AGM 2019 Chairman’s Report

With many members not present at this year’s Society AGM, Malvern, below is the Society chairman, Adam Brown’s, report to the AGM on the last 12 months, including details of issues Council has been dealing with in the last year.

AGM 2019 Chairman’s Report

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen

I am sure that you are all aware of what has been occupying a large amount of our Council’s time during the past year. The letter that you have all received from our Vice Chairman explains the situation and the events that have taken place, and what we have been able to do about it.

This has taken a lot of work, time and a number of extra Council meetings, and has regrettably put us in the position of having to seek professional legal advice, which has proved to be very expensive. None of us wished for any of this to happen, and I sincerely hope that the Society can move on from this during the next year.

To that end I would like to thank the Council for the time and effort that they have put in for the Society to see us through this most unfortunate time, especially Howard Wood who has stepped in so capably to act as Chairman while I have been indisposed following more hip surgery this Spring.

As for the rest of the year, the Society has had another good twelve months. We currently have 346 members, this includes three who joined this week. The breed has yet again excelled in the show ring and my congratulations go to all of those who have done so well.

Our Worcester sale in August attracted a strong entry of sheep and some very good prices were achieved. Let’s hope the same happens at the Melton Mowbray sale next week.

In my Chairman’s report at last year’s AGM I boldly said that “by this time next year we will have left the European Union”.

Little did I know at the time how wrong I was to be. All I will say this year is that neither I nor it seems anybody else knows what will happen on that front, but one way or another change is on the way, and apart from the political threat to the UK agricultural sector, I think that farming, food production and the wider countryside is under greater threat now than it has ever been.

The climate change experts seek to blame livestock production for the rise in greenhouse gases, ignoring the vast amount produced by both industry and travel and conveniently forgetting to mention the massive amount of CO2 that is sequestered and thus offset by the very grass that those livestock have been produced from.

The vegans want everyone to stop eating meat on health and animal welfare grounds, claiming that we are killing the planet, whilst flyting in rest exotic fruit and vegetables from all over the planet to live on instead. We must all be aware of what is happening in the wider world and adapt to the conditions as we find them, but one thing that we all know is that with our breed we have hardy, thrifty and adaptable sheep which are capable of producing a first class product from grass.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our retiring President, Lesley I hope you have enjoyed your term in office, and it gives me great pleasure to welcome Michael Sprake as our new President, I wish you the best of luck for your term in office, you will be a great asset to the Council during the next year as there is much work to be done.

My special thanks go as ever to Gail. Gail, we all appreciate what a difficult and at times unpleasant year you have had.

We would all like to thank you for the calm, considered and professional way that you have handled the situation, and I can assure you that you still have and always have had the overwhelming support and backing of both the Council and the wider Society, you have always gone the extra mile for us and we would like to thank you for what you have done, and currently do do for us all. Thank you.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would just like to finish by saying thank you to you all for attending today’s AGM and let’s move the Society on to a brighter future for us all, always remembering that it is our breed and our sheep that we are here for. Thank you.

Adam Brown

Chairman of Council.

In addition, in view of the letters received by members in the days before the AGM related to the events at the 2018 National Sale the Council provide the following information:

• The Council would remind members that in order to protect the breed, the Society, its members and potential buyers, the Council of the Southdown Sheep Society have agreed minimum standards (available on the website under ‘useful information‘) should be used to guide veterinary inspection at its Official Sales, which includes the advice that is there is potential for doubt vendor advised to obtain Veterinary Certification beforehand.

• The Council would wish to assure members that the Society used Solicitors with one of the largest and most experienced agriculture law teams in the West Midlands, and all the team are members of the Agricultural Law Association. The Council was formally advised that legal advice should have been obtained by the Society in all matters related to 2018 National Sale.

• The Council’s extensive investigations into disclosure of the mechanical shortening of the ewe’s teeth concluded that there has been a clear breach of the warranties on the condition of the ewe, which had the potential to undermine confidence in the integrity of the Society’s official sale.

• Specifically, despite claims made by Messrs Wakeham-Dawson and Harmer, the Society Secretary has never denied that she had a conversation with Susan Harmer at the Society’s Premier Sale in 2018. However, this conversation did not specifically include the information that the teeth of an aged ewe belonging to Messrs Wakeham-Dawson and Harmer had been mechanically shortened by an unqualified person. The words ‘We’ve had a problem with an old ewe’s teeth’ are clearly some way short of declaring that a ewe’s teeth have been subject to mechanical shortening.

• The complaints received from Wakeham-Dawson & Harmer concerning the Breed Society Secretary have been thoroughly and carefully reviewed by the Council and it has found them to be unfounded.

• It should also be noted than any checks on sheep belonging to members of the Harmer family at shows have been made following requests from other Society members owing to confusion as to the ownership of animals and in order to ensure the Society’s ‘Four month ownership’ rule is being upheld by all members. Messrs Wakeham-Dawson and Harmer also suggest the Society’s articles were updated in 2015 at cost to members. This is untrue, the Society’s articles were in fact updated in 2013 and this was done on a pro-bono basis by the solicitor involved. The Society incurred no cost in relation to this matter.

• Suggestions that the Council is using the vote of no confidence in Mr Justin Harmer as a charity trustee and company director as a bargaining tool are also inaccurate. The Society’s Council voted unanimously in April 2019 that it had no confidence in Mr Harmer as he continued to present unfounded allegations against the Society Secretary and was undermining the work of the Society in doing so. These unfounded allegations have since been repeated, despite Messrs Wakeham-Dawson and Harmer being asked on multiple occasions to withdraw them. As such Council passed a further unanimous vote of no confidence in Mr Harmer in August 2019. Council did, though, suspend this vote for a period of 24 hours to allow Messrs Wakeham-Dawson and Harmer to reflect on the outcome of the Society’s investigations and consider their position with regard to the unfounded allegations made against the Society Secretary. As such the vote of no confidence in Mr Harmer stands as Council feel they cannot work with a fellow charity trustee and director who seeks to disrupt the Society in such a manner.