mattellisBASC’s scientific advisor Dr Matt Ellis has questioned whether the RSPB will be calling for a ban on cats anytime soon.

Dr Ellis posed the question in his blog which can be read here.

In his blog, Dr Ellis makes reference to the belated publication of papers which were presented at the 2014 Oxford Lead Symposium and include claims that up to 100,000 wildfowl die each year in the UK due to lead poisoning.

In actual fact, estimates posited that between 50,000 and 100,000 waterfowl could be affected and the report itself says that “more precise estimates cannot readily be made.”

The estimates themselves are based on extrapolation and are not supported by hard evidence. And, despite the worst estimate, there is no evidence of an impact at a population scale.

In his blog, Dr Ellis says the claims got him thinking about context, and whether lack of context is another symptom of the ‘White Hat Bias’ that is an ever present threat to evidence-driven policy making.

With this is mind, he took a look at the RSPB’s website, which addresses the question of whether cats are causing declines in the bird population.

To put the alleged bird deaths into perspective, the RSPB’s website says that 55 million birds are caught by the UK’s cats every year. So Dr Ellis ponders whether the RSPB will call for a ban on cats.

Dr Ellis said: “I’m not suggesting for one moment that cats should be banned, but perhaps on reading this some campaigners will be

“This is not an attack on cat ownership. Cats carry out pest control by managing populations of mice and rats. They also make excellent pets. However, this should make people think about whether there is just a touch of hypocrisy here.

“Estimates from the Oxford Lead Symposium suggest that up to 100,000 waterfowl could be affected by lead poisoning and as a consequence there are calls for it to be phased out; the RSPB quotes figures which say cats are responsible for catching 55 million birds a year and hardly bats an eyelid.”

Garry Doolan

Garry Doolan is BASC’s deputy director of communications and public affairs. He has more than 20 years experience of journalism and the media. He joined the organisation in 2016 and is a keen shooter and beater, with his springer spaniel Quincy.

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