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Abuse of ‘science’

16th of October 2022

In the analysis of the parliamentary inquiry, a passage that has a considerably broader scope than just the gas extraction problems in Groningen caught my eye. The debate between the KNMI investigations -commissioned by NAM- (=petroleum companies that exploit Dutch natural gas ) and the State Supervision of Mines (SodM) investigations.

“Thus, all knowledge about earthquakes and gas production before the Huizinge (emv: earthquake at Huizinge 2012) was with NAM or with bodies paid by the gas company such as KNMI. These research results were authoritative at the ministry, even when there were reports to the contrary such as those from regulator SodM.” (quote from NRC page 8 dated 15 October 2022).

The aim of NAM and the ministry as described by this newspaper was to maximally deplete the gas field and downplay the earthquake risks and consequences of it. Is science perhaps for sale after all? In any case, as the contrary studies showed, science is not as absolute as people sometimes want to make it seem. Science is constantly changing. Constantly the knowledge surrounding a subject changes. New research refutes older hypotheses. This is a normal phenomenon. However, that science is biased and sometimes deliberately misrepresents and/or the falsification of claims to achieve a certain goal, effects the name of good science.

It looks like the same seems to have happened in the case of the Enforcement Criteria for Short muzzled dogs (2019). Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University is paid by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality for writing it. The  brief was regulations to ban breeding with dogs that had a serious hereditary trait or external characteristic that harms the welfare of the animal and/or offspring.

Remarkably, these enforcement criteria based or scientifical literature even refer to scientific literature that proves the opposite of what is claimed by the Utrecht veterinarians.

However, it is clear from WOB data (administrative disclosure act) that a simple -read cheap- external characteristic had to be found that was scientifically ‘justified’. That was the mandate from the LNV ministry to Utrecht.
With the CFR (muzzle length/skull length), Utrecht thought it had found a gauge for the severity of respiratory disorders (BOAS) and eyes (BOS) and with this it had found an external and easily recognisable characteristic. It was immediately forbidden to breed with a CFR < 0.3 and CFR < 0.5 at term. However, scientific studies from Cambridge shows the opposite. The CFR is not a measure of the severity of these disorders as the enforcement criteria literally claim. According to Cambridge, these disorders appear to be determined by closed nostrils thick neck and obesity in the three breeds they studied. Utrecht, in its enforcement criteria, simply changed this Cambridge conclusion by replacing ‘closed nostrils’ with ‘short muzzle’. This to allow easy profiling. However, as a result, this legislation also affects mesocephalic breeds (medium-length muzzles like, for example, the Labrador Retriever, st Bernard and Jack Russel) as well as short muzzled dogs that are not hereditarily affected by respiratory and eye diseases.

The assertion from the enforcement criteria that short muzzle dogs then do have other disorders if they do not have BOS or BOAS as a result of the short snout is not further substantiated and is easy to refute unless one brings up all kinds of already refuted hypotheses (propositions) as evidence.

It appears that some extremely popular breeds with problems have been chosen as a guide for at least 30 brachycephalic breeds and 16 mesocephalic breeds. However, the far-reaching consequences were clearly not considered in Utrecht with the choice of the CFR.

In short, the external characteristic “the length of the snout” has the same truth content as profiling on, for instance, foreign names in the Dutch supplement affair and causes a lot of misery. After all, the hereditary characteristics in the Keepers of Animals Decree Article 3.4 has to do with breeds because it is simply the definition of a breed. This was clearly pronounced in Cambridge and provides the considerably more nuanced breed-focused view of the health issues of short-muzzled dogs there.

Abuse of ‘science’

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