Dear Minister, no that's too formal. Mr Eustice - oh darn it ...
My dearest George,
We've never met but I've seen you from afar in the big House and our shoulders brushed as you rushed out of the front doors surrounded by your entourage at the Dogs In Society Conference last year. So close and yet so far. I wanted to shout ... "Wait George, I'm here!" But alas I lost my nerve and as always you are ever elusive. To you I must be just another animal welfare campaigner ... sigh. But George there's so much I wish I could tell you. So much I wish you knew.
We are both huge dog lovers for starters. You've no idea how important that is to me. But you also did something exceptional a few days before Christmas. You gave me the most precious gift a man can give a woman. Hope.
And now in the spirit of Valentine's Day, I just can't hold back my feelings a moment longer. I simply must let you know how much your Consultation could change my life.
You see, like many campaigners, I put my life on hold years ago because I adopted a rescue dog. Not just any rescue dog - although all are very special I'm sure you'll agree. No, my rescue dog was a gentle, sensitive Golden Retriever who had spent seven long and desperate years confined as a breeding bitch in a licensed Welsh puppy farm.
She'd been locked away in the darkness all that time and only when she was no longer able to produce puppies was she granted her freedom and given to a rescue. As you can imagine she emerged from this life of utter hell with many problems - both physical and psychological. And it took a great deal of money in veterinary bills, several operations and an enormous amount of love, care and patience for her to learn that life as a dog in the UK doesn't have to mean a life of battery breeding. Tragically, just as she was finding her feet in the outside world, she developed cancer. But being the brave soul that she was, she sailed through six months of chemo and was cured. However, life hadn't thrown enough at her it seems because only six months later another form of cancer took her from me. She had been my treasured companion for just two of her nine years and it felt such a cruel injustice.
As a clearly sensitive man, you can I'm sure imagine how devastating this was. I wouldn't wish this experience on any dog lover. And I'm sure you will absolutely understand why, from the moment she came into my life, I vowed that I would fight for the thousands of dogs just like her who are, as I write this, enduring this same abuse, neglect and cruelty by so many people involved in this exploitative - yet legal - industry.
It goes without saying that the illegal trade in puppies smuggled into the UK is utterly horrific too, not to mention the undeniable Rabies risk this industry poses. But George, while the focus always seems to be on puppies, I do think it's important not to forget what's happening on our own doorstep in the UK's already licensed dog breeding factories.
Sadly, we aren't able to dictate how breeding dogs in other countries are cared for, but surely we can stand firm for our own breeding dogs here in the UK. And despite devolution which now dictates breeding legislation elsewhere, it is England and Westminster that continue to be responsible for facilitating the greatest route to trade for those who care little about dog welfare in other countries.
Dearest George, even you must wonder why in 2016 we are still in this wretched situation. Don't you agree that it is deplorable that such suffering continues on our own tiny island? Especially when the solutions are within touching distance; just as you were to me on that fateful day in November last year.
Oh George I so want our relationship to work. But for relationships to flourish it takes honesty and transparency. So I'm going to confess something to you right now and hope that you're not too shocked. You see, you're not my first Defra Minister. There, I've said it! I've been hurt before. Things with Rupert showed such promise because he too loved dogs. But it all went pear-shaped and he let me down dreadfully because to be brutally frank, he just didn't listen. Unfortunately, this has left me with some pretty serious trust issues. But far from being a hopeless romantic, I'm a hopeful one. And there's something about you George that I find quite irresistible.
For starters, you've publicly acknowledged that puppy farming is a dreadful problem. Nobody wants puppy farming to continue in the UK except puppy farmers and their dealers, but instead of closing them down, they just keep being licensed and relicensed, and as we all know, sadly being granted a licence does not equate to high welfare standards.
Importantly, your own department's advice to the public about buying a puppy is the right advice: To see the puppy with the mother and littermates and not to buy a puppy under 8 weeks of age. Now all you need to do is to make sure the silly old loophole that exists in the law, making it almost impossible for the public to take your department's good advice, is closed once and for all. You already know how you can do it - by eliminating the third party selling of puppies. After all, you didn't make the law that allows this unethical trade to continue - in fact I doubt you were even a glimmer in your parent's eyes back in 1951!
February 14 is a time of passion, compassion and of saying things from the heart. With the closing date for your Consultation only a few weeks away now, you're going to hear a lot of versions of the truth from a lot of different people - some with vested interests. But George, there really is only one version of the truth you need to understand, and it comes from those of us who have nothing to gain from seriously improved dog welfare. Those of us who work as volunteers and haven't had a good night's sleep in years because what we've seen continues to haunt us. Those of us who have held the helpless victims of this trade in our hands, comforting them and trying to repair the damage. Those of us who have spent hours listening to members of the public in tears down the phone with their stories of heartbreak because they believed that if they bought puppies from a licensed and regulated trade, everything would be OK. And years collecting the hard data that you'll shortly be able to read for yourself on why allowing puppies to be sold without their mothers is not only dangerous for the dogs, their puppies and members of the public, but the harm it does is totally supported by science. And, for what it's worth, it's also highly unethical in 21st Century Britain.
If you're the man I hope you are, you'll trust your gut instinct on this and go with the only decision that is right for the dogs. In fact, if you look into the eyes of your own adoring dog you'll be left with absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
And one more thing, George. I can absolutely promise you that when you've done the right thing for the dogs, it will feel really, really good.
Yours in anticipation,