Update on ‘alpine whaling’ – scientific grazing

Photo: Trevor Pinder, Herald Sun

We recently reported on some curious developments in evidence-based policy in the state of Victoria in Australia, where the newly-elected State Government had overturned previous policy to keep cattle out of alpine national parks, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support this.

Now the federal government (which is a different political party to the Victorian State government) has ordered the removal of cattle,using robust terms to refer the quality of research proposed. The Melbourne Age reports:

Declaring that cattle must be removed by April 8, Mr Burke said the Baillieu government had repeatedly failed to answer key questions about the trial since releasing about 400 cattle into the park in January. He said the state had failed to provide a copy of the research proposal or explain what steps it was taking to protect sensitive areas.

”For reasons I do not really comprehend, the Victorian government decided they didn’t really care if they were on the right side of the law,” he said.

”The information that has come back from the Victorian government is a joke … For something that is meant to be a university research project, they have provided information that wouldn’t pass as a high school science project.”

However, the severity of this response is somewhat limited by the timing for withdrawal of the cattle, which seems largely ceremonial:

Mr Burke’s deadline for cattle to leave the park roughly coincides with the end of the grazing season. Cattle leave the park at the end of April and return in October.

The Victorian Government has responded in very robust, and bovinely appropriate, terms:

State Environment Minister Ryan Smith last night accused Mr Burke of political grandstanding. He said the federal government knew summer grazing was about to finish and the state had answered all questions asked of it. ”To claim anything else is just bull.”

Mr Smith said he had yet to receive formal notification of the decision, and would consider his options once he had.

The Melbourne Sun-Herald asked even harder questions, and reported:

The minister refused to say if the trial was successful in helping to reduce the risk of bushfires.

He also said there is no timeline for when the final report on the first stage of the grazing trial is to be submitted to government.


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