Jon Dobson (Research Director FMD Forum) at the Labour Rural Conference.
Labour Party Rural Conference 2002
Working for Rural Communities
Friday 19th - Sunday 21st July 2002
Harper Adams University College, Newport, Shropshire
..... it is difficult for me to describe how awful and sinister the conference was without your thinking I am exaggerating!
When I first heard about the Labour Rural Conference I 'phoned the organisers to arrange how I could attend. Apparently, as a non-Labour party member, I would not be allowed into the meetings, and would not be allowed to ask questions or speak.
I was then also told that if I were to come as a representative from an organisation I could pay £180 and then be allowed into the meetings - but would still not be allowed to speak.
In both cases, I would not be allowed to record any of the meetings that took place.
As it was, I managed to go along as a visitor, ask questions and also record most of the meetings on audio tape, and record a final meeting on video camera.
The Royal Society reports from London and Edinburgh had just been published before the conference, and I took the chance to corner Elliot Morley and ask him what he thought about them. He said he thought they were excellent, and that he had always been in favour of a 'vaccinate to live' policy.
I said that I was worried that the Royal Society had given to DEFRA the decision on when to vaccinate, as I had no confidence in them being able to decide. Elliot Morley said that Jim Scudamore was currently going through the reports, and had been specifically asked to put together a report on when 'Vaccinate to Live' should be employed as a control measure in a new outbreak.
I also asked Elliot Morley about labelling of meat, and told him about how Kevin Hawkins from Safeway had recently given an interview to News at Ten to state that 'clearly vaccinated meat would have to be labelled, and the customer might then decide not to buy it'. Elliot Morley agreed that the advice was clear from the Consumer Council and the FSA, meat did not require labelling for FMD vaccination. He agreed that it was the Government's job to lead in the advice, and enforce the fact that labelling was not required, and said that he would take this up with Kevin Hawkins. I sent him a video tape of the News at Ten interview with Kevin Hawkins a few days later with a covering letter to push the issue a bit further.
Next, I went to a small backroom meeting chaired by David Drew MP about hunting with dogs. It was here that I heard why New Labour were so keen to ban hunting with dogs. At no point did David Drew mention the fact that animal welfare was a concern; this he left to other speakers. What he did mention was that hunting with dogs had to be banned in his view because "it was the last vestige of feudalism" David Drew later said that "country land owners seem to believe that they are above the law, and need to be stopped"
Someone told about this after the conference said it confirmed how labour policy was formed around jealousy, and I have to agree.
I must write to Robin Page about this as he would be interested, although I dare say he knows already!
The last meeting in the day was held with David Drew, Alun Michaels and two bods from the RSPCA whose names I forget. This meeting was entitled 'Animal Welfare post FMD' .
It was this meeting I videotaped.
Throughout the meeting the RSPCA acted so sycophantically it was painful to watch. The RPSCA stated that less than 1% of the slaughter conducted during FMD was inhumane, and that their main aims post-FMD were to lobby for licensing of farms, and for improvements in transport!
I stood up at the end and said how animal welfare legislation was completely ineffectual, and gave an example of how the RSPCA had written to Elliot Morley to complain about how animals had been transported to slaughter, illegally in their view, when they had been heavily pregnant.
I explained how Elliot Morley had then written back to them to state that 'in extreme circumstances' according to transport regulations this was allowable.
I explained how animal welfare regulations were a farce and that if there was to be a new outbreak they would be as ineffectual as they had been last year. Alun Michael replied to this by stating he was not an expert in welfare legislation, so would have to defer to Elliot Morley on that, while the RSPCA representatives nodded in agreement with me, but then said that they could not prosecute because in all cases the slaughter that might have been inhumane was carried out 'in difficult circumstances', and so therefore would not be something that they could prosecute for.
David Drew stated that vaccines were still not good enough (I challenged him on this by giving Uruguay as an example),
The most important point that came out of this meeting was how we should not rely on the RPSCA to lobby the Government for any improvements to Animal Welfare, as they showed in the meeting how completely ineffectual they are; they are too worried about being friendly with the Government. I am quite sure that everyone reading this knows that the RSCPA are men of straw when it comes to political lobbying for FMD anyway.
If anyone wants a copy of the video of the meeting, contact the FMD Forum at the usual address.