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Butterflies and borders

THE TROUBLED East Anglia Border Terrier Club held a Special General Meeting last week Thursday (29 April) to rescind the controversial and unpopular motion proposed and carried at the Club’s AGM in March to make a monetary donation to League Against Cruel Sports.

Incredibly, the proposer of the original motion claimed that LACS were not against working dogs, but instead were about "conservation and butterflies."

The meeting began at 7.30 pm with an address to the floor by EABTC Vice President Simon Jackson who asked Vice Chairman Mr Edmund Vestey to take the Chair at this meeting, as he did not have any implication in the original proposal that was under discussion and thus would allow the Chairman, Mr Gordon MacIntyre to take a full part in discussions. The majority of those present agreed by a show of hands, so Mr MacIntryre stood down and Mr Vestey accepted the chair for the meeting.

Mr Jackson continued, saying: "As one of only very few people in this breed who can truly say they have been in the breed for the whole of their lives, it is my very sad duty to propose the issues to be discussed tonight.

"The main proposal is that on 13th March 2004 an AGM of this club took place – in attendance was one member, some committee members and some officers, not by any means a representative cross section of the club. There are some doubts as to the extent that this AGM was advertised to the club membership, and its actual validity, details of which will be investigated at another time and place.

At this AGM a proposal was made to donate members’ money to the League Against Cruel Sports – the meeting carried this. This has been described as a "storm in a teacup" and while this is only a small amount of money, the implications have struck deep into the very fabric of our breed. It has brought this club and our breed into disrepute."

Mr Jackson added to murmurs of agreement from the floor that comments have been made via various media both from within the breed and from the canine world in general, also articles have appeared in the ‘sporting press’. The effects of these comments and the strength of feeling within the club against the proposal and its subsequent handling by the Club committee had seriously affected the recent championship show held by this club where a shocking and unheard of 76% of entrants were absent. "There was no organised boycott," added Mr Jackson, "exhibitors voted with their absence."

Mr Jackson then outlined several points of contention regarding the calling of the SGM and how the Secretary, Mrs Eileen Needham and interpreted the rules relating to SGMs and the number of items that could or could not be discussed.

The Secretary, Eileen Needham, asked to say a few words. She read out a long list of donations which had been made by the club since inception, which she thought would be an interesting exercise in relation to the original proposal to make a donation to the LACS. She commented that much had been discussed, not least on the Internet, about the donation.

She confirmed it was not discussed in ‘Any Other Business’, but the Donation section of the agenda.

According to Rule 8 of EABTC Club Rules: "No business shall be transacted at an Annual General Meeting unless notice thereof appears on the Agenda, with the exception of routine matters or those which in the opinion of the Chairman of the meeting are urgent …". Nothing was circulated to members about a controversial proposal being discussed at the forthcoming AGM. Those present at the meeting did not consider that such a controversial proposal was either "routine" or "urgent".

The Secretary went on to talk about the committee meeting which immediately followed the AGM. Item 9 was "matters arising from the AGM". The Secretary alleged no one responded when asked twice. Still there was no response and no arguments were received. (This however, according to those members of the committee present, was inaccurate, since the five members who voted against the motion all put forward arguments which they say the Secretary "would not listen to". These appear not to have been minuted correctly or the Secretary denies them taking place).

The Secretary then commented on the fact that she believed an AGM should only contain one item to be discussed – and stated that she had this confirmed by the Kennel Club.

However, as was pointed out at the SGM, the Kennel Club had confirmed to another party and the Secretary that "Kennel Club Regulations do not contain any stipulation that an SGM can only discuss one proposal". The Secretary alleged she took advice from the Kennel Club but had been advised incorrectly – initially being told only one item could be included, and subsequently being advised that all three points put forward for discussion (under one subject – as confirmed by the KC to be correct and proper) could be discussed.

The Secretary then went on to say that the Kennel Club advised her that the SGM should go ahead and that the additional items requested by members should be discussed. She added that she wanted the matter cleared up once and for all and that people were inflating the issue. She commented: "if you have made decisions in your lives and not made a mistake then you haven’t lived".

Simon Jackson then read out the "proposal" on behalf of the members. This received a round of applause from the audience. Mr Vestey thanked Simon Jackson for his input.

Tony Milton (committee member) stood up and addressed the meeting. He mentioned that he was not present at the meeting and the first he heard of the situation was via an email.

He contacted the Secretary and Officers. He believed that the decision to give money to LACS was done without malice but without thought for the consequences. He commented that LACS were heavily involved in questionable activity – he having personal experience by being sent a bomb (thankfully a hoax) in his line of work, which caused evacuation of his building. He thought the club had made a mistake. He said he had written to the Secretary to make a proposition that at the next AGM the club makes no donations to any organisations. Money is given by club members and should be used for the club. He excluded from this Border Terrier Welfare, but meant donations to outside parties. His comments also received a round of applause from the audience.

Mr Vestey then invited comments from any other persons present.

A member of the audience commented that the proposal must have been very badly thought out saying that "by looking at the people present this shows there are a lot of people who do not agree." They agreed with all that had been said by Mr Milton. The donation cannot be allowed to go ahead.

Keith Green asked if the proposer of the motion would "stand up and explain what the League Against Cruel Sports had done for the Border Terrier". Marilyn Danks the proposer of the original motion and Show Manager of the club stood up and declared: "I do not know and it doesn’t matter". This received much laughter and snorts of derision from the audience.

Marilyn Danks went on to say that the proposal had been taken completely wrongly – it was not a vote "against fox hunting" - more laughter and jeers from the audience. She said it was "not a vote against working terriers and Border Terriers". The vote was in favour. She went on to say that "The League Against Cruel Sports were in support of Wild Life Conservation, land and butterflies". She then stood down, to mutters of astonishment from those present.

Mrs Young (wife of one of a committee member) mentioned that no one knew where the AGM was being held, otherwise would have attended. The venue of the AGM was changed and only communicated to certain members of the committee, not to any members. She commented that she would like to think that the person proposing the donation would not have realised what would follow. People feel both ways. What was the purpose of proposing it at that meeting?

Eileen Needham responded by saying that "everyone at the AGM had the opportunity to raise the subject".

Tricia Clarke (a committee member who subsequently resigned) and the other members of the committee who voted against it stood up and said in unison "you would not listen". Jane O’Shea (the club Vice-Chairman who subsequently resigned) said, "I told you this would be hornet’s nest and you wouldn’t listen to us". Much praise was received from the audience who said all those who voted against the proposal should stand and be recognised and be proud of themselves. They did so and received a warm round of applause.

Andrew Mooney commented about when he first heard about the situation – he was astounded and assumed it must have been a tactic to get a vote through. He was surprised when he found out that only one member was present.

Mrs Needham responded: "We did not have a venue for the AGM" and that it was put in the newsletter to "contact the secretary for the venue". Discussion took place as to how these meetings must, in accordance with club and KC rules, be advertised in the dog press – Mrs Needham ignored these comments.

Member Keith Green commented on the amount of people who like to go to terrier shows. He said that 30 years ago there were not classes for Border Terriers – now there are and this is due to the work of the Countryside Alliance.

Fellow member Terry Tuck added to what Mr Green had said and added that it was also to do with the countryside in general and the activities there. "The League Against Cruel Sports is totally against everything the Border Terrier stands for". This prompted another round of applause.

Mrs Needham’s husband stood up and said that coursing was just an excuse for gambling. Mr Tuck answered this by saying he included coursing as merely one of many sports and it wouldn’t have made any difference by leaving it out.

Carolyn Muirhead (a committee member who voted against the motion) was at the meeting – she said that she didn’t think anybody realised what was going to be the result of this vote and thought the decision would be voted against. She said they would have given anything to have stopped this meeting. She also commented how she had put arguments forward at the meeting rejecting the proposal, but "the secretary would not listen."

Member Jayne Alpe commended the five committee members who voted against the motion, but added, "the rest of them seem to have played ‘follow my leader’."

To more applause she added: "How can we have confidence in a committee which operates like that?"

Sandra Girling, a new committee member who voted for the motion stood up and explained that said she voted for the motion because "I did not know enough about either". A member of the audience commented: "if you do not know what you are voting for you should abstain."

Mr Vestey then asked that a vote be taken to rescind the donation. He asked if anyone wanted to keep the donation, but no votes were cast. He then asked for a show of hands to have the motion rescinded, which prompted a unanimous vote from those present, including those members who voted for it in the first place, even the proposer, Marilyn Danks.

Mr Vestey then attempted to close the meeting. Jayne Alpe said that the members did not want the meeting closed and wished to propose that another SGM be called to put forward a vote of no confidence in the committee and ask for their resignations.

Mrs Needham responded saying that the members could not do so, to which Mrs Alpe and others present rejoined that they could and "we have a letter with us tonight and it will be handed to you". A minimum of 34 signed copies of the letter were handed over to Mrs Needham and more were promised to follow by post.

The meeting ended, with the unpopular motion having been rescinded, but with the threat of another acrimonious SGM to follow within the next few weeks at which most of the Committee would be expected to resign or be voted out of office.

A source within the club told OUR DOGS how strong the depth of feeling against the Committee was amongst the membership, commenting: "The extraordinarily high and unheard of absentee rate at the recent championship show under the club Secretary Eileen Needham, who was judging, is being partly blamed on an accident on M11 – we went through the accident site at 8.40 am that day when the motorway was being reopened.

Also, of the 174 dogs entered, from a rough look at geographical locations, 25 would have potentially used the M11 – the rest of the entry came from the North or above the accident site on the M11. Of that 25, only eight were present and two of those took both Reserve CCs! Of the 17 remaining, 13 took the decision not to go to the show before the day itself, which doesn’t leave many to blame non-arrival on the accident!

"The EABTC’s Internet website closed on 30 April - the day after the SGM but were the membership / committee consulted? Not to my knowledge.

"Members have on three occasions requested a copy of the membership list – this has been ignored. The SGM notification has to be distributed to all members, but even the Vice Chairman Edmund Vestey did not receive notification of SGM!

"The Club has now lost three of the Guarantors to the Kennel Club (Jane O’Shea – Vice Chairman), Tricia Clarke and Gerry Baker, the Treasurer who resigned just before the meeting); five committee members have also resigned (Jane O’Shea, Tricia Clarke, Mike Hollingsbee, Jan Hollingsbee, Gerry Baker). Have the KC been notified as they should be? We would certainly hope so."