brian's soapbox
JULY 2015

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As always, the opinions expressed in these pages are purely and personally those of myself, Brian; they are not the official views of Queen, or of any other organisation or individual.

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Cheers ! Bri
- Also applies to FOREIGN LANGUAGE sites,

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**Fri 24 Jul 15**

Direct link

You can now relive that extraordinary day of our rally against the SI. The SI was an amendment posing as a 'technical detail’, which would have smashed the Hunting Act’s power to protect. The day before Parliament was to vote on it, the Government, forced on to the back foot, withdrew both the debate and the vote. We received the news at the moment when I was preparing to address the rally. So my first words, unexpectedly, announced the fact that the Hunting Act would stand undiluted.

Here’s a nice gallery of 3-D memories of that VERY memorable day.

Brian at the Rally

The Stereo photos were taken by my good friends Dana Kubick and Helen Bovill, who have kindly let us display them on the website.

So whether you're free-viewing or using your now-patent OWL, enjoy the strong feeling of being there all over again.

We did it ! The people of Britain put a brake on a Government intent on bringing back blood sports. They had to withdraw the ‘amendment’ to the Hunting Act, because it was apparent they would lose this vote, just as they had effectively already lost the promised ‘Free Vote on Repeal’. So the Hunting Act of 2004 survived intact. Of course there will be more dirty dealings … but we will be watching.

Enjoy it in 3-D !!! Here’s the link.

And, just to remind us what it’s all about … here’s a nice stereo of one of our rescuee foxes from Harper Asprey, now back in the wild and in excellent health. Could anybody in their right mind want to torture this magnificent creature to death ?

Fox portrait - stereo
Photo: Bri

Onwards, Folks.



** Tue 21 Jul 15**
Direct link

Here’s the link to the NASA page showing what happened when I was there.

Rock Star/Astrophysicist Dr. Brian May Goes Backstage With New Horizons
21 July 2015

Enjoy !

Pluto in a Minute: Dr. Brian May Shows Us How To Really See Pluto

Brian at APL - stereo

Captured in my last hour at APL, Maryland. With Pluto stereo of course !

[Photo by Kyle Cassidy - The official photographer at NASA]

Nice Slate gallery of New Horizons Pluto Space Team.!i=4214583897&k=RBfTMnd



Tue 21 Jul 15**
Direct link

Thanks to all you folks for the great birthday greetings.

I had a Plutonic Birthday and some time with some good old Rock pals in LA.

It all seems a long way from these days when I was just a boy with distant dreams.

I did have my guitar, though !

Brian with guitar approx 1957
Brian with guitar approx 1957

Onwards !

Take care out there



**Mon 20 Jul 15**
Direct link

First high quality REAL stereo image of Pluto.

I had an unforgettable 3 days with the amazing New Horizons team. I’m still 'coming down’. Alan Stern, leader of the Science Team at APL in Laurel, Maryland, personally made sure I was treated like one of the family, as a collaborator, and I felt privileged to the nth degree.

I was, of course, as always, obsessed with finding stereoscopic opportunities while I was there, and the Gods of the Underworld must have been with me, because I was there when the first 2 by 2 mosaic full-planet picture was downloaded from the probe, and assembled into exactly the required highish res partner to the iconic ‘last-look’ photo which preceded the final fly-by. Baseline must be a few hundred thousand miles, but I’ll need to check that. Of course the New Horizons guys were already doing serious science on this image as it arrived, but I was able to assemble the two images to make the most satisfying stereo view I can ever remember making. I got some help making some prints on site, so I was able to show this 3-D to the entire team through the lenses of some OWLS I took over.

So this is definitely the first REAL high quality stereo image of Pluto in history. And we can say it’s officially NH approved !

No fiddling this time. The right image is the ‘last-look’ photo from 15th July, and the left image is the ‘two-by-two downloaded from NH on the 17th.

All I did was fine-adjust the orientations to match up, and match up the colouring by eye.


Pluto last before flyby
Photos courtesy of NASA, stereo by Bri.
Help with Stereo Viewing (LSC)

If you’ve been following the New Horizons mission closely, you’ll have seen Amy Teitel’s Pluto in a Minute videos. Well, before I left, we did one together, which I think will make you smile. It features this stereo view, so now you can see it as she saw it at that moment (we got a good ‘wow!').

We’ll post up a link to that vid as soon as we have it.




**Sun 19 Jul 15**

Item moved.


**Thu 16 Jul 15**
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Now the dust has settled on the week’s events, it’s possible to construct a clear overview. The Tory Press has already written its version of History – that the SNP unethically single-handedly blocked an amendment to the Hunting Act which was designed to help farmers control pests.   The truth is somewhat different !

To begin with, the ‘amendment’ which snuck in under cover of the night was the result of a careful piece of  Machiavellian scheming, seen as a necessity since it had become obvious that the long-promised “Free Vote on repeal of the Hunting Act” was going to fail to bring the result that David Cameron and the fox hunters wanted.  The ‘amendment’ – far from being the 'slight technical adjustment’ that SIs were designed to be, was a flagrant attempt to castrate the Hunting Act, by making it impossible for it ever to yield prosecutions in the future.  A dastardly and sordid affair ! 

Tuesday 14th July 2015 was a victory for Democracy and Team Fox, and for Save-Me, along with all the animal welfare groups and supporters who have e-mailed and campaigned with us. Even though dirty tactics were used, Democracy in some way worked, and triumphed for the benefit of the English.

This was a very public humiliation for the Government and the Countryside Alliance with their ever-changing spin. Despite tampering with the British parliamentary system and attempting to use sleight of hand to fox the public, they have been caught out in the full light of day. This unworthy and ill-used Statutory Instrument was the return of fox hunting under a different name, and in the paltry 6 days' notice given for the vote on the SI, even pro-hunt MPs were confirming the truth. Even though it failed, Cameron’s attack on the Act which has protected wild animals since 2004 would have gained more respect had it been done straightforwardly.

There are 318 hunts in the UK and in England about 10 upland foot packs and 20 in Wales. There is legislation already in place that allows farmers to act under licence in ‘pest control’ situations. So there was no way the Hunting Act needed to be “relaxed” to give farmers what they need to protect their livestock. It was a deception - a very shabby ruse to circumvent an uncomfortable promise.

The Countryside Alliance have been once again exposed as peddling old-style barbaric hunting with packs of dogs, and as the short week unfolded, while the leader of the Tory party in the HOC was pronouncing “This has nothing to do with Hunting” the CA were sending MPs literature simply saying “Vote for Hunting”. MPs who otherwise may have abstained said they were receiving between 600 and 1,800 emails on this issue AGAINST the SI – the biggest avalanche of E-mails MPs have ever experienced. Many were rightly swayed to have a mind to vote against the Tory Party Line. It seems the 80% of the population who oppose the bill were not remaining quiet. A core of dyed-in-the-wool pro-hunt MP’s chose to ignore their public, but every day more previously undecided Tory MPs joined us.

The change of heart wasn’t a conscious snub to Mr Paterson and Mr Hart in their bid to see the return of blood sports, nor was it disloyalty to the Government; it was a legitimate exercising of democratic process. MPs were, in tune with the ideas of Common Decency, voting according to their conscience and the will of their constituents. Some, of course, were not of a mind to behave decently. Some MPs who had been elected with the support of the CA-backed “Vote Ok” organisation were reminded that if they voted against Cameron’s SI, they wouldn't receive their help next time. Despite Cameron’s assertions that this was a free vote, bullying was rife within the Commons and the pressure from verbal intimidation was immense. A last ditch attempt from Conservative party headquarters, calling MPs the night before the vote to beg them to abstain instead of voting against, failed completely, and at this stage the writing was clearly on the wall.

We had met with many of the newly elected SNP members over the last few weeks and found them as refreshingly honest as the spirit that flowed through Nicola Sturgeon when she burst onto our screens just a few short months ago. 

We had found the pre-election anti-Scot propaganda shocking; the imagery used and the prejudice and fear deliberately generated to divide us from Scotland is forever a stain on Cameron’s administration and the ‘bought’ Tory Press. So why wouldn’t the Scottish National Party vote on animal cruelty ? The SNP took the seats fairly and squarely from the same voters who sent us Tory and Labour MPs just five years earlier, and in recent memory Cameron was seen begging the Scots to stay in the UK, yet people were now saying they shouldn't vote. Perhaps they forgot that the Scots have always voted ? Gordon Brown was our Prime Minister and Alistair came to us from North of Hadrian’s Wall. Of course they should vote ! And vote they did ! IT was appropriate from the compassionate point of view, because foxes know no boundaries and neither does humaneness. 

Of course the cynics will always say the SNP motivation in voting was purely to change the balance of power in Parliament, and that they have no real regard for animal welfare. Well, time will tell. They have already promised that Scotland under the SNP will review the Scottish Wild Mammal Act to tighten it up in the coming weeks. Certainly when the SNP made their announcement on Tuesday afternoon that they were to vote against the SI, Cameron’s advisors were smart to pull Wednesday’s vote with perfect timing to be able to blame the backdown purely on the SNP. And that was the message that went out to much of the World’s news media.
There has been much talk of EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) and guesswork that Cameron will simply implement EVEL and bring the Repeal Bill back in a few weeks. But current advice is that EVEL will not affect another attack on the Hunting Act, so it looks as if this talk was mainly bravado.

Had the vote taken place, whether or not the SNP had voted in the end, there is little doubt the result would have been a defeat for the Government. Whether pulling the vote resulted in less humiliation or more is open to debate. But the principle result is the same: The Hunting Act withstood the attack, and still stands intact.

Of course it’s fairly plain that some hope of turning the clock back lives on in the mind of David Cameron, and a few others. But support is flagging within the party. The view of many is that it’s becoming embarrassing, and makes Britain looks bad on a world stage. Were we really going to be the first government in this century to re-introduce blood sports ? We have now heard many previously committed pro-cruelty MPs tell us they just want this to go away, before it ‘retoxifies’ the Conservative party.

Of course none of this battle has been about political parties. As we always hoped, decency has prevailed because of commitment from politicians of all parties, regardless of ‘colour’. The dispute is simply about humaneness versus cruelty. 

The Statutory Instrument has, for now been thrown out, and withdrawn from the order paper. Whether it ever returns remains to be seen.

The results for the Animal Welfare community of this tussle have been already seen to be very beneficial. It seems that more of the British public are now clear about what Blood Sports really are, and why, in the view of at least 75 per cent of them, they should never again be legal in the UK. It might be noted that 75 per cent is an incomparably higher percentage of assent than any government has ever got from Britain’s voters !!

Yes, fox hunters must now listen to will of the majority, and the law of the Land, and enjoy their rides without the ‘pay-off’ of a sadistic end to the day.

Brian and Anne
Save-Me 16th July 2015


**Thu 16 Jul 15**
Direct link

I’m still reeling from the ridiculous week we just had, combating a ridiculous piece of skulduggery from our Government.

What a waste of decent people’s time. But it is done, for now. And done well, for now, methinks.

I missed my rendezvous with the Pluto New Horizons team in Washington DC because I thought the threat to our wildlife (actually ALL our wildlife, as it turns out) in the UK was more of a priority. But now I get to go and celebrate with the NH team who have just successfully pulled off a nine-year project to rendezvous with that little PLANET at the edge of the classical Solar System. I’m well excited. I’m ready to meet lots of great space scientists that I’ve previously only known through E-mails - and sift through data with them. Yes, I feel very privileged. In these things, like my dear ol’ adopted uncle, Patrick Moore, I’m an enthusiastic amateur, since nobody is paying me ! But I’m well aware millions would pay dearly for such a journey … fulfilling many schoolboy dreams.

As an amateur image processor, this is what I put together in 3-D on the plane … a fanciful fabrication, but based on the latest NH pics, and I think it’s the first time it’s been done. A speculative look at what it would have been like to be standing near the New Horizons probe as it flashed past Pluto and its companion Charon towards deep Kuiper Belt country. Yes, if you’re not familiar with 3-D Free-viewing, please find an OWL or other stereo viewer and enjoy this ! That’s reddish pink Pluto in the foreground with its now familiar giant heart-shaped feature, and Charon behind, showing its massive chasm and brown rocky terrain. NOBODY has ever seen Pluto like this. And it will be 10 years at least til anybody gets anything better, of course, because it takes that amount of time to get there. OK - please don’t write to me and tell me the orientation of the bodies is wrong. I know ! But it’s not far from reality, if you were a giant with eyes a million miles apart.

Pluto and Charon



**Wed 15 Jul 15**
Direct link

Congratulations New Horizons Team .
Fly by Pluto with the New Horizons probe

One more to celebrate @NASANewHorizons getting through #Flyby intact Again, I cheated the 3-D ! But .. PLUTO!


Pluto stereo


**Wed 15 Jun 15**

Direct link

Up at 6am which is cruel enough for a person who is used to going to bed around that time ! Drive to Millbank for a spot on Sky News – and on the way in the car, an interview with LBC Radio, talking about how underhanded this SI is, as a scheme to bring back full-scale blood hunting of foxes for the amusement of a few sadistic bar stewards.

In Sky News I am in a small box .. a room about the size of your toilet, alone facing a TV a camera that is remotely operated from afar. Talking to a nice man at the other end, whose face I cannot see. Apparently it’s Stephen and Isobel I’m connecting with. Stephen is respectful – and asks the right questions, challenging my view that this is all about reclaiming a blood sport, rather than a farming issue. It’s actually easier, sometimes, to get the necessary points across when you’re properly challenged, rather than talking to a totally friendly interviewer. It ALL makes me nervous. This stuff does. I might look confident, but it never gets easy. Everyone I know who does this stuff gets nervous. It’s easy to be brave and funny off camera, but as soon as the red light is on, it feels very different. You have to control your emotions, so you don’t become angry and incoherent, but you can’t control ALL the emotion or you’d come across as a boring robot.

Everyone at these TV stations is normally on our side. They all say “well done for championing the animals”. That applies to almost all staff around the TV stations and in Parliament too. And the Police, who are almost to a man, friendly and supportive. But we meet all the politicians and spokespeople too, bumping into them coming in and out of the interviews. This morning we met a glamorous lady who had been on before me talking about the gap between men and women’s wages. Apparently she invented a special bra ! A nice meeting in which she told me her Mum loves me ! Then something different. A lady with two assistants, who turns out to be a Conservative MP, who perhaps should remain nameless. She comes across as nice and gentle … and happy to meet me, etc. But when I ask if she’s voting tomorrow, she says,"‘Sorry", she’s on the other side. It’s quite shocking. "How come", I say ? She says she has one of the big Hunts is in her constituency, and so she has to support it. But, I say, what about the 70 per cent of the rest of her constituents who are outraged, and want to make sure the Hunting Act stays intact ? Well, she says, "I can’t do it". Why ? Well, we don’t get into it with her, but the reason is that she accepted support from the Countryside Alliance, in the shape of Vote OK, in her election campaign. That would have been conditional on her supporting the Fox Hunts. It’s dirty politics again. It’s still rampant. So we can’t count on HER support tomorrow, and there are a whole raft of others like her in the Tory Party. So if we (Anne and I) were party political animals, we’d still be shuddering at the word ‘Tory’.

But I have always believed that our particular concern, decent treatment of animals, is above politics, or should be. The fight against cruelty to animals is about people rather than parties. And I believe Parliament should operate on the basis of each issue being honestly and sincerely debated – and voted on, according to MPs' consciences, and the will of their constituents. Thus is it that, alongside wonderful passionate Labour animal advocates like Angela Smith, we have seen the anti SI campaign being driven in the HOC by a solid bunch of Conservatives led by Tracey Crouch, Andrea Jenkyns and Henry Smith. If we win this awful battle on Wednesday, to keep what protection there is in place for wild animals, it will be massively because of our Cross-Party support.

Now we know that the SNP are to vote with us, things look a lot brighter, but we are dealing with desperate fundamentally violently inclined people, who, by definition are all about carrying on with cruelty, and … the ‘Dark Side’ are not going to take this lying down. There will be more dirty tricks.


And then suddenly … Anne, beside me in the car, is on the Phone to Tracy Crouch’s office. It’s off. Cameron has withdrawn the debate, and the vote. He’s pulled it because, like ‘Repeal’, he knows he won’t win. It’s like a child. I’m gonna lose this match, so I’m not going to play it.

And I feel … flat … frustrated, disappointed, cheated, like the Government DID manage to wriggle out and have deprived us of the true democratic process, and of winning the debate. I feel like a prize fighter who has trained for months, and on the eve of the big fight his opponent says “Oh … you’re obviously gonna win, so I’m withdrawing from the fight.” The timing is impeccable. All this is going through my head at exactly the time we pull up at the demo … hundreds of people on our side are chanting, and looking very colourful, making a splash, bless ‘em !

I say to Anne, “So what do I tell them ? that Cameron has managed to take evasive action ? As we suspected he would ? What can I ask the people to do, now ? The debate is off tomorrow, so there no use asking them to E-mail their MP again … !

I feel gutted. I get out of the car, and there is a big man in a smart grey suit. I’m told he’s Angus Robertson, the leader of the SNP brigade in Westminster. Wow ! He says … "happy to meet you … WE WON !"

Angus says he’s star-struck meeting me – but I feel pretty impressed that he’s come to rally with us too. But my mind is reeling. Is this true ? Is it a win ? Angus says … "Cameron has been forced to withdraw … he’s defeated. It’s a victory." So suddenly I believe it. There’s still a depressed feeling in my stomach, but I step up and address the throng … leading off the speeches. I thank them all for caring and tell them … It’s a victory. Maybe we haven’t yet won the war, but we have won an important battle. The foxes can sleep a little more soundly for a while longer.

The speeches done, I spend the next hour or so doing interviews for more publications and News channels than I can count. And a lot of selfies and autographs. But I can feel myself closing down. It’s like the pressure has come off and my body is saying "Enough".

I grab some coffee and a snack with Angela Smith and some of our friends in Portcullis House. We mull over what the next moves might be. Whether Cameron will manage to pull off EVEL (which of course is EVIL ! but means English Votes for English Laws) and thwart us that way. It seems it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that he can do it. But that’s for the future. I go home and crash on the sofa for a couple of hours. Then it’s off to the CNN studios. I kinda wanted to skip it, because of exhaustion, but they’re nice people and I made a promise I’d go. The news seems to have been sent out to the USA that the SNP defeated Cameron’s attempt to bring back fox hunting. I guess that hurts a little bit. Because we all know that even without the SNP’s intervention we had enough support from the new compassionate contingent of the Tory party to defeat the SI. The SNP’s decision was a wonderful boost, and made it 100 per cent certain that we had the majority – but I’m pretty sure the Government had already done the maths and got the same answer as we got – that the SI was dead.

The Victory, if victory it is, is thanks to the tireless work of a great network of people at all levels, visible and invisible. I was lucky enough to be a figurehead, and willing to put in the sustained work, but this was a Historic day for TEAM FOX.




**Tue 14 Jul 15**
Direct link

Good Morning World ! One more day of campaigning against return of Fox Hunting through the back door.

The Times makes me laugh. Funny - I thought it was Cameron who was sabotaging the Hunting Act !


The Times


**Tue 14 Jul 15**
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That was Monday.  Anne Brummer and I took up our accustomed places in Portcullis House and had a series of informal meetings with our animal-friendly MPs, who are now a growing and magnificent bunch.  Men and women from all parties who feel as strongly as we do about the awfulness of this attempt to castrate the Hunting Act by subterfuge … made more scurrilous by a denial from Government lips that the Statutory Instrument is anything to do with Fox Hunting !  According to Owen Paterson speaking to me on Sky TV, it’s all about predation of lambs by foxes.  Preposterous.  Cameron’s Minister of the Environment Liz Truss has just been “unable to supply” figures for predation of lambs … another porky pie, really, because there was a 5-year study of this by DEFRA, ending in 2004.  Their conclusions were that foxes were an insignificant part of lamb mortality (less than 1 per cent) and efforts to kill more foxes were a waste of time. 

Looking at it in perspective, this ‘minor technical amendment’ is a bunch of dirty tricks, unworthy of any government of the UK.  Here are the shabby facts. 

1. SI’s are not designed to make major changes to policy … like this undoubtedly is. To pretend this is just a technical adjustment is misleading and mendacious.  It is a ruse to enable hunts to roam with full packs of dogs torturing foxes to death, all means of bringing a conviction being impossible with this amendment in force.  It’s very sneaky, and it’s plain that the Government only resorted to this trickery because they perceived they were not going to win the ‘Free Vote on repeal' so long promised by David Cameron.

2. To add insult to injury, this SI was rushed into print with only 5 days notice … unheard of – designed to disable opposition (us) because there would no time available to marshall a response. (on this they miscalculated).  They even chose budget day, bringing accusations from all sides that they’d tried to bury the news under the weight of budget discussions.

3. To pretend the SI is just about helping farmers in their ‘pest control’ is an obvious lie.  It’s now well established that the Hunts keep the numbers of foxes up so they can continue their vile ‘sport’, and they actually breed the poor animals just to tip them out in a pitiful state in front of a pack of brutalised hounds.

4. To describe the SI as "Bringing the English Hunting Act in line with the Scottish one” is also a lie.  There are many differences between the two acts – including jail sentences for offenders in Scotland, and still the Scots are investigating strengthening their act.  There are many other differences.  This is another attempt to hide the truth. 

5. The Countryside Alliance have effectively blown Cameron’s cover, by for once telling the truth !  They have been calling on everyone to “Vote for Hunting” !!  So really there is no doubt where this piece of Skulduggery came from.

Vote for Hunting - Countryside Alliance

6. To cap it all … wasn’t this Government prioritising economic recovery, tackling poverty, dealing with Europe, and the Greek crisis ?  How in Hell’s name did it end up prioritising a return to blood sports ? Unbelievable.  The last vote of this session.  Spent on trying to revive an evil ‘sport’ which MUST remain history in the UK in 2015 and beyond.  

Fox Hunting was banned in 2004, the latest in a series of anti-cruelty legislations which go back to 1822 with Richard Martin.

There is no going back to barbarity. 


In the back of my mind is the invitation I had to go and join the NASA New Horizons team as their amazing spaceship passes close to PLUTO !  I was all set to get on a plane – the chance of a lifetime – but somehow, once this dastardly SI came to light, I just couldn’t see myself sitting in Washington DC on Wednesday while the Hunting Act was destroyed back home and Foxes put in greater peril of being abused – by gangs of bullies with full packs of dogs, with no possibility of conviction.

Whether we win the vote on Wednesday or not, I will be on that plane to Washington on Thursday !!

Tomorrow I have a day packed with media stuff …

And we have our Rally at 11 am … at which I will speak.  Then back into Portcullis House … to meet with some SNP heroes among others !!  Amazing that the SNP guys have decided to vote with us.  Truly a great decision, since Cruelty to Animals is a world issue. 

Cheers all



SNP on Fox Hunting vote


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