The League Against Cruel Sports has rounded off an extremely successful conference season in Birmingham with the Conservative Party.
We arrived on Monday and went straight to a fringe meeting of the Conservative Rural Affairs Group, addressed by the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson. It wasn’t long before the topic of badger culling was raised, and we were disappointed, although not surprised, to hear the Secretary of State announce his intention to continue with the pilot plans to cull thousands of badgers. However, the League’s Chief Executive, Joe Duckworth, challenged the Secretary of State during the question and answer session over the role that good animal husbandry can play in helping to reduce Bovine TB.
Then it was on to the National Farmers Union event, where once again the issue of the badger cull came up. Despite the entrenched views from many farmers and members of the NFU, there was also a healthy representation from the Blue Badger campaign (Conservative Party supporters opposed to the cull), which shows this is an issue transcending party politics. We then attended the RSPCA beer and curry night to hear an excellent speech from the RSPCA Chief Executive, Gavin Grant, highlighting the unreliable science underpinning the Government’s culling policy and mentioning the sterling work of Team Badger, including the League of course. Gavin and Joe also managed afterwards to discuss the issue directly with the Secretary of State.
Tuesday saw the arrival of the international rock star, Dr Brian May at the conference! Brian set up the e-petition against the cull, which has now gathered over 150,000 signatures in under a month. This means Parliament must now consider the matter for debate in the House of Commons and if you haven’t already done so, please sign the petition. Please also contact your MP to ask them to call for a debate in Parliament.
Brian spoke with a huge array of politicians, delegates and journalists to explain his opposition to the cull and demand a full debate. He even managed to meet with Owen Paterson to put his views across directly in a fifteen minute exchange. The Secretary of State’s response was disappointingly intransigent, but he would have been left in no doubt as to our views and the growing chorus of opposition to the cull.
In the evening, we attended a Battersea Cats and Dogs reception where we heard some shocking examples of animal neglect and attacks on guide dogs, which is something which we hope to work with Guidedogs to help prevent. Then it was on to the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals), where we rocked out with MP4 (a band made up of a cross party quartet of MPs). Perhaps not quite Queen, but unfortunately Brian had gone home by then, so was unable to help them out on guitar! But it was still a great way to end the night.
The League has made its presence felt at all three party conferences. We raised pertinent questions in fringe meetings and had discussions and meetings with a number of senior politicians from the Government and opposition. We have also developed further our vitally important working relationships with our partners in the RSPCA, IFAW and others and have raised the issue of animal welfare more generally across the political spectrum. Next year the League will have an even greater presence at the party conferences, as we plan to have stands and fringe events and make our voice for animal welfare even louder. We hope to see you there!