A View from the Trustees…
Posted 1st February 2019
At our Board meeting on 26 January the Trustees decided that having seen the blogs from members of staff it might be an idea for Trustees to do the same and have a regular blog written by Trustees so supporters can see what we’ve been doing and I volunteered to do the first one. This is also an opportunity to say a little about ourselves. By now the Trustee biographies will be up on the website so you can see who we are. I won’t repeat mine other than to say I’m just an ordinary member and supporter who is passionate about the League and its causes and who has been lucky enough to be asked to be a Trustee.
Over the last year I’ve participated in several protests, notably at National Trust properties and at the Country File show with our friends from National Dis-Trust, a couple of demonstrations (including getting soaked amongst the thousands on Chris Packham’s fantastic march), a Boxing Day protest with the great folks of Devon County Hunt Sabs in Chard against the Cotley Hunt, leafletting against the myth of 'trail' hunting in town centres and villages and meetings with fellow supporters in the West Midlands thanks to our terrific Regional Campaigns Manager Emily. I was also at the National Trust AGM (a real last-chance saloon), and have been out on Wounded Badger Patrols in the north Cotswolds. The key thing is that these occasions have given me the opportunity to talk with people to hear what they think and what the League should be and do; invaluable and informative experiences and which have certainly helped shape my views.
I really started to take a close interest in how the League is run after the 2017 AGM when I had grave concerns about several things; most notably the role of Investigators and the perceived direction the League was taking. Moving on 18 months I can now truthfully say that those concerns no longer exist and we now have a League which I believe is stronger and more determined, with a really good group of people involved under the very able leadership of Andy Knott.
It’s important to remember that a Trustee is a Board Director and so as well as being involved in the direction the League takes we also have to oversee it as a charity, as a business and as an employer of people. I have to admit I’ve been a little taken by surprise about how much work has to be done. We’ve got a great mix of experienced Trustees and new faces and, as well as being a group with the same passion for animal welfare, we have experts on the Board who can guide us in sometimes unfamiliar territory. With a diverse group, Board discussions have been really good, and yes, sometimes a little heated but when people are passionate, that’s to be expected. Differences of opinion have been accepted and respected and good solutions arrived at. It’s a really great collaborative environment that is clearly and singularly focused on animal outcomes.
One real benefit of being a Trustee is the access it gives to League people and it’s been really good to talk to them and hear what’s going on and how they feel about the League and the work we’re doing. The view of the staff I’ve spoken to is overwhelmingly positive and I’ve been really impressed with everyone, but right now, in particular, I would single out Martin Sims and the Investigations team.
The Investigations team under Martin have been doing some great things, often in difficult circumstances and have built up a great reputation and credibility. As such, attacks from hunting supporters are to be expected, however the attacks on Martin and his family from those who proclaim themselves as League supporters are absolutely out of order and they should be ashamed of themselves. Martin is totally committed to animal welfare and he’s a fantastic benefit to the movement. Listening to Martin and hearing what he and his family have been through I can only have the utmost sympathy and give him my 100% support, as we all should. If there’s a moral to this story it’s to think and find out the facts before tweeting or posting.
Along with the Board meeting we’ve also had a two-day strategy workshop with the senior management team. This was an occasion to really think about what we and the supporters want from the League. The biggest issue will be of no surprise, how do we accommodate the broad range of objectives that supporters have and at the same time be a highly credible, effective and efficient campaigning machine? The resulting strategy plan will, once it’s finalised, clearly sets out what the Board and management think the League is and, I’m sure, will tie in with the views and aspirations of the vast majority of our supporters and friends; it will enable the League to be that machine.
In closing, over the last few months the League has seen a number of Trustees and Vice Presidents come and go. Several Trustees have now stood down as their term came to an end and I’m sure we’re all very grateful for their involvement and commitment. Sadly, we’ve also lost Simon Prince from the Board as he’s had to resign due to being seriously ill and so our thoughts are with him and his family. Others though have parted company with the League in difficult and trying circumstances. I joined the Board just after these events and frankly I found myself wondering if I’d done a wise thing in accepting the role of Trustee but now, having talked to a lot of people both inside and outside of the League and seen what was going on I can absolutely say I think the right decisions were made by the League. There should be no room for egos, private agendas and prejudice and, frankly, sour grapes. When that leads to malicious, sniping attacks on the League, Trustees and staff which, despite protestations otherwise, can only benefit our opponents one has to seriously question the motives of those making the attacks and those who are behind them. All a great shame.
I’ll end with a request - please can we all pull together to help animals and put an end to all cruel sports? Together we are stronger. Divided just makes life easier for those that seek to harm animals in the name of so called sport.