Bill took us via PowerPoint through his and his wife Sally’s trips to Venezuela, Panama, China and Cuba, after he left parliament. Not surprisingly, animal pictures – even a featherless chook – popped up regularly in their travel pictures.
Later in reply to a question, Bill spoke about working as a visiting vet in Yorkshire, to help control foot and mouth disease during a major UK outbreak.
That involved day long slaughtering of largely cattle and sheep with the disease or those close to an infected area and likely to catch it. Vet students were co-opted for the task too and Bill said a generation of vet students were probably lost to veterinary science, because of the hundreds of lambs and calves they had to kill.
But some farmers made considerable money from the compensation they were paid. “Initially there was a modest payment from the British government, but then the EU kicked in with considerably more. Suddenly an old ewe which had been worth practically nothing alive, was worth 250 pounds when killed,” he said.
So Bill said there was considerable trade in foot and mouth infected material “and there was quite a bit of animosity aroused when that was suspected and people a considerable distance from an outbreak, were paid compensation”.
But he said in one area, he argued strongly for the preservation of about 20 rams and they survived the massive slaughter for the long term benefit of the sheep farmer and speedy genetic improvement in district flocks, after the outbreak ended.
However there was often considerable friendliness from farmers whose flocks and herds Bill had slaughtered; one couple, the day after he had killed on their farm, even invited him to their son’s wedding.
But he said the massive slaughter got to him. Every time he sees a slab sided grain truck on the road here, he thinks of similar lorries in Yorkshire, full of dead animals.
Our next session on Tuesday August 6, will be conducted by Dr Dennis O’Brien, who previously exercised our minds last year about being kind to animals.