A well-known brand of insect repellent here in Australia used to feature the slogan ‘When you’re on a good thing, stick to it!’ Our old friends from Shoo!TAG don’t have a gadget that can claim any of the repelling power of Mortein, but they certainly understand the value of the slogan.

What I am referring to here, dear Acowlytes, is the ShooTaggers’ unflagging morally bankrupt opportunism: they’re on a good thing with people’s gullibility and willingness to part with their money indiscriminately, and they aim to stick to it.

The ShooTaggers’ latest exploit, which we’ll examine today, involves their apparently boundless capacity for revisionism. We’re all quite familiar with this gambit by now: they claim something in an effort to give their product credibility, it’s challenged, they change it. I can’t even begin to count the number of times this has happened in the last few years.1 We saw it with their erasure of all links to William Nelson/Desiré Dubounet; we saw it with the disappearing of their boast that the Shoot!TAG was being used by the Finnish Olympic Team; we saw it with the excision of Melissa Rogers’ and Kathy Heiney’s daft ‘explanations’ of how the silly thing is meant to work; we saw it with the removal of the idiotic meanderings that comprised Shoo!TAG’s supposed ‘science’ (which were once festooned all over the site like cheap Christmas decorations).

And now it comes as no surprise to see that they have once again altered their website to remove material that made them look a little bit too much like the peddlers of pseudoscience that they are.

You will remember that, a little way back, Shoo!TAG was all up on how wonderful their ‘science’ was, with the loud trumpeting on their home page of the ‘Texas A&M University Field Test’ that supposedly showed that ‘Shoo!TAG is 75% effective against mosquitoes!’ Well, it seems that particular science isn’t really worthy of being featured any longer on the Shoo!TAG site which has recently been scrubbed clean of all references to the clueless experiment.

The link to the video on their ‘How Does it Work’ page that once led to the August 2010 test now returns a 404 error, and gone also is the promise of the supposed test results from a study conducted by the ‘Japanese Ministry of Health’ (like that’s a surprise). Likewise, the announcement of the Texas A&M University Test has disappeared from the Shoo!TAG press release archive where it once featured prominently. Everything for which I took them to task in my post Shoo Us the Science! Is completely gone.2

One is prompted to wonder why they have gone to all this trouble if they really believed (as they previously claimed) that these tests were so definitive. One reason that springs readily to mind is that they were forced to redact all the relevant material, perhaps by Texas A&M University, or maybe by the scientist who was involved in those tests, Dr Rainer Fink (maybe Dr Fink realised that he was looking like a prize idiot being by being associated with these people).

As a substitute for the Texas A&M endorsement, however, we now have another curious document:

Read the result from our latest field test conducted by Texas State University. Texas State Study Executive Summary Letter June 2011

Note very well that the statement above claims in explicit terms that the test was conducted by Texas State University. I wonder how TSU feels about that? I guess we’ll find out, because I’ve asked them that very question.3

The link takes us to a another piece of sleight-of-hand by the ShooTaggers. It is nothing more than a letter about a supposed test. I am hugely intrigued here. Could it possibly be that the reason there is a letter but no data from the vaunted trial is that Shoo!TAG is going to attempt to get the experiment peer reviewed?4 Am I completely mad being optimistic that they’ve actually learned something about science? Well we will have to wait and see, I guess. In the meantime, they just can’t resist being as unscientific as always by using the letter (which appears on a Texas State University letterhead… kind of…)5 to make even MORE outrageous claims than they did with their last ‘experiment’. Now the Shoo!TAG is showing an 80% reduction in mosquito bites! What’s more, even the deactivated Shoo!TAGs used as controls have a repelling effect under specific circumstances!!! Imagine that!

There also appears to be a transferred effect when the populations were mixed. Males that wore inactive shoo!TAGs received a mean number of bites only 2 times that of active shoo!TAG wearers when in mixed tents. The analysis does indicate mosquitoes preferentially chose wearers with inactive shoo!TAGs. Specifically, wearers of inactive shoo!TAGs had approximately 2-3 times fewer bites when associated with wearers of active shoo!TAGs.

I’d just can’t wait to hear what kind of explanation they’re going to give for that particular effect.

Without actually getting a breakdown of the protocol and the data of this test it’s pretty hard to tell what went on here, but the general sense of the letter conveys the same kind of addle-brained methodology as was evident in the Texas A&M trial. And there is no doubt that it’s presented on the site under the usual Shoo!TAG modus operandi of making it appear that science has endorsed the efficacy of the product without that actually being the case.

It seems to me, Faithful Cowpokes, that Shoo!TAG could more accurately align themselves with another of Mortein’s contributions to popular culture: Louie the Fly. Just like him, Shoo!TAG comes ‘straight from rubbish tip to you!’

[Addendum: Some of the material referred to above still exists on another associated Shoo!TAG site genuineshootag.com. The video seems to have vanished completely off the web, but the Rainer Fink letter of endorsement is still available, as is a pdf of Shoo!TAG CEO Carter McCreary’s amusingly inept breakdown of the trial. It seems they haven’t quite gotten around to sweeping everything under the carpet.]

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The Complete Tetherd Cow Shoo!TAG link archive is here.

  1. This behaviour alone should make you deeply suspicious of them and their motives – people with legitimate products simply do not do this kind of thing. []
  2. Have no fear though, erased from the web it may have been, but not from the TCA Shoo!TAG museum! []
  3. I fully expect the TSU ‘endorsement’ to be altered rapidly in the next few days. []
  4. It’s likely to be a sobering experience for them, if it is indeed the case… []
  5. It looks very much to me like they’ve badly copied the letterhead and then typed what they wanted under it… You be the judge! []