Please find below our response to your article on October 14th regarding WSPA and the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF): ¬†(see at http://www.ieyenews.com/2012/10/cayman-turtle-farm-fights-back-against-wspas-stop-sea-turtle-farming/)
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is a global animal welfare charity, which has been protecting animals around the world for over 30 years. We believe that animal cruelty must end and we will always expose and oppose the exploitation and suffering of animals. Today, WSPA works in over 50 countries, collaborating with local communities, NGOs and governments that can help us change animals’ lives for the better. We also act for animals at a global level, using our United Nations consultative status. Our work is based on robust, scientific evidence and we seek independent assessments before we put information or evidence in the public domain.
Our claims against the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) are founded on evidence gathered during a comprehensive, 18 month investigation into the treatment of the sea turtles at the farm. This evidence is the basis for our compelling arguments against the CTF and is in the form of footage and photographic evidence and peer reviewed scientific analysis which I have attached. The investigation was carried out in response to a number of complaints we received in early 2011 from scientific experts and visitors to the CTF, relating to the animal welfare conditions. To verify these concerns, we conducted our investigation in association with a number of research partners, and received two Freedom of Information (FOI)¬†requests directly from the CTF.¬† WSPA does not initiate campaigns such as this without watertight evidence and it is therefore quite untrue to say that ‚Äú‚Ä¶there is no evidence produced by the WSPA to substantiate any of their claims.”
Sadly, our findings validated our concerns and have provided clear evidence of a range of different welfare related issues including but not restricted to: overcrowding, unsuitable captive conditions; ¬†disease; cannibalism; and unnecessary prolonged suffering. ¬†In addition, the evidence generated by our broad investigation also highlighted that, under its current mode of operation, the CTF represents a significant and unnecessary drain on the Caymanian economy, a potential threat to wild turtle conservation efforts and a potential threat to human health.
Independent experts and leading scientists from institutions such as the University of Oxford, Murdoch University and the Emergent Disease Foundation have reviewed and endorsed our evidence. Furthermore, well established conservation bodies such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy, and Caribbean conservation organizations‚Äô such as YWF-KIDO Foundation in Grenada (which is also part of WIDECAST) and FAADA (Spanish Foundation for the Protection of Animal), are also in support of our recommendations to the farm.
The CTF itself, in a response to a recent FOI request submitted by Rt Hon Greg Knight MP, admitted that only 11 of the 200 sea turtles nesting on Cayman beaches in 2012 had tags from the CTF and can be directly attributed to their efforts. ¬†Furthermore, the number of animals released by the CTF is falling. The CTF only released on average 27 Green sea turtles per year over the last five years.
The extremely poor welfare conditions at the CTF are causing a concerningly high degree of sea turtle mortality. This is in part due to the sheer numbers involved. Over the last five years at least 300 Green sea turtles (IUCN Red List, 2012 status: endangered) have died on a yearly basis. This has resulted in the death of 2299 magnificent Green sea turtles from 2007-2011 alone. This is far greater than the 11 known CTF tagged sea turtles that have been recorded nesting on Grand Cayman beaches (provided by the CTF via a FOI request submitted by Rt Hon Greg Knight MP).
There is a reason why CTF is the world’s only sea turtle farm. The commercial production of sea turtles cannot be done humanely. It has unproven conservation benefits, represents a potential threat to human health and is of unproven economic viability. Other former turtle farms have changed their practice. For example, Kelonia (http://www.kelonia.org/) has transitioned from a turtle farm to become a world leading turtle science and research centre. As a result, visitor footfall has increased and so has income.
The marketing conducted by the farm deliberately blurs the line between its captive breeding programme for wild release and the commercial production of sea turtles for human consumption. The former has the potential to benefit conservation efforts and can be done humanely, as per Kelonia listed above. The latter cannot due to the sheer numbers involved to turn an economic profit. They can be conducted independently of each other.
To be clear, WSPA is not calling for the CTF to “shut down” all of its operations. We feel that it can continue to operate as a rehabilitation release, research and education facility that draws in international tourists if it shifts away from the commercial production of sea turtles for human consumption and focuses on a much smaller number of turtles. However, it must immediately halt the inhumane public handling of turtles. It must also agree to start make formal steps to transition away from the commercial production of sea turtles for human consumption.
WSPA firmly believes that the most effective way to bring about positive change for animals is to work in collaboration with key stakeholders. As such, we have gone to great lengths to work with the CTF.
WSPA contacted CTF in May¬†2012 to express our concerns.¬† We met with relevant CTF stakeholders in July 2012 to explore ways to collaborate; agreed a two month consideration period when it was made clear that the issue needed to be considered by senior politicians and subsequently provided a five week extension when the CTF failed to meet the agreed deadline (7th¬† September).¬† During this consideration period, WSPA was made aware of a tragic incident at the CTF that resulted in the unnecessary and inhumane death of approximately 300 Green sea turtles, which was reported in the national and international media.
The CTF claims it is taking our evidence seriously. However, in light of their repeated inaction despite our repeated attempts to work with them, and the tragic incident that occurred during this period, we have come to the conclusion that the farm has little interest in working with us to find a solution. This has left us with no option but to share our concerns with the general public which we hope will encourage the farm to address our concerns.
Visual and scientific evidence WSPA uncovered at CTF is in the public domain at www.stopseaturtlefarm.org.¬† I have also attached our scientific report which covers these issues in more depth. If you require any further information then please do not hesitate to contact us.
See our story ‚ÄúCayman Islands Turtle Farm accused of outdated practices and crippling debts by business model‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúCayman Government replies to WSPA claims of health risks to turtles at farm‚ÄĚ in today‚Äôs (16() iNews Cayman.