Farm hits back at WSPA over 'smear campaign'
(CNS): Officials from the Cayman Turtle Farm have hit out at the international animal rights charity, WSPA, and accused them of a sensationalized misleading campaign about the dangers of turtle handling. The CTF categorically denies any risk to visitors from handling turtles, pointing to reports that back up that claim as it debunks the research present by the charity, which it said was undertaken by biased scientists associated with the WSPA. Despite what appeared to be a cordial step forward following visits to Cayman by WSPA members last month, the CTF has made it clear, again, that the campaign will not succeed and it will not be transitioning from a farm to a conservation facility.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals released a study earlier this week, published in an on-line supplement of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Journal, which stated that people interacting with captive turtles were at risk. But Tim Adam, the farm’s MD, vehemently denied the research findings and said there was significant evidence to the contrary.
“These latest allegations are another clear effort by the WSPA to undermine the business of the CTF in WSPA’s ongoing goal to shut down our operations, since their campaign thus far has been unsuccessful in achieving that aim,” he said.
While the campaign has certainly failed to persuade the farm to move from a facility with the primary motivation to slaughter the animals for meat with conservation as a parallel part of the work to a full conservation project, the campaign has attracted significant international attention and raised concerns about the legitimacy of the farm around the world. Furthermore, WSPA succeeded in drawing attention to a significant amount of problems at the farm, in particular animal welfare issues, some of which have now been acknowledged by the CTF and as a result are being addressed.
Nevertheless, the farm still claims that there are only limited issues at the tourist attraction and is adamant that handling turtles is safe. It has denied the WSPA findings, accusing it of funding the research to try and help it achieve the objective of stopping people from handling turtles as well as stopping the trade of meat. WSPA confirmed that the research carried out by Clifford Warwick, a reptile expert from the Emergent Disease Foundation, was funded by the charity. However, the findings were published by the medical journal’s supplement on merit and not because it was paid, as was claimed by the farm.
As the dispute between the CTF and the animal charity continues in the local and international media spotlight, Adam continued to claim that handling turtles was safe and as a “leading facility in turtle research and conservation”, he said it followed safe turtle handling protocols communicated to guests via signs and spoken instructions.
“All turtle handling is supervised, and the established protocols follow the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the safe handling of reptiles,” the managing director added.
He said that in over 40 years of operations at the farm there has never been a single known recorded case of illness or disease transmitted to any visitor, even though there are some 200,000 per year, most of whom handle the animals. Adam also claimed that there had never been any recorded cases of turtle handling causing illness for staff, many of whom had worked there for several years.
“The CTF sees literally hundreds of interactions per day between guests and turtles, with guests of a range of ages,” Adam said, noting it had never seen any cases of disease transmission because of the safety precautions. Nevertheless, the director admitted that the signs and hand washing facilities were only upgraded last year.
Adam pointed to the review the CTF had voluntarily undertaken this December. However, the decision to invite an independent review of the farm came only after the shocking revelations by WSPA, which were documented in pictures alongside the scientific findings.
The CTF continues to criticize the research, even though its own review and previous research that had been kept under wraps dovetailed with some of the WSPA’s findings. .
Speaking specifically about the turtle handling, the farm said the team that conducted the December review, which was made public last month, did not find any risk of turtle handling to the health and safety of CTF guests.
“Given changes to operating practices where handling is supervised and hand washing is offered and encouraged, the panel had no concern in this regard.”
The farm criticised WSPA’s work in general as well as the latest concerns about the spread of disease. The director said the previous research was conducted undercover and was in incomplete as their investigation was carried out without the cooperation of the CTF and without full access to the farm. The director also criticized the WSPA for not releasing all of its research while the Turtle Farm management had released the latest report in full.
However, previous research had been kept under wraps at the farm and was not released until it became the target of the animal rights group, which began making Freedom of Information requests as well as conducting its own research, all of which was placed in the public domain.
In a lengthy statement refuting the claims by the WSPA research and denying that there was any risk to visitors health, the farm director did not mention the issue of the stress that scientists also say the turtles undergo when they are handled by visitors.
Adam accused WSPA of misrepresentation in order to damage the farm’s reputation and impede its work. While WSPA has denied any desire to impede the conservation work, it freely admits that it wants to stop the farm from slaughtering the more than 7,000 creatures it currently has there for meat.
The CTF continues to claim conservation credentials, based on a combination of the research that is conducted by scientists around the world on turtles there was well as the release programme. Over 150 scientific papers have been published or presented over the lifespan of the farm and some 31,000 turtles have been released into the wild.
Over the same period many more thousands have been slaughtered and eaten.
See the full report here
See related story here
See full statement from turtle farm below.
|060213_Press Release - CTF Counters WSPA Smear - FINAL.pdf||117.77 KB|
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