We arrived in Brussels via the famous Eurostar train and after a hair-raising taxi ride; we were dropped off at the European Parliament. The WI contingent was made by myself; Marylyn Haines-Evans, Chair of the Public Affairs Committee; Enid Gratton-Guiness, the WI member who proposed the resolution on Country of Origin Labelling (COOL); and Rachel Barber, Head of the Public Affairs Department at NFWI.
The first task was our ID photographed at the security check-in, which appeared to be much more flattering than the ones one has to bear in our own Houses of Parliament, and after this, we were ushered into a smart cafe area to meet with Renanta Sommer, the rapporteur for the legislation pertaining to our COOL campaign. We spoke to Renata for an hour; a meeting that revealed differences of approach. She maintains that it is too difficult to track the route of any lorry load of meat or poultry due to the many loads arriving at huge slaughter houses across Europe every 24 hours, and that keeping a check is next to impossible. We countered this argument by discussing the paper trails that legally have to follow any sheep or cow, and any other animal, wherever it goes, for example, a paper record must be made to move a cow from one field to another. We were told that fact-finding programmes have to be put in place before anything can be decided, meaning that voluntary labelling seems to be on the cards at this time.
We also spoke with MEPs Jill Evans and Chris Davis, from Wales and the north of England respectively. They are fully behind the WI's call, but other MEPs are not, and many MEPs will not have encountered the discussion or legislation just yet. The WI mandate calls for mandatory labelling so do get lobbying those MEPs and MPs – they need to know what the WI is calling for!
From Brussels to Birmingham for me, as 24 hours later I found myself in Sutton Coldfield Town Hall speaking to members of the West Midlands Federation. I then enjoyed a short break before travelling on to Barry in South Wales to address the autumn council meeting of the Glamorgan Federation.
Yesterday I headed to Denman College for the beginning of the Women Reaching Women's final year and then I travelled on to Darlington in readiness for the Durham council meeting. Today it's Bishop Aukland!