When is a correction not a correction?

When it’s backpedalling on a claim about the supposed ‘benefits’ of killing badgers – of course.

Since the Welsh Assembly Government consultation on Badger Control in the Intensive Action Area was launched in late September, PAC and various individuals have written to Elin Jones, Minister for Rural Affairs, and Christianne Glossop, Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales to alert them to a number of questionable claims and calculations in the consultation documents and associated ‘PR campaign’ leaflets delivered to households in and around the proposed badger culling area. You may remember we reported on the letter by Christianne Glossop to local papers at the end of October in which she said she wished to alert readers to an error in the leaflet distributed widely to households – but then failed to cite the original claim for which they were issuing the correction – which was apparently a ‘proof reading’ error. PAC and others have said that the supposed correction was insufficient – and that along with other procedural issues it calls into question the validity of the consultation process.

This error has finally been reported in the wider media  – right at the end of the consultation period! The BBC report ‘Badger cull leaflet claim retracted over ‘error’.

Peter Black AM’s blog  (excerpt below) is spot on…..
 “Welsh Government retract Badger cull leaflet claim over ‘error’
The BBC report that the Welsh Government have finally retracted a claim made in an official leaflet sent to 26,000 homes in the proposed badger cull area. The leaflet said previous trials had shown such culls could reduce TB in cattle by as much as 50% in six months. However, the Government say that it should have said culls could start to show a benefit after six months, which in itself is challengeable. (PAC’s emphasis)

This sort of misleading information has been prevalent throughout the Welsh Government’s attempt to put a cull in place. It would be interesting to know whether the Minister signed off this document and if so what level of responsibility she takes for it.

Even strong supporters of a cull are starting to question her competence. This statement has just been put out by Kirsty Williams for example, who chairs the Assembly’s Sustainability Committee and speaks on rural affairs for the Liberal Democrats:

“This latest error is the latest in a long line of bungles by the Rural Affairs minister in the handling of this issue. The badger cull is a very sensitive issue and feelings run high on both sides of the argument. People are rapidly losing confidence on the way this is being handled. Frankly, the Minister needs to get a grip before the entire process is brought any further into disrepute….”

When Peter Black says that even the corrected statement is in itself challengeable – he may well be remembering former statements made by Elin Jones when discussing the impact of badger culling and its effects on cattle TB. In a written statement made on the 13/1/2010 when announcing her previous decision to cull badgers (at which time the anticipated benefits were a 9% overall reduction in TB in cattle two years after the last cull take place) she stated  “The situation will not improve overnight and disease incidence could go up in the short term.”

It is good to see further Assembly Members now publicly questioning the process …..

We would like all of them to look closer and harder at many of the assertions contained within the latest evidence presented to the Minister. For starters they could check out the economic case presented for the proposals to cull as set out in the Submission to the Minister (paras 177 – 180). A recent letter to the Tivyside by Mick Griffiths points out the following weaknesses and flaws… 

“Here is an example which refers to the average cost of a confirmed herd breakdown resulting from TB:-
“This average figure is an estimate based on a number of assumptions which will change over time and as an average is not representative of all farms”.
This figure of £53,621 is for some unstated reason nearly double the equivalent figure published by Defra for England and would be considered by any rational analysis as meaningless. However WAG used this number to try and show an economic case for culling badgers. Yet even with this meaningless number they failed. At best they showed it to be break even. But what is this?  A simple arithmetic error which even a 10 year old could spot. They make, £4250 x 288 x 5 = £4,590,000 whereas you dear taxpayer would no doubt make it £6,120,000. So, far from breaking even, WAG are spending over £6m to save at very best £4.5m. This is not just a loss of over £1.5 m it is also the the cost of the lost opportunity to invest wisely. Just think what could be achieved if £6m were invested in West Wales in say promoting wildlife Tourism. More business for our Tourism operators and local shops and more jobs for local people. Its about time our First Minister and his Minister for Rural Affairs started spending our money based on real evidence, not some error strewn, assumption based, guestimate.”

Meanwhile we are about to lose the Dyfed Powys police helicopter service due to cuts – go figure……

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