Sunday, April 01, 2012

How did you get that?

The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) have written to minister John Griffiths enquiring how he arrived at the conclusion that vaccinating badgers in the Pembroke IAA (with an unknown but modelled benefit of 9 percent after 5 years in the centre of the patch) is better than a cull which offers benefit of up to 100 per cent - if carried out correctly. And 30 per cent if it is not.
The Farmers' Union of Wales has demanded transparency and the release of all relevant documents by the Welsh Government after raising concerns about the legal and scientific basis for environment minister John Griffiths' decision to vaccinate rather than cull badgers in the Intensive Action Area (IAA).

The union believes that the minister may have ignored the previous findings of the Court of Appeal in making his decision, and that there is a lack of transparency because important information has been censored from Welsh Government documents placed in the public domain.

During recent meetings with ministers and officials, it was indicated the decision not to proceed with a cull was based on an anticipated reduction in confirmed incidences of 13.4%, which the minister did not believe was sufficiently “substantial” within the meaning of Section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981.

It is also understood that this figure was compared with the results of computer models of the impact of badger vaccination.
For all these alleged benefits of culling, politicians return like demented boomerangs to the RBCT - despite that exercise in prevarication being quite openly skewed from the beginning. Even the ISG's Final Report admitted that the patiently completed TB 99 forms which accompanied any breakdown in the trial areas were stock piled, and the computers loaded with a "roughly equally important" source of infection, modelled on the "assumption" of two parts cattle to one part badger.(Ref: 7.24 - p.148)
That produced a chart which looked like this:

But risk assessment forms from Animal Health in the SW of England told a different story. No modelling and no 'rough assumptions' just epidemiological data, which showed that up to 76 percent of herd breakdowns in Devon during 2004, were badger related. Just 8 percent were attributed to cattle and the remainder 'unknown'.

But we digress... FUW are on the trail of Mr. Griffith's figures and have demanded to see from where he obtained them. In his letter to Mr Griffiths, FUW president Emyr Jones states: “…the 13.4% figure clearly relates to an area which is larger than the IAA, and includes possible adverse impacts which would only occur if the geographic boundaries around the IAA did not reduce the negative effects seen during the RBCT (Randomised Badger Culling Trial.
" is therefore clear that any judgment you made relating to the legality of a cull under Section 21(2)(b) of the Animal Health Act 1981 should have been based upon an anticipated reduction in confirmed incidences of 25.7%, and not 13.4%."

With regard to the comparison of real culling trial results and computer models of vaccination, Mr Jones adds: “…there is currently no scientific, nor, in our opinion, legal basis for making such a direct comparison, since the scientific approaches used to produce such figures are wholly different; one is based upon a simple extrapolation of the outcomes of real badger culls, whereas the other uses a large number of complex and unproven hypotheses to model the actions of individual animals, producing estimates which cannot be compared with real data, because no vaccination field trials have been undertaken.

Mr Jones highlighted the fact that when the same computer model is used to examine culling, it predicts reductions of 30 to 40 per cent.

And if done correctly, as with Thornbury and the earlier more targeted culls, then the benefit is 100 percent.
And it is perfectly possible for 'science' (if one could bear to call the RBCT that) to show how not to do something. But of course the ISG knew that before they started.

Farmers Guardian has the story of the FUW challenge.

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