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The animal rights activist at the heart of Number 10 – Who is Carrie Symonds?

The Prime Minister’s fiancé and animal rights activist, Carrie Symonds, is said to wield significant power in Number 10. But should farmers be worried? Abi Kay reports.

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The animal rights activist at the heart of Number 10 – Who is Carrie Symonds?

Carrie Symonds, the Prime Minister’s fiancé and mother to his 10-month old son Wilfred, has been a controversial figure since her relationship with Mr Johnson became public.

 

The former director of communications for the Conservatives and PETA’s ‘Person of the Year 2020’ has been accused of influencing Government policy on everything from the badger cull to livestock transport.  

 

At the end of 2020, she was even blamed for instigating the ‘Carrie Coup’, which led to the resignations of influential Number 10 advisers Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, with whom she was said to disagree on key issues.


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This perception of the power Ms Symonds wields over the levers of Government, coupled with her close connections to the harder line environmentalists in the Tory Party such as Zac Goldsmith and her willingness to share platforms with anti-shooting activists such as Chris Packham, have left many farmers concerned.

 

Over the course of the past four years, she has tweeted several times about how ‘cruel’ live exports are, and even said she voted for Brexit so they could be banned.

 

She has also called for an end to the badger cull, claiming in 2018 that it only had a ‘modest’ impact on bovine TB.

 

 

Both of these issues are now subject to Government consultations which have been branded ‘political’ by industry and do not take into account the realities on the ground.

 

At a recent National Sheep Association meeting, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis was forced to defend what she claimed was a ‘genuine’ live exports consultation, after chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The consultation has got a huge impact on productivity, profitability and the ability of the industry to operate.

 

“And yet it seemed when that consultation came out, it was a done deal in terms of banning live exports.”

 

Derbyshire

 

As well as launching a consultation on the phase out of badger culling across the whole of England last week, the Prime Minister was also revealed to have intervened twice to stop the 2019 cull in Derbyshire going ahead in official court documents.

 

George Eustice, Farming Minister at the time, was leaned on during discussions with the Prime Minister to end the cull, shortly after Ms Symonds had met the former chief executive of the Badger Trust, Dominic Dyer.

 

Mr Dyer has since applied to become an adviser on the Government’s Bovine Tuberculosis Partnership for England, leading to accusations that another ‘friend of Carrie’ will be appointed to a key role.

 

Delayed

 

Membership of the partnership was due to be announced in December, but has been delayed.

 

Meanwhile, Ms Symonds has taken up a new role as head of communications at the Aspinall Foundation, an animal charity with a passion for rewilding projects around the world.

 

She also maintains her position as patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, which is pushing for a ban on cages for egg laying birds and pig farrowing crates – an issue the Prime Minister sought to raise as the trade deal with the EU was announced.

 

Pork

 

When questioned on the details of the agreement, Mr Johnson said he would not rule out tariffs on EU products which did not meet the UK’s high standards, for example if pork was produced using sow stalls which are banned in the UK.

 

Mr Johnson appeared to have misspoken, as sow stalls have been banned in the UK and across the EU since January 2013.

 

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies later confirmed the Government was in fact seeking to ban farrowing crates – a move which she said could severely impact piglet welfare. 

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