"The meeting started at 3pm and lasted around 3 and a half hours. It was
held in a tea room called The Old Blacksmith's Shop in Gretna. Most of
the people there seemed to be MEPs, MSPs, MPs, hangers on to the enquiry
team, and EU officials. In fact, most of the 100 or so people there were
'them'. I doubt if there were 50 of us.
"We had to find somewhere to sit ourselves if we could. Around half
our time was spent listening to translations of what the chairwoman had
to say. She was Spanish and couldn't speak English. Most of the time
they were speaking to us, and the translator interpreted in such a quiet
voice that we couldn't hear half the time. It was rather farcical,
actually. [A Spanish translation of this page is available here]
"Caroline Lucas MEP was there, however, and she's brilliant. She's
very much on-side, and for vaccination. She has voiced her
disillusionment with the way the whole enquiry has been conducted and
the way the public just hasn't been involved. Emma Tennant was also
there and spoke for vaccination, and against the cull.
"Dumfries MP Russell Brown was there and both he and Elaine Murray
MSP, spoke a load of rubbish.
"I told them my 14 goats and 3 sheep were living proof that the cull was not necessary."
There was quite a bit of media interest with TV
cameras and reporters there, but it appears that coverage was negligible
in the media. Am I being sceptical that the meetings were timed for the
same week as the Budget?
Am I also being sceptical to note that much valuable time was wasted
because the chairperson Madame Ridondo spoke only Spanish and that her
lengthy speeches had to be translated into English as had those of some
of the French and Dutch Euro MPs who also addressed the meeting.
Time was also wasted by the absence of any microphones, resulting in
difficulty in hearing and many speakers having to repeat themselves.
The first people to give evidence were of the opinion that the crisis
could not have been handled better and spoke of the co-operation and
dedication of everyone, saying that culling had been the correct policy
and that expert opinion was against vaccination.
They also said that there had only been an isolated instance of
rifles being used and that the culling had been done as humanely and
efficiently as possible. These people were councillors and farmers and
included Elaine Murray MSP, Russell Brown MP, Patrick Campbell and also
NFU spokesperson Robin Spencer.
It was only when Bruce Jobson stood up and said that the FMD outbreak
could not have been handled any worse that the meeting began to
come alive and to have some meaning for the rest of us.
He spoke of the distress of the farmers and their calls for help on
his telephone which rang constantly from early morning to late at night,
of the rotting carcasses which were left for days, of the stench from
the burning funeral pyres and how the appalling conditions affected
everyone both emotionally and financially.
He also did a visual presentation proving how the culling policy was
a nonsense and managed to get all his points across despite the
intervention of Madame Chairman. Later he even managed to tell everyone
that 80% of the farmers wanted vaccination.
Mr Jobson earned some very appreciative and well deserved applause
for his address. He was followed by other relevant speakers, including a
very knowledgeable lady from The Lake District who told how the hefted
flocks had suffered and gave the percentages of the rare breeds that had
Her desperate efforts to get MAFF to protect them had been to no
avail and they had been totally non-cooperative.
Nick Green tried to voice his opinion of Tony Blair but Madame
Chairman would not allow anybody to slag off the government, and so he
had to keep to factual information regarding the evidence that he's
collected against the culling policy, and the total devastation that
it has caused in Cumbria.
Juanita Wilson was allowed to speak and supported Bruce Jobson in his
condemnation of the culling policy. She recounted her evidence that
at Mossburn there is living proof that culling is not necessary.
She said also that the depths of animal cruelty and human misery that
this Government's policy has caused has been unprecedented. Some of the
actions of those who carried out this policy were unspeakable.
Roger Windsor who has
lived and worked in countries where FMD is endemic, and where
vaccination is used was in no doubt that it could have been used here.
Some of the many good points raised from the floor were from two of the
MEPs, Kreissl Dorfler and Jan Mulder who spoke about the different ways
of using vaccination and the hope that from these meetings, and the
enquiry, that a strategy could be developed to combat FMD not just for
the EU but internationally.
There is no doubt that FMD will return, they said; the questions are
how soon and where, and how should we deal with any future outbreak.
Let's hope that the hard work done by Yorkshire MEP Robert Sturdy in
getting this enquiry off the ground will result in the truth being told
and the end of the contiguous cull policy.