This is a special edition of the Smallholders Online newsletter.
Oct 25 ~ The Animal Health Bill - can it really be bulldozered through before the end of the session?
The House of Commons will debate the Lords amendments on 6 November, one day before the Government intends to close the current session. The debate will not include other aspects of the Bill. The Commons government majority is nearly 180. However, the Countess of Mar's amendment is humane, logical and scientifically sound - and it is hard to see how it can be overturned without the government being seen to be putting blatant party politics before common sense. It is possible that the Government will offer some compromise to avoid the risk of the whole Bill falling because the two Houses cannot agree. As yet Ministers have given no indication of this.
The House of Lords has worked hard to draw the sting from the Animal Death Bill with these recent amendments (see previous newsletter no 54).
Now it's our turn.
The sixth of November is next Wednesday. We can't change the government majority, but we can lobby our MPs to resist the attempt to overturn these amendments.
Here's what we suggest. Click on this link: www.faxyourmp.com
Navigate through the site to locate your own MP and send him/her a fax along these lines - or simply copy and paste the message below.
The whole process is straightforward and will only take a minute or two of your time. Please note that sending a fax is important. A letter is also fine (provided you know the name of your MP) and can be sent to the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA. But e-mails are generally less effective; many MP's do not offer an e-mail address, while those that have one cannot be relied upon to read messages. Our own MP tells us frankly that e-mail is a waste of time as he receives so many that he cannot possibly deal with them all.
So send a piece of paper - fax or letter - that will at least be read on receipt and should, in all courtesy, receive a response.
Please do this over the weekend so that the fax/letter is seen on Monday morning.
For added effect, persuade your family and friends to do the same! It doesn't matter where they live, they can lobby their own MP in exactly the same way, with the text that you provide to them. Maybe circulate this information to your contacts via e-mail to spread the net wider? Remember that this bill will apply not just to FMD, but to a list of infectious animal diseases that can be extended at any time by Statutory Instrument - a parliamentary "rubber stamp" device. So all owners of animals of any kind, whether farm livestock, horses or household pets, are potentially affected by this wide-ranging legislation.
So, let's do it.
I am contacting you regarding the Animal Health Bill, which returns to the House of Commons on 6th November.
The government will seek to overturn amendments passed in the House of Lords that give priority to vaccination-to-live over slaughter, and that require available diagnostic tests to be used.
These amendments are logical, sensible, practical and ethical. They were soundly debated in the Lords. Government opposition is rooted in a culture of denial over the gross mismanagement of the 2001 epidemic.
As small livestock owners who will be directly affected by the powers contained within this Bill, we urge you to support the retention of these amendments on 6th November.