Anti-1080 lobby issues a press statement – and then it shies away from media questioning

Dave Hansford, a science and environment writer, sensed the same whiff of rat that was niggling our olfactory senses at Point of Order the other day.  He proceeded to investigate and reporteds his findings in an item, Dead rats, a mystery lab, and the very curious antics of the anti-1080 lobby, which was published on The Spinoff.

The whiff followed the release by an anti-1080 lobby of “lab tests” which – the group contended – found poison in vermin that washed up in Westport last month.

This directly contradicted the findings of Landcare Research, which had tested carcasses for 1080 and found none. (In necropsies, Massey University was unable to establish a cause of death).

Hansford set out see if the lobby’s claims stand up to scrutiny.

He failed to flush out the identity of the laboratory which did the testing:

You’d think a laboratory that had succeeded where Landcare and Massey had allegedly failed might be keen to burnish its reputation in a competitive field, but no: despite persistent requests, F&F refused to divulge its identity “for the security and safety of the independent chemists involved”, and warned that anyone who asked for it would be summarily removed from its Facebook page.

He did find plenty of other issues,  which have been summarised by David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

Their report from an “independent laboratory” concluded the rats etc died from 1080, with 41 pages of “evidence”. The problems were:

    1. Contradicted reports from both Landcare and Massey
    2. The lab was not named, and they refuse to do so
    3. The lab templates appear to be copied from the website of Virginia Tech
    4. The results were hand written which is strange as residue analysis is a digital process
    5. The lab managed to do testing protocols for three species for which no protocol exists
    6. They claimed to have tested 15 samples in two days
    7. It claimed the level of poison in the rats was 30 times the normal lethal dose and that starfish managed to imbibe a dosage level while underwater that was 10 times the lethal level
    8. The fluorocitrate levels were ten times higher than the 1080 levels, which should be impossible as not all the 1080 converts to fluorocitrate
    9. The testing protocol claimed to be used is unheard of
    10. F&F published the results of the testing three days before the lab was supposed to have completed the testing
    11. The lab claimed to have used a product from a supplier which the supplier stopped selling in 2015

In his report at The Spinoff, Hansford writes:

For a day, I tried to raise these issues with F&F through its Facebook page. I also asked for the Chain of Custody and Standard Operating Procedures the press release promised were available on request. Maxwell refused them all, demanding instead to see my “press credentials.” F&F was oblivious, too, to other quizzical enquiries from the Facebook community – one from a sharp-eyed reader who noticed that F&F had actually declared the results of the tests on November 15 – three days before the “lab” was supposed to have completed them.   

Having issued the press release, F&F was now puzzlingly reluctant to engage with media. Finally, under relentless enquiry, they agreed to a proposition from Newsroom to interview someone from the mystery lab under condition of anonymity.

A year ago, we are reminded, anti-1080 activists put dead birds, including kererū and weka on the steps of Parliament, claiming they were poisoned by the toxin.

An autopsy report on the dead birds found all were killed by unnatural means – but not poison.   

According to a summary of official autopsy reports, released under the Official Information Act, two of the birds had been killed by vehicles, two were likely to have flown into windows, one was too decomposed to tell the cause of death, and an adult male weka had been shot, most likely with a .22 rifle.

Weka are a protected species. 

Under the Wildlife Act, it is a crime to shoot a protected species.

Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage, at that time said the huge predator free movement across the country showed the anti-1080 group had lost people’s hearts and minds, and they were having an extreme reaction.

“We’ve had previously things like wheel nuts on vehicles being loosened causing a real risk to staff … they need to be able to get on with the job without being intimidated and abused.”

DOC was reported to be monitoring the anti-1080 activity and work was going on to ensure the safety of frontline staff and contractors.





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