NATIONAL FOOT AND MOUTH GROUP
MEETING SUNDAY 1st JULY 2001
As promised I am communicating as soon as possible to ensure that everyone is aware of what happened at our meeting in Wolverhampton on Sunday. This communication is being sent to all those who attended, the main committee, all websites (cullmaff.com, farmtalking.com, warrmwell.com, sheepdrove.com, smartgroups.com) and all people who e-mailed me with their support.
Firstly can I take this opportunity to thank both everyone who attended and the hundreds of supporters who gave their support but for one reason or another could not join us. The display of over a hundred e-mails on the Supporters Apology Board made a very impressive site.
There were around eighty of you present from all parts of the country. I was amazed to see so many people attending considering that we only had four days in which to organise, inform and finance the event. When the idea was first discussed on Wednesday 26th I personally would have been delighted if thirty could have been present.
As each day went by it became clear that we would exceed that number and although it was not until Thursday that we could confirm a venue (just three days before the meeting!) we really felt that fifty was becoming an achievable goal. It was wonderful to see such numbers able to attend and with the long distance support into the hundreds it is clear that given more notice of such an event in the future you could fill a room twice the size.
Putting together such an event in such a short space of time is not easy, extremely stressful and at times means you have to fly by the seat of your pants and just pray especially when you have to get a major hotel to provide you with a #500 meeting room free of charge. I offer my thanks to Val Sinclair and Julia Currie for all their help and assistance.
Our speakers were (in order of speaking) . Dr. Ruth Watkins (Virologist), Janet Bayley (Press/Public Relations main group committee), John Gouriet (Freedom in Action main group committee), Judith Bell (Burges Salmon solicitors), John Paine (Solicitor who resisted MAFF at Blackfordby Hall), Simon Foster (Skipton Farmer with experience of how intimidating MAFF can be when the cull your animals).
It was a good mix of speakers with plenty of fact, information and help as well as a good measure of humour. It was particularly good to have John Gourier breaking his journey to Scotland in order to give this meeting his support.
We held a raffle (Items under #100) and a special draw for the more expensive prises. Tickets for the raffle were 50p each (minimum two tickets) and to enter the main draw everyone was asked to write their name on a #5 note and put it in the bucket with the winners being the person whose name was on each five pound note that was drawn. WILL ALL PRIZE WINNERS PLEASE E-MAIL VAL SINCLAIR ( ) WITH THEIR ADDRESSES AND TELEPHONE NUMBERS SO A SEPARATE LIST OF WINNERS CAN BE PUBLISHED AND PRIZES DELIVERED OR ORGANISED WHERE APPROPRIATE.
We raised a massive amount of money for such a small group nearly #500! So thank you all for digging so deep and a double thank you for those of you who donated such wonderful prizes. Dot Boag, Mary Critchley, Greg Lance-Watkins, Val Sinclair, Jane Barribal, John Paine, Jacquita Allender, Michell Coxon, John Harrison, Caroline Shipsey, Carol Harris, Mike and Melony Doughty, Val and Martin Lusmore, Jamie Roberts. There may be one or two names missing from this list so please forgive me as odd bottles of wine, gin etc kept appearing. Thank you ALL.
In fact there were so many wonderful prises that it was agreed that over #600 worth of prizes should be held back for another fund raising draw/raffle to be held at a later date. The committee will decide how and when this is held. Prizes in this draw will include antique prints, oven to tableware, books signed by the author, unique individually mounted mood or scenic photographs. Watch the next announcement from the committee for information but until then all donated prizes are being held by Val Sinclair or are still in the possession or the people who have donated the prizes.
A suggested new Help Pack for Farmers prepared by Julia Curry was given to Judith Bell (Burges Salmon solicitors) so it could be legally checked and it was agreed that all present would be sent a copy was it has been agreed. The committee will decide how best to make this new help pack available to everyone.
A committee was chosen to drive forward the important work that takes place on the ground at farm gates where so often the battle is either won or lost. It was agreed that helping, advising and supporting farmers and those under intimidation and threat must me a main priority.
It was suggested from the floor that the committee should consist of a chairman plus six people with a further seven people who would stand in at any time a committee member was not available. Although all those nominated and selected to either be on the committee or deputies held a meeting after the meeting there is still a lot of work to be done. The committee agreed that all persons would put forward their own individual thoughts on what the main aims of the sub group should be.
Phil Owens (Farmer) made the very important point that this committee and sub group should be responsible for and concentrate their efforts on what is actually happening in the battlefield. It was agreed that Jane Barribal at farmtalking.com should be the centre for information, phone calls and link for farmers and workers on the ground with Janet Bayley being responsible for press releases etc for the National Foot and Mouth Group.
The National committee should be responsible for wider issues. Two members felt that their efforts would be better suited to the wider issues and an approach was made to Janet Bayley regarding this. Janet Bayley agree to follow this up and in view of the need to have more active members on the main committee will be working towards having these people on the main committee rather than dealing with just the narrower work on the ground issues. It was also felt that Janet Bayley or one of the other members of the main committee should attend the action groups committee meetings to ensure a continuous and regular flow of information. Janet Bayley is today issuing a press release about the meeting and will post it on all websites for everyone to see.
Although I felt very honoured to have been elected as chairman of this group it is with great regret and much sadness that I feel for personal reasons I must tender my immediate resignation and cease working with the National Foot and Mouth Group. It has not been an easy decision to make especially as I feel so passionately about what is happening but I know it is the only decision I can take.
I felt, that in view of the fact that the committee were unable to reach a decision regarding its exact structure after the meeting, it was better I resign before the important decision of who are the seven and who are the deputies is made. Had I made my decision later then it would have caused further difficulties with a new chairman having to be selected after other offices had been filled.
The committee now have a free hand to select their chairman by democratic vote and must then speedily appoint a treasurer and secretary whilst then opening a Bank account in the sub groups name. The money held by Judith Bell should then be deposited as soon as possible.
Although, as from this moment of my resignation, I have no official office and am no longer part of the committee I would openly ask the committee members to take into account my views of the way forward and act as quickly as possible to set up the body that will help, support, encourage and advise both the farmers and those on the ground. It is very important, in my opinion, that the opportunities created by this meeting are not lost in a sea of trivia as mobilising and organising the ground forces is the key to success. The ten thoughts I would like to leave with the committee are as follows:
1. There is a need to establish who are to be Secretary, Treasurer and Chairman as soon as possible. A bank account must be opened and monies deposited.
2. The additional five actual committee members should be chosen and the deputies named as this was the way the delegates on the floor requested the committee be constructed.
3. The main committee should have a balance of both geographic location and farm gate on the ground skills as this is the main purpose of this sub group. Especially having already made representations through Janet Bayley that two members move to the main committee to strengthen that committee and support Janet.
4. From my own experience I know that time available is an important factor for anyone working to help the people on the ground.
5. Decision on the next fund raising event (money will always be needed) must be made and the prizes for the next raffle organised.
6. Follow up the progress of the new Help Pack and post to those at the meeting. Greg Lance Watkin has all the details. It should also be posted on the internet for easy access.
7. Communication both within the group and outside is vital. Silence and a feeling of not knowing what is going on is demoralising. An information flow to everyone on a regular basis is important and someone should be appointed to ensure that this is done as often as possible. This can be via e-mail, the major websites and where necessary via fax. The electronic age enables a quick, speedy and regular flow of information to take place with very little effort to a great number of people. The telephone has been around a lot longer than computers and is equally important.
8. There is now a ground force fighting fund of almost five hundred pounds to start the ball rolling. It will help pay something towards those who devote so much time and money (in the form of telephone calls, travelling etc.). The committee should judge each individual request on merit with perhaps such decisions being taken by the secretary, treasurer and chairman. All cheques should require two signatures.
9. In my opinion Simon Foster would make a good treasurer and John Paine a good secretary. Both Jon Dobson and Val Sinclair have proved themselves as great on the ground workers all over the country and there are clearly many candidates who would probably want to be my successor and would do a good job provided they have the time, passion and financial resources.
10. Finally I would urge unity, tolerance and moderation. All too often over the past weeks I have seen or heard apparently sane minded people being irrational and at times downright rude to their colleagues who are fighting the same battle. This does nobody any good. Listening, understanding and compromise are very good substitutes for arrogance, intolerance and selfish self interest in any committee.
Obviously the committee have a great deal to do and I am sure that they will keep you all informed of their progress. I am sorry and more than a little sad to be leaving you all but hope that the example set in having organised our first national meeting (without money!), raised our first funds, brought so many together under one banner and communicated quickly will be built on by everyone with the aim of bringing this awful state of affairs to an end as quickly as possible.
Thank you all for your help and support over the last four months. I wish you well and will miss you all
Tony (No longer the Troubleshooter)