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Sunday, July 07, 2013

Secret badger shoots pose a risk to public safety

You could not make it up. The Observer reports today that:

The government has refused to publish risk assessments of danger to the public during England's imminent night-time badger shoots because doing so "could have an adverse affect upon the health and safety of the public"

I think that just about sums up this whole sorry policy.
It's not wise for the English government to publish a list of farmers who are licensed to shoot on their land. Common sense really. The newspaper report is also wrong about the police. The police do have access to a list or persons with a gun licenses. I think the idea is to stop "campaigners" known to recklessly dive in front of cattle lorries, from attempting to trespass in front of loaded rifles.
A risk assessment wouldn't normally be "on such-and-such lane, this specific farmer might shoot you if you trespass on 20th July after sunset," but "one risk of this program is that we will be shooting in the dark. Based on past years, we think there is X% chance of hitting a human being, and Y% chance of shooting animals other than those we are trying to cull. Rural ambulance response times at night tend to be slow, but no humans were killed or maimed last time."

That's not information that a campaigner can use to block such campaigners; it might or might not convince someone that they shouldn't step in front of a loaded rifle.
Standard risk assessment data which anon 4.55 eludes to is available and published. It is used to define the distance from a road or public right of way a gun can be discharged, in law, and also the public liability premiums for land owners who allow shooting - grouse, rabbit, deer. I suppose it's possible to enhance the statistic by planting a few vegetarians in badger costumes on Mynydd Epynt during night time weapons training, but every scenario is different, depending of the skill of the marksman. Before 'risk assessment' became popular, I remember the predicted casualty figures if Swansea was hit by a hydrogen bomb. The modelling was not useful in determining policy and the only statistical correlation found, related to the surf forecast at Llangenith, (strong south westerly). I think we can assume that farmers don't deliberately shoot at humans.
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