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Essay Ideas 26 to 30

26. Quality or Value for money?

A government department wants to commission some independent scientific research. However, in order to obtain value for money for the taxpayer, they need to put the research out to competitive tender so the work can be done properly for the least money. On each previous occasion (31 in all), all commercial bids have been undercut by the government's own in-house research department. If the research re

sults are published by the government, it is always the case that they are peer-reviewed, but the peer reviewers always work for the same department who did the research work.

  • Discuss the circumstances in which it would be appropriate to stop the government department from bidding to do the work?

27. Film Director?

A film-maker has been commissioned to make a film about the life of a wild badger group. In order to get good pictures, he cuts back some of the vegetation around the sett and erects a temporary barrier fence using large logs and branches. To film them feeding, he places small dollops of food under leaves in the woodland. In order to complete the film, he needs to gets film of the badgers asleep underground, so he films a different group of badgers who live, temporarily, in a rehabilitation pen.

  • Discuss whether the film-maker has "cheated" or just been "efficient".
  • Discuss whether it might be right to use animals for "entertainment" and whether a documentary is "entertainment" because it might entertain some people.
  • Would it matter if he removed the badgers from the rehabilitation pen and kept them in his own garage for a three or four days, filmed them and then returned them to the wild?
  • Would it then serve him right if the Police cautioned him for unlawful possession of a badger?

28. Difficult Choices

An area of industrial wasteland has been earmarked for development, with new factories, offices, leisure centre, houses and a state-of-the-art hospital. Just before the site is about to be cleared, a single family of badgers is found. According to the way in which the law works, it is possible that this will delay the site clearance by at least six months. Accordingly, it may well mean that the hospital is delayed by at least six months too.

  • Should we allow the presence of a few protected badgers to delay all the building works?
  • Should we remove protection from badgers (and other protected species), when we want to built something important?
  • How do we define what is an "important" building from what is not?

29. Badger Research?

An eminent and well-respected badger scientist wants to find out how many badgers there are in the United Kingdom. Accurate knowledge of the numbers of badgers and where they live throughout the UK, would genuinely be very valuable to lots of different types of people and organisations.

The scientist devises a method of estimating the numbers of badgers in a square kilometre, based on an assessment of field signs (such as droppings, hair caught on barbed-wire fences, footprints, pathways and holes). She also asks for volunteers to place any droppings into a sealed plastic bag, and returned to her, so she can assess the extent to which badgers may be infected with tuberculosis. Of course, the survey might show that very few are infected, or that very many are infected.

She asks for volunteers across the country. Some people are happy to do the work, as they want to know how many badgers there are too. Other people are worried, that the results of the survey may be misused by government departments.

  • Is the acquisition of accurate knowledge always a good thing?
  • How do you begin to assess whether the intention to acquire accurate knowledge is a worthwhile objective?
  • Is the belief that accurate knowledge may be misused, enough to justify stopping that information being sought at all?

30. The Criminal Classes

A criminal is due in court, having been charged with a series of badger-related and vehicle-related crimes. The evidence against him is not very strong, and his barrister has said that it is about 50/50 whether he will be sent to prison for the badger crimes. At the last minute, he "cuts a deal" with the other side, whereby he gives evidence against an accomplice (who gets convicted and sent to jail). The badger-related charges against the criminal are withdrawn, who pleads guilty to the vehicle crime and gets a "community" punishment instead.

  • What is the morality of "letting off" a criminal, instead of having a full court case?
  • Is it acceptable to compromise the integrity of the legal system, in order to save time or public money?
  • If badgers are protected in law (as they are), should there be some-one in court to represent their interests?
  • Should court cases involving protected wildlife species have three barristers, namely:
    • Prosecution barrister
    • Defence barrister and
    • Wildlife barrister.
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