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Expert Witness : Animal & Farming

Management of deer populations exercises Scottish Parliamentary committee

Picture of the Deer Park in Glengoulandie from for Your Expert Witness storyProgress on creating and implementing effective deer management plans across Scotland is too slow and some deer management groups lack public accountability, according to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.

Convener of the committee, Rob Gibson MSP, said: “There is no doubt that this is a controversial subject with strong views on either side of the debate. What was clear from the evidence our committee heard was that we need deer management groups to be effective and environmentally responsible, bringing in all interests, not just those of landowners. At the moment, the picture is patchy and inconsistent.

“The committee considers that there is no definitive evidence of the need to introduce a statutory duty of sustainable deer management for deer management groups at this point in time. However, if all deer management groups do not get their act together, this committee will have no choice but to recommend further action.”

In a letter to the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, outlined the wide-ranging and unanimous conclusions the committee came to. In particular, the committee concurred with the agencies that it is the impacts of deer rather than their absolute numbers that is most important when considering appropriate approaches to deer management.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:50


Study will develop ‘spotter’ system for meat inspections

Picture pf a meat inspector for Your Expert Witness storyThe Food Standards Agency is seeking a contractor to carry out research to explore a model whereby plant staff acting as ‘spotters’ identify and flag up defects on carcases and offal. That would happen before the official meat inspection is carried out by official veterinarians or meat hygiene inspectors. The project went out to tender via the social science research framework with a deadline for submitting tenders of 24 January. Only those suppliers registered in the framework were able to apply.

The study will aim to gather evidence to reform meat inspection the better to target public health, animal health and animal welfare conditions. The objective of the FSA’s review of meat controls is to improve public health, animal health and animal welfare protection by adopting a more risk and evidence-based approach to meat production. It follows a number of scandals regarding safety and honesty in the meat production industry.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 January 2014 17:52


Penalties to increase for dog attacks

Picture of a large dog for Your Expert Witness storyThe Government is proposing to increase the maximum penalties for dog owners whose animals are dangerously out of control, according to an announcement made by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The decision follows a consultation during the summer.

Current penalties stand at two years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for aggravated. The changes, announced on 29 October, will see the penalties increased to:

• Fourteen years imprisonment if a person dies as a result of a dog attack

• Five years imprisonment if a person is injured by a dog attack

• Three years’ imprisonment if an assistance dog either dies or is injured by a dog attack

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:51


Microchipping helps reunite dogs with owners

Picture of a stray dog for Your Expert Witness storyMicrochips have saved the lives of over 8,000 lost dogs over the past year – 1,000 more than the previous year – according to the UK’s largest dog welfare charity. The devices, implanted under the skin, allow the dogs to be reunited with their owners. The finding was revealed in the annual Stray Dog Survey carried out for Dogs Trust.

The report found that 111,986 stray and abandoned dogs were picked up by local authorities across the UK in the 12 months to September. While that represents a 6% decrease on the previous year the figure still equates to a staggering 307 stray dogs found each day. Despite considerable headway being made by local authorities and animal welfare organisations to promote responsible dog ownership through microchipping, education and neutering, the survey also recorded 9,000 dogs being destroyed, 8% of the total. Those reunited with their owners accounted for 48% of the stray population, with the remaining dogs transferred to welfare organisations for rehoming (25%) or rehomed through local authorities (9%).

The Government has announced plans for the compulsory microchipping of all dogs by April 2013 in a bid to promote more responsible dog ownership. Owners who fail to comply will face a £500 fine.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 September 2013 11:04


Zoo society goes on the attack over badger cull

Photo of badger for Your Expert Witness storyA renewed attack on the government’s policy of culling badgers to combat bovine TB has been launched by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which operates both London Zoo in Regent’s Park and Whipsnade Zoo.

In a statement issued on 23 August, ZSL said: “ZSL recognises the serious impact of bovine tuberculosis (TB) on the livelihoods of UK cattle farmers. Such an important issue deserves the highest standard of evidence­-based management.

“ZSL is concerned that the available scientific evidence does not support the UK government’s decision to allow badger culling by licensed farmers in England.”

According to the society, TB transmission is complex and the planned approach to its control risks increasing TB in cattle rather than reducing it. The statement goes on to detail evidence that suggests culling can reduce instances of the disease within the area of the cull, but can trigger increases outside the area. Moreover, where the culls are not stringently policed, the risks are increased.

The statement continued: “Unfortunately, the planned pilot culls are not designed to measure the effects of licensed culling on cattle TB, nor to assess its costs. ZSL therefore concludes that badger culling risks becoming a costly distraction from the important business of controlling cattle TB nationwide.

“As a conservation charity, ZSL is engaged in worldwide efforts to foster coexistence of people and wildlife. It calls upon the UK government to show international leadership in wildlife conservation, by seeking sustainable ways for badgers and cattle to coexist.

“ZSL is keen to help Defra to identify such sustainable solutions: our Defra-funded research seeks to minimise contact between badgers and cattle and we are also working to make badger vaccination cost-effective. ZSL recognises the UK government’s wider investment in research on vaccination, biosecurity and cattle-based controls, and believes that implementing a combination of these approaches has the greatest promise for long-term TB control.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 August 2013 13:50