What alternative to 1080?

July 17th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand is facing an explosion of rats and stoats and, as a result, an extraordinary threat to our native bird population.

“A plague of biblical proportions” is how Conservation Minister Nick Smith has colourfully put it. A million tonnes of beech seeds have fallen throughout the country in a “mast” event – a prolific seeding that last happened in 2000. All that is grist for the pests.

The rat population has ballooned from 3 million to 15m. Stoats, even worse predators, are eating the rats and multiplying exponentially too.

Both species will eventually decline, but not before gorging on native birds.

Smith is doing his best Pied Piper impression. He has announced extensive new poisoning measures, including large aerial drops of , mostly in South Island forest patches.

This is timely and commendable. The problem has threatened to batter such bird populations as the mohua and orange-fronted parakeet to the brink of extinction, and savage many others.

Smith has not been swayed by anti-1080 campaigners, who refuse to bow to the evidence and accept that the poison is our best weapon for preserving New Zealand’s unique birdlife.

1080 has some nasty unintended side-affects. But they are minor compared to the devastation caused by stoats, rats and possums.

He clearly cares about the issue. Earlier this year, he gave a detailed, passionate speech where he described rat and stoat breeding patterns in frightening detail and compared native bird losses to “having a Rena disaster every single hour”. (The ship’s grounding killed 2000 birds).

Yep the bird loss from the Rena was tiny compared to the loss from predators.

He also responded to 1080 critics, pointing out that the poison does not affect the water supply, has not killed kiwis, breaks down naturally and poses no real threat to human health. It has killed tiny numbers of dogs, but in sum, it is more efficient, affordable and humane than other options.

This view is backed up by two hefty official reports. First, in 2007, the Environmental Risk Management Authority undertook a major reassessment of 1080, approving the poison’s ongoing use under new rules.

Then, in 2011, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright concluded emphatically that “not only should the use of 1080 continue (including in aerial operations) to protect our forests, but that we should use more of it”.

I’d like to see a stoat and possum free New Zealand. It would take 20 years or so, but can be done.

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43 Responses to “What alternative to 1080?”

  1. lofty (1,310 comments) says:

    I listened to an interview on ZB last week where the former Greens leader from the Coromandel was interviewed, and interestingly enough Jeanette came out in full agreement with the use of 1080 to attempt to curb this plague.

    No issues at all from her, are the rest of greens in agreement with her stand I wonder?

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  2. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    The Greens welcomed the PCE report and their view is that 1080 must be retained in the absence of workable alternative – which they are keen to see developed.

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  3. MC2000 (18 comments) says:

    I would also like to see a stoat and possum free NZ. I wish I shared your optimism that it could be done in 20 years. DOC is the world leader in clearing small and medium size islands of pest/predators, but the difficulty and cost increases exponentially as the island gets bigger. Outgoing DOC Director General Al Morrison is on the record as saying that even if we spent the entire health budget on conservation that wouldn’t be nearly enough to achieve these kinds of goals.

    Still, we need to try, and it’s fantastic to see a Conservation Minister (from National no less) who understands the issues and cares about biodiversity. We need to use the best tools we have such as 1080 to slow the decline and maybe one day new technology will come to the rescue. DOC is already using self re-setting traps that can kill a possum humanely, spit it out and reset itself so it can keep on killing em all day long. What next? A genetically engineered possum plague? A terminator robot for stoats? One can dream….

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  4. Scott Chris (6,036 comments) says:

    I’d like to see a stoat and possum free New Zealand. It would take 20 years or so, but can be done.

    Me too. Not to mention feral and unmonitored cats.

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  5. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘It would take 20 years or so, but can be done’
    We’re more likely to see New Zealand ‘catch up with Australia’ in that timeframe. File alongside other ‘aspirational’ goals.

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  6. UrbanNeocolonialist (277 comments) says:

    Rabbits are more economically important problem. But with all of them I would say almost no chance of eradication. Drones might offer some great new options for control – to get poison into hard to reach locations, or as hunter-killers with poisoned darts driven by enthusiastic gamers over internet.

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  7. Scott Chris (6,036 comments) says:

    We need to use the best tools we have such as 1080 to slow the decline and maybe one day new technology will come to the rescue.

    Robot nano-drones maybe, administering contraceptive. Personally I think mass contraception is the most humane approach.

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  8. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Would we be able to use 1080 on the obese German criminal? It may be a more cost efficient solution.

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  9. Nigel Kearney (971 comments) says:

    Native birds are overrated, especially the ones that don’t fly. The kind of effort it would take to eradicate stoats and possums from all of NZ is just not worth it. Nobody would do it if it was their own money.

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  10. Kimble (4,426 comments) says:

    Nobody would do it if it was their own money.

    Anyone want to contest this statement?

    I estimate it would cost roughly $5 billion to eradicate stoats and possums from NZ.

    That’s only around $1,200 from every person. Hop to it.

    If you think its doable, and you still don’t do it, then is it because you are lazy, or you don’t care, or both?

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  11. Kimble (4,426 comments) says:

    Robot nano-drones maybe, administering contraceptive. Personally I think mass contraception is the most humane approach.

    Didn’t you post the EXACT same thing in this other thread?
    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/07/the_purge_of_the_middle_aged_men.html

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  12. Colville (2,254 comments) says:

    1080 is wonderful stuff IF deer repelent is used.

    When 1080 is blanket dropped in recreational deer hutiing areas and hunters find lots of dead deer you get a lot of angry hunters who then become vocal anti 1080 lobbyists.

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  13. Monique Angel (272 comments) says:

    Oh it’s scary how attractive the Kool-Aid appears. DOC dump’s so much 1080 that if predators could’ve eliminated they would have been. You waitanother 20 years and it’s still going to be a case of, “same shit, different day”. Itkills indiscriminately, natives and introduced species alike. It ‘s like dropping a bomb to cure the common cold. That shit is banned on every other country but promoted unrelentedly by the Animal Health Board; a teat sucking agency funded by taxpayers to bleat on about TB and the impact on farmers.

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  14. Colville (2,254 comments) says:

    Monique.
    I think you will find that in any year DOC only drop 1080 on a very small percentage of the conservvation estate, like maybe 2%. If they upped that to 50 % a year they might have a chance.

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  15. Monique Angel (272 comments) says:

    Jan Wright is a hand wringing tit and Nick Smith is a card carrying socialist.

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  16. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    ….”Jan Wright is a hand wringing tit and Nick Smith is a card carrying socialist.”…..

    That statement is unlikely to provoke much debate!

    But back to 1080. What else can DOC do? If rats & possums aren’t controlled somehow it won’t be long before there’s nothing left to save be it fauna or flora.

    At least 1080 drops are buying a bit of time until something better is developed.

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  17. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    MC2000 suggests:

    …maybe one day new technology will come to the rescue. DOC is already using self re-setting traps that can kill a possum humanely, spit it out and reset itself so it can keep on killing em all day long. What next? A genetically engineered possum plague?

    Genetic engineering is the in fact the key to solving this problem, not indiscriminate poisoning. To wit:

    I examine the potential of using “autocidal” genetic techniques to control terrestrial vertebrate pests, based on the inheritance through males of transgenes that either sterilise females or convert them into functional males (“daughterless”). Simulation analysis of two high profile pest species, the cane toad (Bufo marinus) in Australia and brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) in an urban environment, using realistic parameters, suggests that virtual eradication could be achieved at apparently realistic stocking rates within 100 years for toads, and in less than 20 years for rats. [my emphasis]

    …there appear to be no major logistical or technical impediments to developing a genetic control program against many pest species.

    From Genetic options for the control of invasive vertebrate pests: Prospects and Constraints [2007] by Ronald E. Thresher, Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and CSIRO, Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.

    I believe they’ve now got it to the point that they feel they could eradicate fast-breeding organisms (e.g. fruit flies) within a matter of months.

    So why are we blundering around with 1080? Get on board with the Australian research, fund that (and send them some famously adaptable NZ thinkers) and we’ll have the issue sorted within most of our lifetimes without a single dead native animal.

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  18. David in Chch (512 comments) says:

    Monique (and others of the same thinking):
    When I first arrived in NZ many many years ago, there were patches of bare forest, and I heard very little birdsong. That has changed dramatically in those intervening years, largely due to the success of the 1080 drop. It’s in part why the Environment Commissioner supported its increased use.

    If we were to stop 1080 use today, within a few years, we would again have patches of bare forest, stripped of foliage by animals such as possums, and very little birdsong would be heard.

    To me, the positive changes I have seen (the evidence) speaks to the success of the eradication programme, and at its heart, the use of 1080.

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  19. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    Mikey: That’s a total lie! (the first time I have said that of you)…When the PCE’s 1080 report came out the Greens started muttering about her being “bought off”…they certainly didn’t “welcome” the report…Shame on you sir

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  20. Monique Angel (272 comments) says:

    It reminds me of the old saying: “if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound. And If so, who gives a shit”?
    I was born in the ’70 ‘s. I was the oldest daughter of four kids. My Dad made a living, painting houses, trapping possums and catching eels.
    The ‘Bush’ looked fine to me when I was carrying his and my uncle’s ammo of an evening out shooting.
    The possum population neither increased or decreased when I was helping him catch and nail possum skins to boards to dry and sell for a living. This was in the ’80’s did I mention we used to keep eels in our Para pool?

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  21. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    Sorry David Garrett, but mikenmild seems to be right, given the Greens’ statement at the time:

    The Green Party welcomes the new report on 1080 released today but remains committed to finding alternatives to the poison…. “I have little time, however, for those who simply want to ban 1080 without offering constructive and credible alternatives to protect the wild spaces we love,” Mr Hague said.

    Perhaps they were muttering one thing in Parliament and saying another for wider consumption?

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  22. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    1080 drops are just socialism gone mad.

    If native birds are out competed by harder working, smarts animals like rats and stoats then too bad; that’s the free market.

    Not one more of my tax dollars should be wasted on protecting these failed so called “native” birds.

    Did they sign a treaty that guarantees them a forest to live in ?

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  23. Maggy Wassilieff (325 comments) says:

    @ Rex Widerstrom 4:28pm… For as long as I can remember a group of NZ scientists have been actively investigating biocontrol methods for possums (i.e. at least 30 years!) They’ve probably been constrained by not being able to use GE.
    Here’s a link to their work on immuno-contraception in possums.
    http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/vertebrate-pests/possums

    I doubt if their research is ready for use in the forests…. so in the meantime (next 30 years?) 1080 looks to be the only practical method we have for possum control in our hinterland.

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  24. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    Rex

    Thanks for the link. I remember reading something about it a while ago but then……nothing. I thought it had fizzled out.

    A bit more research brought up this:

    ….”Biological control

    Biological control has been likened to the ‘Holy Grail’ of pest control by a number of sources,[73][74] and was a major focus for research funding during the 1990s and 2000s in both New Zealand and Australia. Most of the methods proposed involved some form of genetic engineering, and if developed further would attract a great deal of public opposition. No biological control method has therefore yet gained widespread acceptance as a viable alternative to 1080. “…..

    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1080_usage_in_New_Zealand

    Given the Greens’ implacable hatred of genetic modification, their (now covert) hatred of 1080 & their worship of all things endemic to NZ they could be in for spasms of cognitive dissonance reaching biblical proportions.

    Which facet of their values do you think will triumph?

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  25. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    @Maggy Wassilieff

    Thanks for that. I had a vague memory of it being on the scientific agenda in NZ decades ago (when the tech was, reatively speaking, prehistoric) and assumed it had dropped off the radar because of funding.

    They’ve probably been constrained by not being able to use GE.

    Of all the brick-headed Luddite stupidity…! I’m cautious on GE for human consumption – I’m happy to eat a tomato that’s had genes from other tomato species, or indeed other plant species, spliced in but a little more cautious when it’s toad genes or something else human’s wouldn’t normally eat – but I’m not about to spit roast a bloody rat.

    Note to the Greens: It’s okay, honest, we’re not Baldrick.

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  26. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    Rex (and Milky): My apologies…my memory is a little vague, but I am pretty sure I recall Delahunty muttering darkly about Dr Wright and her report…but clearly that’s not what they said in the House…

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  27. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    @nasska

    I would hope that wiser heads would prevail. I do have concerns around GE crops, but over the ability of multinational to patent gene patterns.

    Just recently here in Western Australia, a grower of GE grain won a landmark case against a neighbouring farmer who claimed he’d lost his “organic” status because GE seeds had blown onto his land.

    Fair enough. But if Monsanto or the like then have a go at the neighbour for (inadvertently) growing seeds to which they have the patent, I have a problem with that. And more broadly, with the idea that anyone can own, say, the entire gene sequence of a strain of wheat. An alteration they’ve made to a part of the sequence, yes, but Monsanto and others clearly want to go beyond that.

    However, forgive me for straying off topic. I merely wanted to make the point that, while there are issues around GE that I believe the Greens should legitimately concern themselves with, whether or not rats can breed like… rabbits… isn’t one of them.

    Still, if they’re finding it a struggle, this might help.

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  28. Rex Widerstrom (5,349 comments) says:

    @David Garrett

    Quite alright. If it was Delahunty well, who knows what was said? She probably went out and consulted the woodland creatures that are her friends. And we all know woodland creatures are inveterate liars.

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  29. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    The greens are fundamentally anti science homeopathic, snake oil friendly Muppets. Steffan Browning was in the Marlborough Express the other day saying we should ban round up because some whack job 9-11 truther equivalents so called research. But it’s the equivalent of an anti vaccinationer quoting Andrew Wakefield as an authority.

    then they have the temerity to lecture everyone about the precautionary principle. Pity their parents didn’t practice it,

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  30. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    Rex

    You’re not alone on your concern about GE allowing a corporation to own the means people have to feed themselves. Indeed, although in favour of the capitalist system I have deep concerns about corporatism & how it impacts on individual citizens of individual countries. If the last 50 years are any indication everything in the world will eventually be owned by a handful of corporate bodies answerable nominally to their shareholders but to no one else.

    It is to be hoped that “toad” is following this thread & picks up on your link. Mass mourning for the millions of ‘Ratus ratus’ who die as a result of GE modification will be a priority for the tree huggers. The advice of the ‘Rat Lady’ should help them cope.

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  31. nasska (11,185 comments) says:

    insider

    The Greens’ desire to ban glyphosphate as a weed killer is a serious attack on farming. Spraying out with ‘Roundup’ allows direct drilling of crops & new pasture without disturbing the ground. Ploughing & working up the soil leaves it vulnerable to wind & water erosion when unprotected by cover especially on steeper country.

    NZ has lost incredible amounts of top soil in this way. Parts of the country will be rendered useless for agriculture & revert to scrubland.

    In tandem with their proposal to limit the use of fertliser they’ll drive NZ’s single biggest earner of overseas exchange to the wall.

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  32. lofty (1,310 comments) says:

    nasska..that’s the whole idea. In fact the wall ain’t far enough.

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  33. Maggy Wassilieff (325 comments) says:

    @ Nasska et al….now that this topic has brought up soil erosion…. may I mention that the major benefits of our hill and mountain country forests are their soil and water conservation services. Now I know the focus of DOC is protecting our native biodiversity and to most NZers that seems to be restricted to birds, but our forests are much more than just bird habitat. One of the spin-offs from this concerted 1080 drop will be the (short-term) improvement in the canopy and groundfloor vegetation of the treated forests.

    Its not new news that beech and podocarp trees have mast years that herald a boom in herbivore and then carnivore numbers. What is new is that DOC is starting to realise that a hands-off management regime for our indigenous forests is a disaster.

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  34. Johnboy (15,903 comments) says:

    I don’t mind the DOC bastards killing the rats etc. It’s the fact they are killing the deer by stealth by refusing to add deer repellent to most of the baiting “because of cost restraints” etc… wank…. wank.

    They are a pack of lying bastards from Nick Smith down. With a tad of luck a chopper will lose it’s GPS signal and drop a few baits into the Beehive watercooler!

    Now that would really rid the Godzone of a bunch of useless mouths! :)

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  35. chiz (1,132 comments) says:

    Lofty:

    I listened to an interview on ZB last week where the former Greens leader from the Coromandel was interviewed, and interestingly enough Jeanette came out in full agreement with the use of 1080 to attempt to curb this plague.

    So, she no longer supports that homoeopathic bunkum about possum peppering then?

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  36. chiz (1,132 comments) says:

    Rex:

    Fair enough. But if Monsanto or the like then have a go at the neighbour for (inadvertently) growing seeds to which they have the patent, I have a problem with that.

    Except that Monsanto aren’t suing people for this.

    And more broadly, with the idea that anyone can own, say, the entire gene sequence of a strain of wheat.

    I’m not aware of anyone claiming ownership of the gene sequence of a strain of wheat per se. People do certainly claim ownership of plant varieties that they’ve spent time and money developing however and there have been long-standing debates about whether patents or Plant Variety Rights are the right way to do this.

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  37. Maggy Wassilieff (325 comments) says:

    @ Chiz…. Monsanto has sued farmers who break their contract with the company and sow patented seeds they had agreed not to sow.
    http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx

    I would much prefer that genetic material was unable to be patented….. but I’ve never understood business…

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  38. chiz (1,132 comments) says:

    Maggy – Monsanto only sue when farmers do this deliberately, not when they do this inadvertently which is what Rex was claiming.

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  39. Maggy Wassilieff (325 comments) says:

    @ Chiz 9:06….. I agree with your comment

    @ Chiz 8:36 here’s a patent claim for a wheat gene by Pioneer Hi Bred International
    http://www.google.co.in/patents/EP1003868B1?cl=en

    No idea if its been granted….. seems different countries exercise different rules for patents over genetic material.

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  40. chiz (1,132 comments) says:

    Rex was talking about owning the entire genome of a strain of wheat, not individual genes. People do certainly claim ownership of plant varieties, by patents, or pvr’s, but I don’t think they do it by virtue of their entire DNA sequence. This maybe hair splitting to some people I suppose.

    The patent you link to is about a single gene, rather than a genome, and it looks like the patent isn’t just about the DNA sequence but about doing specific things with that gene. Judging from the country codes it looks like the patent was being applied for Europe. I’m moderately sure that Europe doesn’t allow you to patent naturally occurring DNA sequences and that any such patent has to include something more (e.g. a novel use for it).

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  41. Maggy Wassilieff (325 comments) says:

    @ Chiz… OK…. we’re probably getting too esoteric for most folks….. I was taking “the entire gene sequence of a strain of wheat” to be referring to the nucleotide sequence of specific genes in different strains of wheat.
    I agree that there doesn’t appear to be patenting of the genome of wheat….. (has it been worked out yet?…. seems to be 6x larger than the human genome)…..

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  42. chiz (1,132 comments) says:

    and … in today’s issue of Science – an initial look at the wheat genome. That answers your question!

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  43. ecoland (3 comments) says:

    One ask whether the problem is that nothing was done since the last mast seeding,,, every 15 years is it. National has been in two terms already and what work has been done on the ground. Throwing 1080 in amongst your livestock and expecting deaths is not something a good farmer would do! A good farmer would make sure things were done each year to prevent the need to do such a thing!!!! 1080 is an interesting debate of which I have in depth knowledge, its not the tools at fault here its the lack of routine management. As a Pest Control Implementer I prefer not to guess how many target or non target critters I have killed for my dollar. Funded research is an industry built around the need to keep killing pests. Price fixing within the fur industry is also preventing market laws from working. For this reason I spent the last 6 years slowly developing at own cost a delivery system that insures I get to see what I have killed when targeting possums, It enables me to use poisons that don’t persist in dead rats and I see new poisoned meat technology currently being registered may even enable me to target cats and stoats.
    My intention was to present my technology to the people of N.Z. To save tax payers money. I presented it to D.O.C only to find they did not want it, so now I am forced to commercialise it so others can gain benefit of it! And yes $$$ terms it can compete as you get a chance to recover the fur to soften the blow and so far over 6 years of trailing we have had no non target deaths.

    So yes there is an alternative isn’t there always!!!!

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