THE ‘precautionary principle’ is a term that has been cropping up frequently among politicians and media personas. When I hear certain words spoken repeatedly by various sources, I know it isn’t by accident.
At first, I assumed that it had some kind of academic philosophical history. On investigation I found that the precautionary principle is nothing more than a ‘political device’ developed in the late 1960s. Here, a political device means the invention of a philosophy for the attainment of some political end.
The principle itself originates in Sweden, introduced into Swedish environmental law in 1969 (The Environmental Protection Act 1969). This law was injected into the conversation of protecting the environment from human activity at the UN’s Stockholm conference in 1972.
This new principle questioned the traditional legal principle of ‘actus reus’, the act or omission that comprises the physical elements of a crime as required by statute.
In other words, the burden of proof was now placed on the defendant. The presupposed offender had to prove that their activities were not going to be damaging to the environment before the fact. All that was needed to invoke legal prevention or prohibition was the mere whiff of a perceived environmental risk.
Since then, other countries (including the European Union) have integrated this concept into their legal frameworks, which was established in the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, dictating that ‘community policy on the environment shall be based, among others, on the precautionary principle’.
Furthermore, the convenience of such a political device is described by the German environment agency (UBA) in German law. Here the precautionary principle is explained as thus:
‘The precautionary principle particularly gives the state the legal power to manage situations of uncertainty and ensures that the state is capable of acting also in these situations. It can legitimise or even demand state action to protect the environment. In situations of uncertainty the consequences of an action for the environment cannot be definitely assessed because of the uncertainty or incompleteness of current scientific knowledge . . . In these cases the state need not wait for certainty . . . The precautionary principle can thereby lower the standard of proof and make it possible to shift the burden of proof: For the state to act, the conviction that a risk is actually real and present is not required [my emphasis]. Plausible or serious indications of a risk is instead sufficient.’
Note that while this is a German legal definition of the precautionary principle, it is the same interpretation that was to define United Nations policies and protocols, and EU law too. Therefore, the UK legal framework uses the precautionary principle as well.
UK policy making regarding the environment has now been stretched more broadly in its application. This is shown in the UK Regulatory Policy Committee’s (RPC) reference to the ‘Interdepartmental Liaison Group on Risk Assessment (ILGRA) guidelines: ‘The IGLRA guidance acknowledges that “the precautionary principle was originally framed in the context of preventing environmental harm [however] it is now widely accepted that as applying broadly where there is a threat of harm to human, animal, or plant health”.The principle is therefore applicable across a wide range of policy areas.’
In the context of Covid-19, we have seen the precautionary principle at work leading to the Coronavirus Act 2020. Encouraged by the use of emergency powers, there was no need to take a moderate or evidence-based approach to the virus outbreak, but rather – in line with the spirit of the principle’s application – allowed for ‘the necessary legal basis for the state to encroach on the rights of individuals in its pursuit of precautionary measures’.
This was the basis on which the government permitted itself to create the draconian Coronavirus Act, which led to lockdowns, social distancing, mask-wearing and the implementation of experimental vaccines.
As mentioned earlier, there is a UK regulatory body in the RFC that can at least question the use of the precautionary principle and the necessity for its use in policymaking. Nevertheless, the regulator is merely a soundboard for the government and has no actual power to stop its plans. Furthermore, a regulator cannot truly be impartial when dealing with the government: regulatory bodies are simply extensions of the government.
Still, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As citizens of Great Britain, we should learn from the example our leaders have set and exercise the precautionary principle ourselves, especially now that we have experienced some of the worst State measures in our time. These have led to such immoral acts taken against us and has meant societal ruination, social corrosion, and economic destruction.
There is no guarantee that this kind of misery cannot happen again, with the lurking threat of climate lockdowns being anticipated by the Greenies.
Needless to say, we did not vote for these restrictions on our lives, nor were we given the chance. Therefore, it is our duty, as citizens, to educate ourselves on topics of debate that mean more regulation on our lives, being ever vigilant to governmental machinations, and most importantly being courageous.
If you believe something is wrong, then you must refuse to comply (peacefully) with government mandates. Consider it your sovereign right as an individual to protest.