Wednesday, December 12, 2007

If you don't like the answer.....

... ask the question again.

One of our northern contributers wrote to national newspapers at the beginning of the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial, asking just how many 'trials' government wanted. And he answered his own question with the ascerbic comment, 'as many as it takes to get the answer they desire'.

That was ten years ago, and much water has flowed under government bridges since then. Much cash too, with the incidence of bTb being one of the few things to fulfill governmental predictions. Lord Rooker confirmed in oral evidence to the EFRA committee on the 10th December that the Tb budget was on target for £300,000,000 by 2012. It was, he said, consuming 40 per cent of Defra's Animal Health budget.

But the diminutive prof. who chaired the dispersal trial, Professor John Bourne, was keen to point out that his 'trial' had had a political steer from the start. In fact he appeared to relish explaining to stunned MPs the difference between 'science' and his own brand of 'political science'.

He heard his master's voice in 1997, and delivered. But in ten years things have changed. And everything we, and other far more learned people than us mere farmers predicted, has come home to roost.

Lord Rooker listed many of these Tb 'chickens' in his addrees to the EFRA committee, and when we've listened to it - all 2 hours and a few minutes - we'll post a resume. Will we say 'we told you so'? You bet.

So, what are government going to do? They've wasted spent £millions on the prevarication of the Badger Dispersal trial, which at its inception was, according to its pilot, set up to deliver the obfuscation of cattle 2 v badgers 1.
7.24 ... The infection rate concerns all sources of infection for cattle, local infection for example across farm boundaries, infection from animals bought in particular(ly) but not only, from high incidence areas, and infection from wildlife, especially badgers. All these are important, but their relative importance and that of cattle-to-badger tranmission, cannot be estimated directly. In the following calculations we assume all three sources to be roughly equally important."

But times, as we said, change. And the answer government demanded then (and received) is not necessarily the answer demanded now. So, to paraphrase our contributer from Staffordshire, another session of number crunching is up for grabs 'until they get the answer they desire'.

Defra have invited tenders for 'Further Analyses of the RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial databases This work is abbreviated to AHW-TB RRD 2008 - 2009 and tenders must be submitted by 18th January 2008.

Pity no one told Prof. Bourne that the goal posts had moved during his 'trial'.

One could almost feel sorry for the man. Almost, but not quite.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Interesting to see that, among the areas Defra wants to have revisited, are "the timing and intensity of badger culling" in the RBCT and "the biological plausibility of the findings". Given that no less a person than Prof John McInerney (in evidence to the EFRA Committee) has recently cautioned against the usefulness of culling in "a patchy or asynchronous or unsustained way" (which seems a pretty accurate description of what the RBCT did), perhaps one shouldn't be too surprised that Defra wants another look.