British governmental anti-science badger killing

This is a badger video from Sweden.

By Lesley Docksey in Britain:

The pseudoscience behind the culls

Thursday 25th February 2016

While it is easy to blame wildlife, including badgers, for spreads of any disease to farm stock, lax biosecurity controls on farms create far greater risks, writes LESLEY DOCKSEY

THE government’s badger-culling project is getting more unscientific by the day — or should one say, by the square mile?

A few days ago Natural England announced that for this year’s badger culls a “total of 29 applications or expressions of interest for a badger control licence” have been received from Cheshire, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Worcestershire. According to south-western media 25 of these applications are for areas within Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset. Which leaves just four covering the other five counties.

When the government held a public consultation on badger culling — the previous Labour government having decided, as a result of the randomised badger-culling trials, not to implement a cull — it received 59,000 responses, very many of them raising serious scientific concerns.

Regardless, the government announced in 2010 that “a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control” would be introduced; their “rules” stated that culling must take place over a minimum area of 57 square miles so “we can be confident it will have a net beneficial effect.” This despite the trials having concluded culling badgers would “have no meaningful effect” in preventing the spread of bovine TB (bTB). Goodbye, science.

In the autumn of 2015 another public consultation was held about proposed changes to the criteria [of] governing culling. Those results were ignored too, Environment Secretary Liz Truss happily announcing that “further statistical analysis” of the randomised trials (the results of which have been constantly misquoted by the government) and “post-trial analysis” allowed for the minimum culling area to come down from 57 square miles to 39.

The RSPCA, in its response to the government’s 2010 consultation (a must-read), pointed out that the post-trial analysis had already been considered by the previous government when taking the decision not to engage in badger culling. Yet again the Environment Secretary is misrepresenting the facts.

Even worse, and despite the firm recommendation of the randomised trials to confine culling to a six-week period (causing the least perturbation of badger populations possibly spreading the disease), she made it far more convenient for the farmers. Basically, apart from the closed season when cubs are being reared, it’s now almost always open season.

However, culling contractors prefer large areas, hoping that the sheer miles involved will discourage those people trying to defend badgers from the guns. According to Natural England, the applications cover areas ranging from from 52 to 253 square miles, with the average area being approximately 127 square miles.

How can one achieve an even half-accurate estimate of the badger population in an area of 127 or 252 square miles that could contain major differences in geology, soil and landscape? Yet it is on this dodgy estimate that the number of badgers to be culled per year is decided by Natural England. But it doesn’t have the staff to cover the ground and farmers consistently overestimate how many badgers a sett holds.

Many do not understand that a single group of badgers may have more than one sett. Or that a long-established sett may have over 30 entrances/holes yet no more than five or six badgers in residence, the average family group being 5.9 badgers. One farmer’s overestimate for the number of badgers on his land amounted to three badgers per acre. Rabbits maybe. Badgers no.

Is culling badgers the only option? No. In 2011 the European Commission carried out an audit on Britain’s efforts in controlling bTB in cattle. The report was damning, highlighting many areas where testing, cattle movement controls and biosecurity measures were quite simply inadequate.

Britain produced some defensive comments on the report (the word “wildlife” appeared just once, and badgers not at all) and then a proposed plan to deal with the situation, implemented in 2013. But until England follows the route taken by Wales (annual TB testing on all cattle, not just in selected areas), England’s farmers will still struggle to gain control over bTB.

Biosecurity on farms is an absolute must if one is serious about controlling any form of disease (bird flu for example) that might be transmitted by wildlife or indeed, stock on neighbouring farms, particularly when one considers that certain farming methods compromise the immune systems of the animals, making them more vulnerable to infection.

But too many farms are still lax in their biosecurity controls, putting not just themselves at risk, but also farms in the area that do take matters seriously. And easy as it is to blame to blame the wildlife, the far greater risk comes from herds. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs talks about “infected badger populations” but in all this pseudoscience there is no effort to investigate how much bTB really is present among badgers.

During the first two years of culling in Somerset and Gloucester, no badgers were tested for bTB. Rumour has it that an independent laboratory is now thinking of doing such a study on badgers in one of the Western region counties, but surely, if the government wants to go on claiming this is a “science-led policy,” it must conduct its own rigorous, unbiased and transparent investigation.

It won’t, of course. Such a study would only demonstrate that badgers are nowhere near being a major part of the problem. Further, any government-funded reports that don’t agree with its policies may be muzzled. One can expect neither sense nor science from a government that appears to be allowing the closure of the National Wildlife Crime Agency. For the majority of us, culling badgers is one of those crimes.

Flamingos in love, video

This video from England says about itself:

Flamingos Display Best Moves – Animals In Love – BBC

10 February 2016

There are six different species of Flamingo, Liz Bonin visits the Slimbridge Wetlands Centre in the UK to find out more about the greater flamingo. In their efforts to attract a mate they do something no other Flamingo species does…

The only flamingo species that naturally appears in North America, the American flamingo is occasionally considered a subspecies of the greater flamingo. Unmistakable in identification, this is one of the most unique birds in its Caribbean range: here.

English bird news today

This video from England says about itself:

A Visit to RSPB Old Moor on 24 November 2014

On a cold day in November we had a walk around the RSPB Reserve Old Moor.

The cast in order of appearance are:

great spotted woodpecker
tufted duck

Of course many of the cast appear more than once.

From the Barnsley Birders in England on Twitter today:

Old Moor [nature reserve] – Bearded Tit heard at 08.50, Cetti’s Warbler 7, Little Owl 1, Little Egret 6, Water Rail 4, Goosander 39, Peregrine, Cormorant 55

Sperm whale strandings in England

This video is called Secret Life of the Sperm Whale.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

The mystery beaching of a Moby Dick

Friday 29th January 2016

PETER FROST reports on the spate of whale strandings on England’s east coast beaches

SEVENTEEN sperm whales have been stranded on beaches around the North Sea in the last few weeks — five of them on Norfolk and Lincolnshire beaches and the rest in the Netherlands and Germany.

The corpse of a 50ft young adult male sperm whale came ashore at Hunstanton in Norfolk during the night of Friday January 22.

Local rescuers tried to try to save the Hunstanton whale. Coastguards, volunteer divers and the local lifeboat crew, along with staff from the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary, all failed to push the whale — injured from thrashing in the shallows — back into deeper water.

Hunstanton lifeboat spokesman Geoff Needham told us: “It was a sad end for such a magnificent creature. This large animal was unable to make for deeper water. As the tide was dropping away, nothing more could be done.”

The sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) used to be called the cachalot. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was a cachalot.

It is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator on the globe. It has the largest brain of any animal on Earth, more than five times heavier than a human’s. Sperm whales can live for more than 60 years.

Mature males average 52ft in length but some may reach 67ft, with the head representing up to one-third of the animal’s length.

The sperm whale feeds primarily on squid. It can dive up to 7,382ft for prey and is the second deepest-diving mammal. Only Cuvier’s beaked whale dives deeper.

Females give birth every four to 20 years and care for the calves for more than a decade. A mature sperm whale has few natural predators. It has a distinctive clicking voice used for both echolocation and communication.

The Hunstanton whale was one of a pod of at least six sperm whales which had been observed alive but distressed in shallow waters in the Wash on Friday.

Later three more sperm whales from the pod were found washed up on beaches at Skegness. Thousands of spectators flocked to the beaches to view the whales before the area was closed to the public.

Two of the massive 50ft whales were found on a Skegness beach towards Gibraltar Point at around 8.30pm on Saturday and the third was discovered on Sunday morning at the end of Lagoon Walk.

Richard Johnson of UK Coastguard told us: “We believe that the three whales at Skegness died at sea and then washed ashore.”

On Monday a fifth dead whale was found at Wainfleet, Lincolnshire, on the site of a former bombing range with no public access.

The dead whales are believed to have been part of a group spotted in the Wash on Friday and these are believed to be part of a pod of which 17 have been stranded and died in the Netherlands and Germany earlier this month.

These wandering pods are often made up mainly of adolescent males. They normally feed in the deep waters between Norway and Scotland.

Five whales died after they washed ashore on Texel Island, one of the Frisian islands of the north Netherlands coast two weeks ago. Six more have stranded in Germany in recent weeks.

Sperm whales are deep sea animals and do not belong in the shallow waters of the North Sea. Various theories have been put forward as to why the magnificent mammals were stranded. Were they misled by underwater signals from submarines and military shipping? Or is it another strange result of the changes in the huge ocean currents brought about by climate change?

It is believed that large numbers of squid, the main food of the sperm whales, have been moving through into the North Sea and the whales may have been following them.

Dr Peter Evans, director of the Sea Watch Foundation, said the whales probably swam south through the North Sea looking for food but became disorientated in shallow waters.

“Whales feed on squid and what’s probably happened is that squid came in and the whales fed upon them but ran out of food,” he said.

Examination of the stomachs of the stranded whales showed they had not eaten recently. As whales do not drink but get their fluid intake from food, starvation can quickly lead to dehydration and disorientation.

Scientists have removed the Hunstanton whale’s lower jaw bone and teeth, and taken samples of blood and blubber from its carcass for analysis. This will enable them to establish the age of the whale and its physical condition before its death.

Examining dead whales can be an exciting, if not dangerous, procedure. The huge corpses deteriorate quickly and gases and noxious fluids build up under pressure in the body sealed with thick blubber. They often explode and those explosions are often caused by autopsy chainsaw incisions. This happened with one of the Skegness whales.

From the early 18th century through the late 20th, the sperm whale was heavily hunted by whalers. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name.

Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from the sperm whale’s digestive system, is still used as a fixative in perfumes. Regurgitated lumps of ambergris are sometimes found on British beaches and are extremely valuable.

Today the species is protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The total population of sperm whales in the world is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands. Japan still hunts the species and has killed more than 50 sperm whales since 2000.

Currently, entanglement in fishing nets and collisions with ships represent the greatest threats to the sperm whale population. Other threats include ingestion of marine debris, ocean noise and chemical pollution and, as we have seen this weekend, stranding in unfamiliar shallow waters.

Every year 600 strandings of cetaceans — whales, dolphins and porpoises — occur in the UK, mostly in the north of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland. Only about five or six a year are sperm whales. On Christmas Eve 2011, a sperm whale washed-up at Old Hunstanton Beach. Thousands flocked to see it, just as they have with the recent strandings.

Sperm whales beached in England

This video from England says aboiut itself:

Three dead sperm whales wash up near Skegness

24 January 2016

Dead sperm whales believed to have been from the same pod as animal that died after being beached in Norfolk.

See also here.

10-year-old makes spelling mistake, police considers him ‘terrorist’

This video from England says about itself:

22 January 2016

Muslim boy writes he lives in ‘terrorist house’ by accident & is quizzed

The 10-year-old made the error during a lesson at a school in Accrington, Lancashire. Officers later arrived at the young boy’s home to question him about the remark, and also searched the family laptop. It’s Terraced NOT Terrorist. A spelling mistake got this young lad suspected.

In David Cameron‘s Britain today, journalism, even BBC journalism, may be considered ‘terrorism’.

In the USA, 18-month-old baby girls may get on a no fly list as supposed ‘terrorists’. Police may arrest a Muslim teenage inventor as a ‘terrorist’ for inventing a clock. In the Netherlands, police may consider a Muslim teenager to be a ‘terrorist’ for being homeless.

Now, police in David Cameron‘s England have discovered a new ‘proof’ of terrorism: making a spelling mistake.

From the BBC:

Muslim boy, 10, probed for ‘terrorist house’ spelling error

By Rahila Bano, BBC Asian Network

20 January 2016

A 10-year-old Muslim boy who mistakenly wrote that he lived in a “terrorist house” during an English lesson at school has been investigated by police.

The pupil, who attends a primary school in Lancashire, meant to say he lived in a “terraced house”.

The boy was interviewed by Lancashire Police at his home the next day and the family laptop was examined.

Teachers have been legally obliged to report any suspected extremist behaviour to police since July.

The boy’s family said they were left shocked by the 7 December incident and want both the school and police to apologise.

‘He’s now scared’

In order to protect the boy’s identity, the BBC is not naming his cousin, who said she initially thought it was all a “joke”.

“You can imagine it happening to a 30-year-old man, but not to a young child,” she said. “If the teacher had any concerns it should have been about his spelling.

“They shouldn’t be putting a child through this.

“He’s now scared of writing, using his imagination.”

The 2015 Counter Terrorism and Security Act places a statutory duty on schools and colleges to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

Critics argue teachers are overreacting for fear of breaking the law, rather than using their common sense.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, the UK’s largest umbrella group for Islamic associations, said he was aware of dozens of cases similar to that of the schoolboy.

“There are huge concerns that individuals going about their daily life are being seen through the lens of security and are being seen as potential terrorists rather than students,” he said.

“This is a natural consequence of the extension of the ‘Prevent Duty’ to schools.”

The Home Office does not publish data for the number of referrals made to Channel, the de-radicalisation programme.

However, in the year to the end of October, 1,355 people aged under 18 were referred to it, compared with 466 in the previous 12 months.

Lancashire Police said in a statement: “This was reported to the police but was dealt with by a joint visit by a PC from the division and social services, not by anyone from Prevent.

“There were not thought to be any areas for concern and no further action was required by any agency.”

The school said it was unable to comment because it was investigating a complaint made about the incident.