As a veterinary surgeon and with both commercial and academic backgrounds, Dr Fletcher is very well qualified to act as an expert witness. He is accustomed to preparing reports and witness statements, and to being cross examined in court. He is uniquely placed to provide valuation advice and to acting in insurance cases. He has also provided leading evidence in many planning applications.
‘I have had a close involvement with animals since my childhood when I used to keep golden retrievers. My training at Glasgow University Veterinary School provided a professional basis for my connection with both large animals, cattle, sheep, and horses etc and small animals– cats, dogs etc. Later when I joined Cambridge University this experience broadened to include deer. I worked with red deer primarily but also with roe deer at that time. I also gained experience with wild animals, such as the feral goats on the Isle of Rum, and I had the opportunity to work with the Highland cattle there.
My PhD involved the study of animal behaviour and I had the privileged opportunity to join tutorials with eminent Cambridge behaviourists such as Robert Hinde.
When the PhD was completed I immediately spent time in New Zealand and on my return was concerned that the new deer farming industry would become involved in the amputation and sale of growing antlers, ‘velvet’. I thought then, wrongly as it turned out, that the sale of this product internationally would be short lived. As a result I became involved in responding to one of the very first consultations conducted by the newly formed Farm Animal Welfare Council to which I gave evidence against the cutting of velvet. This was because I thought it an inhumane procedure as then conducted and one with which I wanted to have no connection as I started to farm deer for venison. I believed that any link to the harvesting of velvet would be potentially disastrous to the new industry. As a result, largely of my stance, it became illegal to remove growing antlers from live deer.
For a number of years I was a council member of the Society Against Factory Farming and was appointed to the Farm Animal Welfare Committee on which I served for several years. I have also experience of zoological gardens having served for several years on the council of the Royal Zoological Society of London which owns and manages Edinburgh zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park.
Most recently I have served for almost twenty years on the council of the Chillingham Wild Cattle Association and was responsible for organising the project which successfully collected and froze embryos from this unique breed. For this I received the Marsh Award for Conservation in Genetic Biodiversity in 2019. I remain a patron of the CWCA.
I believe that my background in animal behaviour and experience with many species places me in a particularly strong position to act as an expert witness. Apart from my academic background I have had a lot of hands on experience since for many years I kept a succession of ‘house cows’, mostly Jerseys, which I hand milked to provide milk, butter, cream and cheese for the family and neighbours, and in the early years we also kept some sheep on the farm.
This breadth of experience has led to my providing expertise as a witness in cases involving dogs, cattle and sheep as well as deer and specialising in the area of animal welfare.’