Posts Tagged ‘brian may’

Defra …. fit for purpose following recent revised (again) bTB data?

September 14, 2014

Defra have recently released

Revisions to bovine TB statistics – September 2014

This two page document, is certainly worth scrutinising and makes quite astonishing reading with errors in Government reporting ranging from 27% to 233%.  Civil servants and Ministers might be tempted to blame IT systems but surely, ultimately it is they who were responsible for ensuring that at the start of the programme everything should have been beyond question and fit for purpose to evidence, openly and transparently, demonstrate robust methodology and professional delivery through humane practice with quality assurance in terms of reporting outcomes and outputs?  I suppose the words “should have” are sadly no longer applicable to Government Departments which are an inconvenience to the “higher politics” of political agendas influenced by industry advocates?

This is the most recent revision, released very quitely and something which appears to be an ongoing trend and something which raises the issue of a Government agency ability to provide accurate figures.  Perhaps this inability to accurately record data is one of the reasons that the new Minister Liz Truss has not reinstated the Independent Expert Panel?  No there is clear need for independence then one might reasonably expect their recall?

We can offer no better analysis that that provided by Miles King on his excellent blog posted today which concludes:

  • We obviously cannot believe anything Defra statistics say about the extent of Bovine TB breakdowns, or the trend in breakdowns.
  • Defra are trying to cover up their monumental statistical cock-up.
  • The very data used to justify the Badger Cull is so badly flawed that Natural England must reconsider whether the Cull can be allowed, given the rules that determine its legality.

One might wonder if a critical mass of correspondence were to make its way to Ministers and indeed local MPs on environmental issues then we might collectively bring about reform?

To that end I have written through my constituency MP to the Minister Liz Truss, I will keep you posted on any replies received.  If all readers were to do similar then perhaps …. just perhaps as a General Elections looms?

Thus far an expenditure of around £7.29m for just two areas and what has it achieved so far, flawed data, inhumane practice ….

The Wildlife Trusts and others are calling for more work to be done on vaccination programmes and the public have got behind that approach and made substantive donations to appeals.  Badger Vaccination Report 2011 – 13 clearly demonstrates an effective option which good science and logic would reason ought to be part of the tool kit operated to effect resolution of this problem?

Badger & mayweed

I recently tried to locate a copy of the 1997 Kreb’s Report , “Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers” via the Defra website only to learn that the full report was not available.  An executive summary page was available.  A sceptic might be forgiven for wondering why Defra would no longer wish to make that document publically available?  Their website does indicate that a full report is available in the Defra library, it does not indicate how one would obtain a copy!

Not to be deterred, Bovine Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers Report to the Rt Hon Dr Jack Cunningham MP  (1997) can still be located with persistence.

There is an epetition calling upon Liz Truss – call an immediate end to the badger cull, which readers might like to consider signing after they’ve penned some ‘poetic prose’ perhaps to their parliamentary representatives?  I suspect that sadly this petition may (no pun intended) go the same way as did Sir Brian’s, but that should not stop us campaigning?

Finally for this post …. to add the heartening news that the Badger Trust have been successful in their application to the High Court to appeal the Administrative Court decsion that the Minister Liz Truss and Natural England acted lawfully and that legitimate expectation was not binding upon the Minister or NE.

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Badgering away ….

February 23, 2014

The weather was pleasant, the kind of weather you feel like rambling around the moors.  But, a gathering was calling …. what is the collective noun for a group of naturalists?  In the interim of discovering the noun, a distinguished collection had gathered for Sorby Natural History Society’s fifth South Yorkshire Natural History Day.  We set up the Forum’s display – I have to say the new roller banners look great but the invertebrate exhibits that Peter and Paul brought along go a long way to evidencing what science the Forum has been undertaking.

There was a crammed programme of talks, all the kind that leave you feeling that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you’d really like to do.  Garden acculeate hymenoptera, which illustrated opportunities which might exist on your doorstep.  Odonata target species towards the atlas in prepThe state of scientific collecting in Yorkshire was an interesting presentation following analysis of a survey undertaken amongst Sorby NHS members.  Somehow it fell flat for me and that was in no way down to the speaker who was quite rightly a justified enthusiast for the practice of collections and voucher material accompanied by accurate data.  Is it a sign of age when experience acknowledges that the area where you live (or rather pay Council Tax to) has no real interest or enthusiasm for its Museum service?  Doncaster Museum for example houses some significant collections including George Hyde’s substantive series of Large Heath Butterflies.

The real passion verging on understandable anger came from the South Yorkshire Badger Group’s speaker who provided an update on the ‘badger debacle’.  You only have to look back over the last four decades or so to realise what started out as a disease of cattle has now been media managed by the agri-industry to become a badger problem.

Badger & mayweed

Badger by Tatterdemalion.   Image courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons license.

It seems astonishing that it is the country’s badger groups who are funding vaccination programmes in hot spot areas.  Owen Paterson prefers a cull despite the fact that the Kreb’s trial tested some 11,000 badgers and found that only 166 animals were infected.  I reckon my calculator must be dodgy because it makes that 1.5% of a pretty significant sample!  What more recent independent science had been commissioned?  David Miliband commissioned the following: Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence A Science Base for a Sustainable Policy to Control TB in Cattle An Epidemiological Investigation into Bovine Tuberculosis Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB Presented to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs The Rt Hon David Miliband MP, June 2007

An interesting quote by Professor John Bourne (Chair of Independent Scientific Group (ISG) on bovine TB) who said “I think the most interesting observation was made to me by a senior politician who said ‘fine John, we accept your science, but we have to offer the farmers a carrot.  And the only possible carrot we can give them is culling badgers’. 

When you start researching the various arguments it is absolutely astonishing to discover the facts and the fiction.  How many readers are aware of which way their MPs voted, for or against the cull?  When did the incidence begin to reach the plague proportions we hear reported in the media, why did poor ‘Brock’ become the scapegoat?  I can offer no better background reading than ‘Badgerlands’ a well researched book by Patrick Barkham (also author of The Butterfly Isles).  The book takes the reader through the centuries and mans relationship with the badger.  Barkham explores and appreciates the complexities faced by farmers whose livelihoods are impacted by the disease but equally he delves into the politics of the problem and here you sense frustration.  Barkham’s style is enthusiastic and infectious at times and if it achieves readers actively engaging in the debate then that is an added bonus.

Brian May championed the call to the Coalition Government to rethink the cull, that petition is now closed having reached a staggeering 300,000+ signatures which requires a response from the Backbench Business Committee (BBC).  Mmmh, call me a sceptic (although I’d prefer realist) but I shan’t be holding my breath for anything positively proactive or pragmatic from many of the incumbents in the Westminster penthouse.  But at least that action sparked a chain reaction which has seen groups work collaboratively and that is people power promoting change, let’s have ‘moor’?  Team Badger for example is an interesting mix who champion the case for that crepuscular and enigmatic black and white icon of the British countryside.  It supports vaccination as an alternative to culling.  According to the tbfreeengland website 213,799 cattle have been slaughtered since 1 January 2008, from 8 million animals tested, that represents 2.67% of the test sample which was a considerably larger sample than that of the Kreb’s trial.

If the Wildlife Trusts and Badger Groups are funding vaccinations in hotspots why haven’t the NFU assisted?  Damien Carrington’s Environment Blog reports on an interesting NFU approach to opposition.

Katy Brown writes for Ethical Consumer magazine and asks “Why are the supermarkets keeping so schtum about the badger cull?”

Surely, it is not beyond the wit of man if there is a will there is a way forward?  We can fly a man to the moon, why have successive Governments failed to find a scientific solution to this disease?  But, whilst this is not a new problem clearly it does need a new approach.  Dump the polarised views, the black and white exremes and collectively collaborate?  Now that really would be something?   If we subscribe to the view that we all share this planet and it is on loan from future generations, the we need to leave it rich in wildlife not depleat ….

Rethink the badger cull is an epetition still running by 38 degrees.  See also Petition against badger cull.  Another HM Government epetition, initiated by Nigel Ross is still running here.  It runs until 09/09/2014 and currently stands at 7,618 signatures.  It needs a bit of help to reach the required 10,000 to ensure that the Government’s BBC discuss it!

Tim M Badger 7465227996_e7b29e0ea9_h

Quintisentially a charismatic character of the British countryside, but also if you’re lucky a garden visitor!  Image: Tim Melling.

epetitions & badger culls

September 6, 2013

CONGRATULATIONS and thanks to all those involved with the HM Government epetition http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

The window of opportunity is fading rapidly to add to the 302,924 signatures as the deadline is 07:38 tomorrow morning, but you can still do it ….

It may be that it achieved this excellent level of support because it was fronted by Dr Brian May CBE.  Nevertheless, it remains a fact, people rallied – bring on the public debate, prove this country is a democracy ….

That’s the first stage in drawing it to Government attention, have the other side had that kind of support for the cull?  Will we see democracy in action?  Will we see any science brought forth by those supporting and advocating the continued roll out of this ConDem cull?

 

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By Andrew Gray (local userpage) (p1140372) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

I hope that the discussion in parliament is televised, it’s one debate that I would like a ring side seat to watch.  Will whips be applied?

So, are epetitions effective?  The volume of signatures this one received would indicate quite a sample achieved, three times that required to ensure a discussion in paliament.

 

There are a variety of epetition options to choose from if people or organisations are minded to run a campaign.  The Forum are working with 38 degrees to raise public awareness of the truth behind the Board and Senior Directors within Natural England proposal to dedicated some 87 National NATURE Reserves as Open Access.

 

STOP & RETHINK National Nature Reserves as Open Access areas.

 

Please consider signing it and if you twitter or facebook then please spread the word.

‘Moor’ about badgers ….

September 1, 2013

Sorry to keep ‘badgering’ you about negative issues, let’s face it we hear so many positive ones that I really should learn to set aside (ooops, no pun intended) a few bits of bad news?  Can you forgive another batch of BADGER related ramblings?

Here’s the delightful face of those wonderful black and white beasts, the quintessential mammal of the English countryside :

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Here’s the other side of the coin, the cruelty illegally inflicted by those who see badgers as vermin and a threat to their business:

Hours of suffering as a result of an illegal snare badly set.

Hours of suffering as a result of an illegal snare badly set.

 

Bad enough the image above but, there’s now ‘legalised’ murder going on as I write this post, the cull sanctioned by Government is underway and being conducted in Wales.

Badgergate is well worth a read, there are some interesting facts to consider as well as suggestions as to how you can help, who and where to write to and possible pointers as to what you might include.  I appreciate that there are some who hold views that ‘mass protest’ outwith an imminent election is not effective, but to claim that this is a trial and there is no intention to test the shot badgers for bTB!  How do they claim any credibility for that lack of science?  Badgergate is to be applauded, their strapline of “Bovine TB: facts, fantasy & politics” sums up quite eruditely the situation in my view.

Whilst you’d like to be able to trust Government, I struggle to understand what they have based this decision on.  The Krebs report analyses data from the UK 1973 – 2007, so why do they look abroad for support?  Why have successive governments failed to implement a vaccination programme in areas of high risk?  Why have the NFU and their counterparts not supported this, why have they not funded independent science?

If any of you watched the recent BBC2 series “The Burrowers: Animals Underground” you would have gained a fascinating insight into the research by Chris Cheesman, someone who had over 35 years studied badgers and still as a result of this programme learnt new facts about the species.  His view is well worth the few minutes you need to read it here.  In fact I’d say if you’re only able to read one of the links here in today’s post then this one by Dr Cheesman has to be it!

Another well made selection of points can be found on Steve Backshall’s Facebook page, whilst I don’t do ‘social media’ I do recognise that it can be effective communication.  In case you are not familiar with the gentleman he’s the television presenter well known for programmes such as ‘Live and Deadly’.

A totally random thought but I just wonder how the 635 MPs would react if all their constuituents regularly twittered, tweeted or facebooked them about the badger cull?  Even if just say 10% did then surely it would create a reaction?  In fact, I reckon if just 1% did then that would have them a tad worried I suspect …. Likewise the various PR companies employed by government departments, or the NGO hierarchies?  Reality kicks back in ….  and along with it I am reminded of the apathy and lethargy demonstrated by the public over hen harriers etc.  However, Brian May’s petition creeps up and it is after all on a Government epetition website!  Just in case you need a reminder it can be accessed here.    291,126 as I ramble – come on let’s help it to 300,000!  Voices for nature where are you all?

What do other people think about this mass murder I wonder, Iolo Williams surely he has something to say about the subject?  Excellent, he has and so do quite a few other ‘celebs’ Chris Packham, Simon King, David Attenborough et. al.  Chris Packham also warns of potential consequences of direct action (his skit, see earlier link, at the Welsh tourism board or variant was noted though on the savethebadger.com website).

Is there a solution that all parties can sign up to?  Sadly, I doubt it.  There are vociferous advocates on both sides of the argument, that’s democracy but I do so love ‘Ralph’s’ definition on Mark Avery’s blog, it just sums up the politics to a tee!  Logic requires that science must surely have a key role in any analysis and eventual decision?  That science must similarly be conducted and evaluated independently?  Then if there is dissent and the public purse is to fund any action, then reasoned logic and dare I offer democracy requires that the public have a say?

Oh dear, if that were the case then STOP & RETHINK  Open Access on National Nature Reserves too might be a ‘moor’ open and transparent discussion?

Images courtesy of the South Yorkshire Badger Group.   

 


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