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Badger cull

...on serious topics that don't fit anywhere else at present.
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Dave B
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Re: Badger cull

#121 Post by Dave B » February 28th, 2014, 12:43 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

And "An Expert" said this am that the strategy may make things worse anyway, the badgers will just spread to the vacant territory.

(Sent from Gloucester Guildhall via my new tablet, just for the heck of it!)
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#122 Post by Alan H » April 4th, 2014, 11:58 am

This could set a dangerous precedent - we can't have a Government following the scientific evidence...

Badger cull climbdown is a stunning and unexpected game-changer
Owen Paterson should be congratulated by scientists, activists and farmers for choosing a science-led alternative to culling
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#123 Post by Alan H » June 23rd, 2014, 1:18 pm

If it didn't work out too well for you last time, just pervert it to suit your ideology: Badgers: Ministers 'wilfully' ignoring science advice
A senior government adviser has described coalition plans to change the way the pilot badger culls are assessed as "an abuse" of the scientific method.

Prof Timothy Coulson is concerned the government is considering a less reliable way of assessing humaneness in the cull and numbers of badgers killed.

He is also concerned that it will scrap independent oversight.

It would also make it impossible to assess whether recommendations to improve the cull have worked.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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animist
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Re: Badger cull

#124 Post by animist » June 23rd, 2014, 9:09 pm

there seem to be more dead badgers on the roadside than I ever remember, and a friend said that farmers kill them and then "plant" them to appear as road kill - anyone know anything about this?

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#125 Post by Alan H » September 9th, 2014, 10:26 am

More evidence-free policies: British government on the badger cull: ask scientists for help then ignore them
Government has repeatedly referred to its programme of badger culling as “science-led”. One would expect a science-led policy to entail gathering reliable information on management outcomes, and using this and other evidence to inform future decisions. Choosing – against formal expert advice – to collect inconsistent, inadequate and potentially biased data is an insult to evidence-based policymaking. When ineffective culling can make a bad situation worse, failing to collect the evidence needed to evaluate future policy fails farmers, taxpayers and wildlife.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Nick
Posts: 11027
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: Badger cull

#126 Post by Nick » September 9th, 2014, 5:19 pm

Alan H wrote:More evidence-free policies: British government on the badger cull: ask scientists for help then ignore them
Government has repeatedly referred to its programme of badger culling as “science-led”. One would expect a science-led policy to entail gathering reliable information on management outcomes, and using this and other evidence to inform future decisions. Choosing – against formal expert advice – to collect inconsistent, inadequate and potentially biased data is an insult to evidence-based policymaking. When ineffective culling can make a bad situation worse, failing to collect the evidence needed to evaluate future policy fails farmers, taxpayers and wildlife.

We will, however, be able to evaluate some of the effectiveness by monitoring the level of TB in cattle in future. Not perfect, but a good indication.

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#127 Post by Alan H » September 9th, 2014, 5:37 pm

Nick wrote:
Alan H wrote:More evidence-free policies: British government on the badger cull: ask scientists for help then ignore them
Government has repeatedly referred to its programme of badger culling as “science-led”. One would expect a science-led policy to entail gathering reliable information on management outcomes, and using this and other evidence to inform future decisions. Choosing – against formal expert advice – to collect inconsistent, inadequate and potentially biased data is an insult to evidence-based policymaking. When ineffective culling can make a bad situation worse, failing to collect the evidence needed to evaluate future policy fails farmers, taxpayers and wildlife.

We will, however, be able to evaluate some of the effectiveness by monitoring the level of TB in cattle in future. Not perfect, but a good indication.
But why not do it properly? The article states that ineffective culling can make the situation worse: Do you think it's right to just wait to see whether - further down the line - cases of TB increase or decrease? Also, what about monitoring the suffering involved. Why do you think they might not be bothering to do that now?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Nick
Posts: 11027
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: Badger cull

#128 Post by Nick » September 12th, 2014, 11:10 am

Alan H wrote:
We will, however, be able to evaluate some of the effectiveness by monitoring the level of TB in cattle in future. Not perfect, but a good indication.
But why not do it properly?
I'm not necessarily supporting the action taken, but I can think of a couple of reasons. First of all, there is the cost. We can always spend more money on anything, but economics is the study of the allocation of resources which have alternative uses. In other words, spend money on this, and you have less money to spend on other (more desirable?) things.

Secondly, with research and sampling, we do not always need to test the evidence to the same degree of confidence levels. In this instance, maybe it is OK to be reasonably sure, than to be certain.

The article states that ineffective culling can make the situation worse: Do you think it's right to just wait to see whether - further down the line - cases of TB increase or decrease?
I don't think we'll have to wait very long to see results. One could equally ask "do you think it's right to take no action, and allow the continuation of the spread of BTB, infecting both badgers and cattle.

I also think that another aspect has been left out. Previously, badgers were protected. ISTM that many farmers will take action themselves, as and when the see fit, to control badgers on their land. I won't always have to be organised as a special thing.

Also, what about monitoring the suffering involved. Why do you think they might not be bothering to do that now?
Hmmm.... they don't monitor the suffering of badgers dying in the wild, do they? In a lot of nature, death can happen in what to us is most distressing ways. And any measurement, which would deprive other good things of money, would produce not an answer but another moral question, to which differnt people will have differing answers, with, they would argue, equal worth.

But would I prefer it if badgers did not have to be killed? Of course. Would I prefer it if , if the need to cull badgers does exist, they were dispatched humanely? Of course.

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#129 Post by Alan H » September 18th, 2014, 11:50 am

By Rosie Woodroffe, Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Zoology. Note that she 'gratefully acknowledges research funding from Defra.'

British government on the badger cull: ask scientists for help then ignore themBovine tuberculosis (TB) is expected to cost British taxpayers nearly £100m in 2014. Scientific evidence is a vital weapon in the fight to protect cattle from TB. Why, then, has the government just fought and won a legal battle to avoid consulting independent scientists on its most high-profile TB control effort?

Wild badgers play a role in transmitting TB to cattle, and culling badgers seems an obvious solution. A new round of badger culls is about to start, but it is risky . A complex interaction between badger behaviour and TB transmission means that the results of culling could, depending on various factors, increase TB levels, instead of reducing them. To add to that, badger culling is expensive.

This is why, in 2013, the government started a pilot that it hoped would be give them a cheap and effective way to control cattle TB. Farmers, rather than government, would pay for the culling. And, rather than being cage-trapped, badgers would be shot in the wild.

This pilot was started in just two areas – and for good reason: the whole approach was untested, and the stakes were high. Marksmen shooting at night might endanger public safety. Shooting free-ranging badgers might cause suffering. And, worst of all for the aims of the approach, failing to kill enough badgers, fast enough, would worsen the cattle TB situation that the culls were intended to control.

In the face of such uncertainty, the government adopted a commonly used approach. It appointed an Independent Expert Panel to assess the safety, humaneness and effectiveness of the pilot project. The expectation was that this panel’s conclusions would reflect scientific evidence, whether or not they supported government policy.

Bring in the experts

The Independent Expert Panel found that farmer-led culling was far from effective. Tasked with killing at least 70% of the local badgers within a six-week period, cull teams only managed to kill between 28% and 48%. Culling periods were extended, but still the total kill rose to only something between 31% and 56%, according to government figures. Unless more badgers could be killed, and faster, farmer-led culling risked worsening the problem it was intended to solve.

The 2013 culls also failed to meet their targets for animal welfare. Between 7.4% and 22.8% of badgers were still alive five minutes after being shot and were assumed to have experienced “marked pain”.

Despite facing these failures, the government decided to repeat culls in the same areas in 2014. If effectiveness and humaneness could be improved sufficiently, culling might be extended to more areas in 2015. If not, the government might need to reconsider their policy. One would think, then, that measuring effectiveness and humaneness would be a central goal of 2014’s culls.

Then ignore their advice

The Independent Expert Panel, together with government scientists, selected the most accurate and precise ways to estimate the effectiveness and humaneness of the 2013 culls. Measuring effectiveness is challenging because – being nocturnal and shy – badgers are hard to count. The panel overcame this problem by using genetic “fingerprints” to identify badgers from hair snagged on barbed wire. They measured humaneness primarily through independent observers recording the time that shot badgers took to die.

The panel recommended that the same approaches be used for subsequent culls. But the government rejected this recommendation. This year there will be no attempt to count badgers in the cull areas, either before or after the culls. The time badgers take to die will not be recorded. There will be no oversight by independent scientists.

Instead, the effectiveness of the culls which start tonight will be judged using a method so utterly inadequate it was barely considered in 2013. Key data will be collected by marksmen themselves: people with a vested interest in the cull being designated “ef<FONT face="arial" color="blue">blue</font>
fective” and “humane”, who in 2013 collected data so unreliable it was considered unusable by the panel. Available information suggests that any future claim that the 2014 culls have reduced badger numbers sufficiently to control TB will be completely baseless.

Why the change in approach? Government cites cost, and hired some expensive lawyers to defend its position when the Badger Trust sought, and eventually lost, a judicial review of the decision to scrap independent scientific oversight of this year’s culls. Yet the cost of pushing forward with an ineffective culling policy would far outweigh the cost of properly assessing effectiveness and humaneness.

Government has repeatedly referred to its programme of badger culling as “science-led”. One would expect a science-led policy to entail gathering reliable information on management outcomes, and using this and other evidence to inform future decisions. Choosing – against formal expert advice – to collect inconsistent, inadequate and potentially biased data is an insult to evidence-based policymaking. When ineffective culling can make a bad situation worse, failing to collect the evidence needed to evaluate future policy fails farmers, taxpayers and wildlife.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

Nick
Posts: 11027
Joined: July 4th, 2007, 10:10 am

Re: Badger cull

#130 Post by Nick » December 21st, 2015, 3:02 pm

Interesting article in The Times today

We have no choice but to cut badger numbers

Matt Ridley

Last updated at 12:01AM, December 21 2015

The scientific evidence is conclusive. If you conduct selective badger culls, hedgehog populations will bounce back
Hedgehogs, subjects of The Times Christmas Appeal, are to get their own summit, the environment secretary, Liz Truss, said last week. Hedgehogs are in trouble. Their numbers have plunged, their range has shrunk and they have disappeared from large parts of the countryside. The population has probably at least halved during this century and may now be 3 per cent of what it was in the 1950s.

When asked why this has happened, conservation organisations talk of habitat loss and urban development. This makes no sense because hedgehogs survive mostly in suburbs, not rural areas. The thing the pressure groups hate mentioning is badgers. Yet the evidence that an increase in Mr Brock may well be the chief cause of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s demise is — as I have been discovering by reading the scientific literature — overwhelming.

The evidence comes in many forms. There’s the direct evidence — the hollowed-out prickle-bearing skins left behind after a badger eats a hedgehog. Only badgers can open a hedgehog after it rolls up in defence. Foxes and dogs cannot. Badger predation is often found to be the main cause of hedgehog death in studies in this country.

There’s the timing evidence. The decline in hedgehogs coincided with the rise in badgers since the latter’s protection began in the 1970s and was strengthened in the 1990s.

Anecdotally, there are clear-cut cases to show this is likely to be cause and effect, not coincidence. Kew Gardens had a thriving hedgehog population until the mid 1980s when badgers first arrived there. Today, says the Royal Botanic Gardens’ website: “Kew is teeming with badgers.” There are now more than 20 setts and hedgehogs are hardly ever seen, and if they are they don’t last long. Habitat change and development cannot be the cause in Kew, because there has not been any.
There’s the spatial evidence. Throughout England hedgehogs (great worm eaters) have vanished from worm-rich pastureland, where badgers thrive, and cling on only in suburban gardens and amenity grassland, where badgers so far have not penetrated much. Even here, as one study put it: “The probability of hedgehog occurrence in suburban habitats declined towards zero in areas of high badger density.” As a general rule, wherever badgers are present at a density higher than about one main sett every four square kilometres, hedgehogs are absent. In most of rural England, sett density is two or three times higher.

There’s the behavioural evidence. In the 1990s, ecologists discovered that the smell of badgers alone is enough to deter hedgehogs from entering an area. And hedgehogs released into areas of excellent habitat hightailed it out of there if they smelt badger. They do not wait to be eaten.

There’s the international evidence. Sweden has also blamed its decline in hedgehogs on rising badger numbers. In the Netherlands, scientists reported this year that hedgehogs are now confined mostly to urban areas, despite roads and development, because of the spread of badgers in rural areas.

There’s the experimental evidence, which is the clincher. The randomised badger control trials, carried out between 1998 and 2006 in 30 different parts of the country, provided an opportunity to see what happened to hedgehog numbers if badger numbers were reduced. In pasture land, where hedgehogs are mostly extinct, there was of course little effect. But in “amenity grassland” — parks, lawns, gardens, playing fields, etc — there was a dramatic explosion in hedgehog numbers in those areas where badgers were culled: hedgehog density almost trebled from an average of 0.9 per hectare to 2.4 per hectare in five years.

By contrast in the control areas where no badgers were culled, the hedgehog density remained unchanged at 0.3 per hectare over the same period.

So we know one way to increase hedgehog numbers: reduce badger numbers. No other approach has been demonstrated to have such an effect. Given that badgers are highly effective predators of bumblebees (those who try to study bumblebees complain that most of the nests they find get dug out and eaten by badgers) as well as of ground-nesting birds, and that they carry bovine tuberculosis, there is little doubt that lower badger densities would be good for the ecology of the British countryside as well as for farming.

After all, even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds accepts that foxes and crows need to be controlled on its reserves because of the impact they have on wildlife, so why not badgers?

The key point is that there is nothing natural about the density at which badgers and foxes live in Britain today. In a natural system wolves, bears and lynx would control their numbers to the benefit of hedgehogs, bumblebees and birds.
This general pattern is known as the “mesopredator release problem” and elsewhere in the world wildlife managers are much less squeamish about confronting it. If top (“apex”) predators are missing, then middle-ranking (“meso”) predators thrive with devastating results for species on which they prey. For example, in southern California where coyotes are absent, foxes, skunks and domestic cats are more numerous and many bird species suffer badly. In the north Pacific, a decline in sea otters (caused by killer whales) unleashed a population explosion of sea urchins resulting in overgrazing of kelp to the detriment of many fish.

The return of wolves to Yellowstone park benefited many plants, insects, rodents and birds by suppressing numbers of elk (not that elk can be described as predators).

The hedgehog’s plight is only going to get worse. As social memories of persecution fade, badgers are moving into suburbs, the last refuges of hedgehogs. Providing hedgehogs with ideal homes in our gardens, and tunnels under garden fences, may slow their decline, but it won’t stop them going extinct from much of the country.

Unless we are prepared to unleash brown bears, lynx and wolves into the English countryside to control badgers and help hedgehogs, which seems unlikely, then we are under an obligation to do the apex predator job ourselves and control badgers for the sake of birds, bumblebees and hedgehogs. For sentimental reasons we may decide not to do so, but then we will have the decline of the hedgehog on our conscience.

Stark
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Joined: July 5th, 2007, 12:34 pm

Re: Badger cull

#131 Post by Stark » December 21st, 2015, 3:15 pm

Nick wrote:Interesting article in The Times today

We have no choice but to cut badger numbers

Matt Ridley

Last updated at 12:01AM, December 21 2015

The scientific evidence is conclusive. If you conduct selective badger culls, hedgehog populations will bounce back
Hedgehogs, subjects of The Times Christmas Appeal, are to get their own summit, the environment secretary, Liz Truss, said last week. Hedgehogs are in trouble. Their numbers have plunged, their range has shrunk and they have disappeared from large parts of the countryside. The population has probably at least halved during this century and may now be 3 per cent of what it was in the 1950s.

When asked why this has happened, conservation organisations talk of habitat loss and urban development. This makes no sense because hedgehogs survive mostly in suburbs, not rural areas. The thing the pressure groups hate mentioning is badgers. Yet the evidence that an increase in Mr Brock may well be the chief cause of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle’s demise is — as I have been discovering by reading the scientific literature — overwhelming.

The evidence comes in many forms. There’s the direct evidence — the hollowed-out prickle-bearing skins left behind after a badger eats a hedgehog. Only badgers can open a hedgehog after it rolls up in defence. Foxes and dogs cannot. Badger predation is often found to be the main cause of hedgehog death in studies in this country.

There’s the timing evidence. The decline in hedgehogs coincided with the rise in badgers since the latter’s protection began in the 1970s and was strengthened in the 1990s.

Anecdotally, there are clear-cut cases to show this is likely to be cause and effect, not coincidence. Kew Gardens had a thriving hedgehog population until the mid 1980s when badgers first arrived there. Today, says the Royal Botanic Gardens’ website: “Kew is teeming with badgers.” There are now more than 20 setts and hedgehogs are hardly ever seen, and if they are they don’t last long. Habitat change and development cannot be the cause in Kew, because there has not been any.
There’s the spatial evidence. Throughout England hedgehogs (great worm eaters) have vanished from worm-rich pastureland, where badgers thrive, and cling on only in suburban gardens and amenity grassland, where badgers so far have not penetrated much. Even here, as one study put it: “The probability of hedgehog occurrence in suburban habitats declined towards zero in areas of high badger density.” As a general rule, wherever badgers are present at a density higher than about one main sett every four square kilometres, hedgehogs are absent. In most of rural England, sett density is two or three times higher.

There’s the behavioural evidence. In the 1990s, ecologists discovered that the smell of badgers alone is enough to deter hedgehogs from entering an area. And hedgehogs released into areas of excellent habitat hightailed it out of there if they smelt badger. They do not wait to be eaten.

There’s the international evidence. Sweden has also blamed its decline in hedgehogs on rising badger numbers. In the Netherlands, scientists reported this year that hedgehogs are now confined mostly to urban areas, despite roads and development, because of the spread of badgers in rural areas.

There’s the experimental evidence, which is the clincher. The randomised badger control trials, carried out between 1998 and 2006 in 30 different parts of the country, provided an opportunity to see what happened to hedgehog numbers if badger numbers were reduced. In pasture land, where hedgehogs are mostly extinct, there was of course little effect. But in “amenity grassland” — parks, lawns, gardens, playing fields, etc — there was a dramatic explosion in hedgehog numbers in those areas where badgers were culled: hedgehog density almost trebled from an average of 0.9 per hectare to 2.4 per hectare in five years.

By contrast in the control areas where no badgers were culled, the hedgehog density remained unchanged at 0.3 per hectare over the same period.

So we know one way to increase hedgehog numbers: reduce badger numbers. No other approach has been demonstrated to have such an effect. Given that badgers are highly effective predators of bumblebees (those who try to study bumblebees complain that most of the nests they find get dug out and eaten by badgers) as well as of ground-nesting birds, and that they carry bovine tuberculosis, there is little doubt that lower badger densities would be good for the ecology of the British countryside as well as for farming.

After all, even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds accepts that foxes and crows need to be controlled on its reserves because of the impact they have on wildlife, so why not badgers?

The key point is that there is nothing natural about the density at which badgers and foxes live in Britain today. In a natural system wolves, bears and lynx would control their numbers to the benefit of hedgehogs, bumblebees and birds.
This general pattern is known as the “mesopredator release problem” and elsewhere in the world wildlife managers are much less squeamish about confronting it. If top (“apex”) predators are missing, then middle-ranking (“meso”) predators thrive with devastating results for species on which they prey. For example, in southern California where coyotes are absent, foxes, skunks and domestic cats are more numerous and many bird species suffer badly. In the north Pacific, a decline in sea otters (caused by killer whales) unleashed a population explosion of sea urchins resulting in overgrazing of kelp to the detriment of many fish.

The return of wolves to Yellowstone park benefited many plants, insects, rodents and birds by suppressing numbers of elk (not that elk can be described as predators).

The hedgehog’s plight is only going to get worse. As social memories of persecution fade, badgers are moving into suburbs, the last refuges of hedgehogs. Providing hedgehogs with ideal homes in our gardens, and tunnels under garden fences, may slow their decline, but it won’t stop them going extinct from much of the country.

Unless we are prepared to unleash brown bears, lynx and wolves into the English countryside to control badgers and help hedgehogs, which seems unlikely, then we are under an obligation to do the apex predator job ourselves and control badgers for the sake of birds, bumblebees and hedgehogs. For sentimental reasons we may decide not to do so, but then we will have the decline of the hedgehog on our conscience.


Of course, this does presuppose you prefer hedgehogs to badgers :wink:

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#132 Post by Alan H » August 8th, 2016, 10:10 am

Will the Government alter course in light if this evidence? Or will they just do what they usually seem to do with evidence? Bovine TB not passed on through direct contact with badgers, research shows
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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jaywhat
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Re: Badger cull

#133 Post by jaywhat » August 8th, 2016, 1:13 pm

We need to tell our MPs.

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Alan H
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Re: Badger cull

#134 Post by Alan H » August 26th, 2017, 11:21 am

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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