An Eye Witness Account of the Attempt to Cull Harriet on January 10th,
The call came about 9.20 this morning: "They are going to try and
kill Harriet at 1030." I was out of the house in 10 minutes, picked up
Bev, another of Harriet's friends, and shot off to Aston Ingham and Harriet's
field. Dave Price, her owner, met us outside her old field.
Incredibly calm, he led us towards her new, more secure field. We were
stopped by a police car parked across the lane, blocking it. They would
not allow cars any further, not even Dave's, and I asked if the police were
trying to prevent us from protesting. There was a long pause before he
replied, "no", and we pursued Dave who was hot-footing it up the lane. We
reached Harriet's new field, where the police and press were standing in the
lane with the family.
We were asked by a cameraman what we thought about the fact that
Defra hadn't told the family about this. I'd wondered about the
short notice, but surely even Defra wouldn't sink this low? I asked a
member of the family: no, there had been no word from Defra - they had
just had a tip-off from a reliable source, and they had phoned round Harriet's
There were two police cars blocking the other end of the lane, with police
cars and vans arriving and departing over the next four hours. A 4 by 4
arrived with a cattle trailer attached, and with military speed and efficiency,
a team of trading standards people leapt out and passed steel hurdles over the
gate, securing them together to make a funnel towards the gate. One of
them cut through the chain on the gate without a word to the family.
Several police and trading standards people then crossed the field towards
Harriet, pursued by distraught members of the family.
Harriet was standing with her daughter, Bambi, in a corner of the
field. She looked wary, head down, watchful. The cattle in the
neighbouring field were lined up along the fence, bellowing.
Groups of yellow-coated officials stood about the field on the mobile
phones. Time ticked on. I thought we were waiting for Defra, but the
vet was already there, standing in the field clutching his clipboard.
Gareth Roderick, a nervous-looking Welshman, must have gone into the field with
the first group of officials. So why no action? There were so many
of them and so few of us that they could have done what they liked at that
Bill Osborne was on the phone to our MP, Mark Harper, who has been
extremely supportive. Then he rang Barbara Jordan, the solicitor who is
acting for the family, and who was so effective during foot-and-mouth.
Patricia Pinkerton arrived, having persuaded someone else to take her service,
saying an injunction was imminent. She staggered through the mud to the
group of officials, desperate to tell them.
Bill spoke to Inspector Turley who was in charge. He said he was just
there to make sure Defra was able to carry out their legal duty, and refused to
be drawn into the rights and wrongs. I spoke to one of the trading
standards men, who said he was just doing his job, that this was the decision
that had been taken by his department who obeyed the laws of the government,
that the government had been elected democratically and that this was what
democracy was all about. It wasn't his job to question it. Nigel
Durnford, the trading standards man in charge, was stony-faced and refused to
say anything. Either they were all convinced they were right, or simply
Bill pointed out the cut chain from the gate as criminal damage.
Under the Animal "Health" Bill, they are entitled to break in like this.
But no-one had had the courtesy to ask for the gate to be unlocked. They
had just steam-rollered ahead. They said they would replace the chain,
apparently thinking that made it all alright.
There was more standing about in the field, with the big group of people
broken into several smaller groups, still on their mobile phones. The
police inspector said he needed to "sight" the injunction to halt the
proceedings. It was even then being put before a judge. In
I found I was shaking, and it wasn't just from the cold. It was fear
and anger as well. They had learned nothing from 2001 except how to
intimidate better. Someone nudged me and pointed out the number plate on
the trailer. It had tape over it, obscuring the number. I walked
round the vehicle. Both number plates had been blanked out. Someone
ripped off the tape, revealing S1 GGG. Trading standards panicked
when they realised this, with two people standing in front of the number plate,
shouting for someone else to come and replace the tape. Too late:
we'd got it. This vehicle and trailer had been and would be on public
roads; obviously one rule for them and another one for us.
They decided that there were too many people there to slaughter Harriet on
the spot - bad publicity. They now wanted to take her away alive, and kill
her somewhere out of the spotlight. Couldn't have the television people
filming the grisly deed. Liz was extremely distressed at this. She
envisaged Harriet being chased around the field by uncaring strangers,
terrified, with her last few hours spent alone, abandoned, frightened. If
it came down to it, she wanted her own vet to do it in familiar surroundings,
with familiar and loving people with her.
Mark Harper had sent someone from the Council to stop the slaughter until
the proper legal channels had been gone through. Barbara Jordan had agreed
to drop everything and bring the legal papers up from Cheltenham. The
inspector agreed to wait until she arrived. Harriet moved up towards her
shelter. The neighbouring cattle bellowed. We crossed our
Barbara Jordan walked up the muddy lane in her smart suit and high-heeled
shoes. She said the injunction was before the judge, and handed over the
papers to the police inspector. Her authoritative voice commanded
attention, and she said the situation was "unfortunate". She said legal
proceedings were underway. The yellow jackets started trickling out of the
field, Gareth Roderick mumbled something about consulting his superiors, the
Harriet's friends heaved a collective sigh of relief, and assembled in the
kitchen. The family confirmed that they'd had no notice of this, that if
they hadn't had a tip-off they may well have been out, leaving Defra to break in
and kill Harriet. They were distraught and angry at how they had been
treated. Defra would have received Barbara's letter that morning, and new
rules to change culling of cohorts to monitoring, comes in at the end of the
month. Perhaps that's why they were in such a hurry to kill. Once
again, it reminds me of the experiments done by Stanley Milgram, the
psychologist, in 1963 on obedience to authority.
In any case, with about 20 public servants standing about in a muddy field
bent on killing a healthy cow for four hours, what a waste of public