grounds. This was seconded and put to the packed room. It was passed unanimously. There were no abstentions.
I felt that a meeting actually in the Committee corridor of the House of Commons, just two doors away from where the Standing committee were discussing the bill itself, was making quite a powerful point.
All the same, we must not think that common sense, truth, correct thinking and decency are going to win the day in the House of Commons. I think Baroness Byford is right in saying that our only hope rests with the Lords.
The meeting could not have happened had it not been for the preparation work of Alicia, Jon, Mary M, Rodney N and especially on the day Helen S...., all of you who had primed your MP and all the speakers and commenters from the floor. We may not have stopped this bill in its tracks - but we have raised its profile a bit and showed that we are not prepared merely to lie down under all the bad science, bad law and bad temper shown by Defra in this loathsome bit of malign legislation.
I received the third ever nasty email attacking warmwell for its "misinformation" when I got home tonight. I suppose this is to be expected. Three in eight months isn't too bad. I have replied with what I hope is a kind answer.
Greetings to all and thanks for the support so many have shown today - whether or not they were able to make it to the House of Commons.