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An Eye Witness Account of the Attempt to Cull Harriet on January 10th, 2007.
 
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 friends immediately.
 
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 stage.
 
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 didn't care.
 
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 Bristol. 
 
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 fingers.
 
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 cameras rolled.
 
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 money.