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Cows and cars? It's about risk

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: June 05, 2014

The risk of being killed by a cow while out walking should be put in proportion, says James Russell.

The risk of being killed by a cow while out walking should be put in proportion, says James Russell.

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STATISTICS can play whatever game they want, which as a scientist I find really annoying.

I believe that the RSPCA is correct when it says that there are 82% more pets travelling into the country on the PETS travel scheme than there were before the relaxation in the rules, giving a massive increased risk of rabies; or do I believe the deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Alik Simmons when he says that there is a small and reducing risk of rabies entering the country through a pet travelling on the PETS passport scheme?

These views are so opposed that there is no way that they can both be right, and yet we are supposed to make a judgment on what level of risk we attribute to rabies.

Should I have everyone in the practice vaccinated because of the massive risk the RSPCA have told us about, or is Alik right and the risks of sticking needles in 37 people far outweighs the risk of disease?

The same risk analysis can be applied to walking in the countryside.

How many people per year are knocked down by cars – around 4,432, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; that's over 12 people every single day of the year. Compared to that, the number of people killed by cows is about two per year. It is still horrible and we should be concerned to try to stop it, but the risk and response must be proportionate.

Before people stop visiting and walking on our hills and in valleys, they may like to consider that they were 2,200 times more at risk when they walked to pick up this newspaper from the shop.

It is startling to think that the media response to 4,432 people being killed in a year is about zero. The response to one horrible accident in a local field is national news.

I will walk with my family again this weekend. I will still cross the road when I need to. When it comes to sending my children to do one of those on their own as they grow older, I know which one will give me most cause for concern, and it won't be the rabid cow!

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