A Tribute to the Late Richard Nutt

The Society's President Richard (Dick) Nutt collapsed whilst making his presidential address at the National Ferret Welfare Society A.G.M. held on the 13th December, 1998 at Baginton Village Hall, Baginton, Nr Coventry, and died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. Our condolences to his family and sincere thanks to Pam Archer (cardiac nurse), June McNicholas, PhD and another nurse who did all they could.

President's Address to the N.F.W.S. members on 13th December, 1998

Firstly, my sincere thanks to all of you, Committee, members and particularly the ferrets for coming along today, many of you braving a round trip of 2-300 miles. Special thanks to June and Jeff for fixing up an excellent venue, to those involved in providing refreshments, to our sponsors Companion's Choice foods and to those brave people you can't have a show without --- our judges.

I have, in general, enjoyed this year as President, and I must say it has made a nice change from looking after sale of goods and carting boxes of goodies about to various shows. However, because I'm still C.A. representative and joint publicity officer there hasn't been any change in the overall workload, and, indeed, I wouldn't want there to be. I seem to have developed an instinct for knowing whether or not a ringing phone heralds a ferret related item, as I'm sure all of you involved in welfare, rescue and the like will know about. Sometimes it's just some oddball film unit director or a T.V. programme producer, and believe me, there are some real duckies among that ilk coming out with some very peculiar questions and requests. The calls that really do matter are those from very concerned, indeed sometimes desperate, ferret keepers on all sorts of problems. If you can help at all with these then it all becomes worth it.

In the past few weeks I seem to have been forever on the phone over matters that it's now superfluous to mention and when it rang on Friday evening I thought, "Oh no, not again". This time though it was a chap in the next village I know and with who I sometimes go ferreting. He keeps half a dozen jills and these, although excellent ferrets tend to be of the "one man handles us" variety and while not vicious are certainly a bit feisty! He'd come home from market to find that potential ferret rustlers had paid him a visit, the cage padlock cut, the door open and only two jills inside the sleeping box. His shock at the time was later relieved when he found the other four safe, well and fast asleep in an outbuilding. Under the cage were two heavily bloodstained tissues, so his stock had obviously shown the intruder they weren't to be trifled with. He then found the back door of his house had been forced and, having checked around inside, the only thing he could not find was a bottle containing a dozen Viagra tablets. Wiltshire Constabulary are looking for A HARD BITTEN criminal!

Now the President's address is simply a chance for him to her to have a natter on items that should be of interest or concern to all caring ferret keepers and is not necessarily any reflection of NFWS policy and should not be taken to be so. If some of you find what I'm about to say a bit too direct then so be it. I have never avoided controversy, I do not subscribe to the modern disease of political correctness and will not therefore describe a dwarf as being "vertically challenged" or a raving psychopath as "having learning difficulties", whatever one says will always offend someone so I see no point in pussyfooting around.

I derive a great deal of pleasure from attending ferret shows and have done so since some of the earliest ones in the 1970s when they were simply a bit of "out of working season" fun for the small number of ferreters attending. A chance to have a natter with like minded friends, see other people's stock, discuss all sorts of ferret and ferreting related matters, down a jar or two and have a generally enjoyable day. Nobody took it too seriously and if you won a class or got placed then - great! If you didn't then - so what? As Duncan McArther once said, "a win, a place, or nothing is just one person's opinion on a particular day, and in no way makes that ferret anything out of the ordinary".

The great thing that shows did, as we went through the 1980s, was to improve ferret husbandry and make people more aware of their requirements. More non-working keepers were coming to shows and giving good input, the public was seeing shows at Country Fairs and there is no doubt that this all helped the ferrets' image. They were still a bit of fun and I well remember an occasion when a tame blue mink was put into a show cage compartment just before the judge for the coloured class came out to do his bit. Laughs all round - drinks on the mink keeper!

I have not shown now for some four or five years, one reason being I can no longer be bothered to lug cages of ferrets about the country for the possibility of picking up a rosette. I have a drawer full of the things and the only reason I don't bin them is that on the back of each is a date and the names of ferrets long since dead, all of who are remembered with great affection. I still, however, attend shows.

The other reason is a we have gone through the 90s, shows, or at least some shows, have become less than fun. I feel the reason for this is that a number of people, albiet a small number when compared to all the ferret keepers who still show for the crack, are taking it all far too seriously and could well find that they are following a perilous path, a path trodden for them by an even smaller number of people I would describe as no less than dangerous, possibly with a very strange agenda of their own, who seem to have come upon the stage in the last couple of years.

While most of them have been on the ferret scene for less time than some people have spent topping up their ferrets water bottles, it doesn't stop them from knowing it all, instantly and right from the start.

So long as they win they are usually quiet, apart from the odd snide comment about a judge or the show organiser, but it's when they don't win that they really throw their teddy out the pram! Judges will be abused publicly and loudly - rude and vitriolic letters will be sent to the organising club, even to individual committee members and their families - they will demand to be allowed to see individual judges' marking sheets and when it is pointed out to them that most clubs have a rule that enables them to expel people for bringing that club into disrepute - then that rule is wrong as it is unfair to them.

Statements are made by them, funny if they weren't so potentially wicked, such as, "I can't be doing with all this ferret welfare stuff, I'm going to breed champions to show standard".

What an utter load of ferret muck!

There is no such thing as a show standard in this country and I hope there never will be - we don't want to do to ferrets what the Kennel Club and Crufts have done over the years to some breeds of dog - narrow headed collies, bulldogs that can barely breathe naturally etc. Look at the state of some of the puppy farms that so-called champion breeders have been prosecuted for running. Not what I'd ever want for any jills.

Then, of course, although I'm sure these clever people have spent a least a whole hour reading up on genetics, their ferrets haven't, and, being ferrets usually refuse to comply. So what is going to happen to all the kits that aren't up to these people's "standard" or, indeed, to some of the breeding stock. Knocked on the head, dumped or simply off-loaded onto one of the despised welfares or rescues?

In my lifetime there has been a man who went down this road - only he tried it out on people to breed perfect specimens of blue eyed, blond Aryan manhood. Just look at what misery he caused and what happened to him!

My often heard or seen statement that "a ferret is a ferret is a ferret" has been proved right on many occasions and some of the animals that prove it are here in this room today.

Ferrets whose normal job is rabbit control but who have won the 16 Metre Racing Championship three years running as well as dozens of shows, but who would not care to be described as of "show standard". Ferrets who work regularly in the normal fashion, help the work of badger groups and, if they have any spare time left attend clinics or hospitals where they help to bring autistic children out of their shells - oh! and quite regularly collect show rosettes!

Ferrets who have been rescued from some of the most horrific treatment imaginable who with loving care have turned into wonderful companions and picked up a few show trophies along the way! ******

Now there is nothing at all wrong in concentrating on showing a particular type, the way I favour it being done is that adopted by a well known lady in the New Forest Club, who concentrates on polecats. She breeds one litter from her stock every or sometimes every other year, keeps the best two in the litter and as for the rest - they are all ordered before they are even born, going to homes that have already been carefully checked out!

So there you have it and I would say to clubs, societies and groups all over the country do watch out for some odd people, their agenda isn't always the one I have described. Just think how the R.S.P.C.A. and the N.T. were infiltrated by the animal rights brigade over the years and be warned.

Thank you.

****** at this point Dick stopped speaking and slumped in his chair...

Articles, stories etc. from NFWS Newsletters