An Abuse of the Scientific Process

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Comment
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There’s been a whole host of new information appearing in the public domain over the last week or so regarding the Badger Cull and some is certainly concerning while the rest only goes further in destroying the Government’s argument in justifying the slaughter of our wildlife. First off we have a member of the Government appointed Independent Expert Panel speaking out and accusing ministers of “an abuse” of the scientific process and “wilfully” ignoring the advice of its own scientific advisors. It’s hardly surprising that Professor Timothy Coulson, a zoologist based at the University of Oxford felt the need to criticise Defra and Owen Paterson in this manner. What is the point in employing the experts in the field and then ignoring the results when they don’t comply with the Government agenda or give them justification for their actions? A classic case of Paterson employing policy-driven evidence, rather than evidence-driven policy.

He continues: “I am tempted to speculate that the Government no longer wants to know whether the pilots are effective or humane. They just want to cull badgers, regardless of whether the population or humaneness consequences can be assessed.”

I doubt many of you reading this blog would be surprised by the stance of Paterson and Defra, they’ve consistently ignored all the previous scientific data while constantly justifying themselves with the standard list of misquoted facts and downright lies.

Timothy Coulson

Timothy Coulson

Professor Coulson warns: “If the methods Defra are thought to be considering are used in place of those applied last year, it would be like starting a surgical procedure with a scalpel and forceps and finishing it with a garden spade and axe.” The changes amount to “an abuse of the scientific method”, according to the academic. “If culling worked I’d be fully supportive of them rolling it out, but all the evidence is that it does not.”

Of course Defra maintain they are indeed making changes for the future pilots and will charge Natural England with all the monitoring to ensure best practice guidelines are maintained, however that’s like asking a pack of hungry dogs to guard a big pile of juicy bones. Only independent monitoring can be considered impartial and as we’ve seen from the debacle last year the NFU instructed its operatives to ignore best practice in an effort to increase the kill rate.

Even the British Veterinary Association, traditionally a pro cull organisation despite supposedly having the best interest of animals at heart (they’re slaves to their big livestock contracts) are now starting to ask Defra some awkward questions. I think it’s about time they stood up for animal welfare once and for all and admitted they were wrong all along, in the eyes of the public this has been a PR disaster for them and withdrawing support now will give them a small amount of credibility back.

Patsy

Another reason the BVA are getting twitchy is the news that Defra will allow the use of shotguns when (and if) the pilots resume. This is indeed a worrying development. Shotguns are a wholly unsuitable firearm for the purpose. They have short rage, low penetration and stopping power. What they do give is a good chance of a hit, however these are likely to be either non-lethal or lethal over a duration of time which would make the term “humane” non-existent. We constantly heard the term “marksmen” being used when referring to the cull contractors but we’ve all seen how accurate they really were and marksmen they certainly were not. Still, no need to be accurate when you’ve got the shot spread of a barn door. Not only that but our countryside is awash with shotgun owners with suitable licenses, this is Defra declaring open season on poor old Mr Brock meaning anyone with a pair of wellies and a flat cap can go for a walk at night with their shotgun and bag a few badgers.

Finally, one of Paterson’s favourite quotes is to declare that no other nation has solved the bTB problem without addressing the wildlife reservoir. He’ll often quote New Zealand as a prime example. Well apart from the difference between of a protected native species and an invasive one and the obvious differences in habitat and ecology it now seems that the possum is not responsible for the spread of bTB in New Zealand and it is in fact down to, wait for it . . . the movement of infected cattle and the overall inaccuracy of the testing. So, is it just me or does this sound familiar?

Latest News: A glimmer of hope?

Defra Minister George Eustice brings together Badger Trust, NFU, BVA, CLA, NT, Save Me, IFAW, HSI, Wildlife Trusts & RSPCA to support badger vaccination.

I’m not wholly convinced by badger vaccination. It implies that the badgers are the problem when we all know that isn’t the case and it also plays into the hands of those who wish to demonize them, however vaccination is certainly preferable to a bullet or cartridge of 12 gauge shot. However these initiatives are largely aimed at the areas bordering the culls zones and not as a replacement for culling. It would seem direct action will be required once again.

Wildlife not Vermin

 

We’re making some progress in raising funds for a vehicle which will enable us to be suitably active in both cull zones and when the hunting season starts. The vehicle is being purchased from a sisted sab group so the money raised will go straight back in the pot for saving more wildlife. Please help if you can. Click here to donate.

 

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