I have seldom been short of advice.

I have had advice from lots of self-appointed unqualified experts on all kinds of subjects. It’s one thing I’ve never lacked, whilst I have often lacked money and practical help. When I first bought a horse, everyone I met who had ever ridden, and some who hadn’t, kept trying to advise me. Some had worked with or owned horses for decades, but even many of those had had experience of only a few individual animals and made unsupported generalisations from their successes and failures. Dog owners, gardeners, DIY enthusiasts and business people are often keen to advise too.

Whose advice have I valued?

Regarding horses, I have got most value from vets and riding instructors, as they spend years studying and have to pass exams. They usually know something about the latest research, as do experts in other fields. Their advice is evidence-based, using data from lots of studies, so as to avoid overreacting to a handful of untypical examples. Of course, some amateurs really do know their stuff, but you have to be cautious about assuming they know as much as they think they do.

A rhino in Chester Zoo preparing to help Sir David Attenborough tell people about the risks to the planet.

A rhino in Chester Zoo preparing to help Sir David Attenborough tell people about the risks to the planet.

Who is questioning the value of expert advice?

Certain journalists and politicians, who may be the ones who tell us to ignore the warnings over Brexit from economists and financial experts. They probably think Donald Trump knows more than the experts in the US whose advice he rejects. They probably think climate change is all hot air. In the UK, people have recently applied the term ‘nanny state’ to the numerous health experts who want us to eat more sensibly.

Who really wants us to ignore expert advice on food?

The food industry. A lot people make money from selling us unhealthy foods and from misleading labelling, or the lack of it. You can hardly avoid sugar, salt and fat. Carbohydrates are everywhere. I know. I battle with my own attraction to unhealthy foods, only to find the healthy options are not so readily available. We need help to eat sensibly, and the food industry isn’t going to give it willingly.

How are the experts who give the advice being denigrated?

Apart from calling them ‘nanny state’, the press has drawn attention to the salaries some experts get. Over £100,000.  How does that compare with the salaries of people in the food industry? Anyway, would you sooner take advice from an underpaid expert? I would hope people paid good salaries to genuine experts. Not that I receive that much for Risk Management advice. Perhaps I should revise my fees? I have expressed sympathy for experts previously, and things haven’t changed.

A final bit of advice.

Never trust anyone who says either:

  • It stands to reason
  • or It’s a well-known fact that…