Farm hits back at WSPA over ‘smear campaign’

| 08/02/2013

blind turtle.jpg(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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Science and Nature

Comments (50)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    It appears that the WSPA is taking a destructive rather than constructive approach. 
    As a Caymanian I find it offensive that these activists from another part of the world should be trying to force their ideas on the Cayman people and using a smear campaign on the internet in an effort to influence people and create confusion and controvesy.  
    Caymanians have been involved with  turtles, turtle catching, turtle handling, turtle butchering, cooking and eating of the meat,  for more than 100 years, and turtle farming for about half a century, with none of the health problems that these interfering people try to make gullible people believe.  
    If they had Caymanians interest at heart they would be offering help in improving things that they consider unsatisfactory, rather than condemning the operation, and disregarding what experienced Caymanians know and say.
    Large cities usually have an zoo with animals in captivity, often in less that ideal conditions and not always to the animals liking. Perhaps they should close those down in their own country before interfering with our only zoo of sorts.
    Mr. Adam please do not let these disgusting people force the Cayman Turtle Farm to close. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Boo hoo, those foreigners interfering, its everyone elses fault, we're so oppressed. Oh grow up !!!

      If you honestly believe that an organisation that is supported the world over by ordinary people and major governments who care for their environment and the creatures that live in it is 'disgusting', then that speaks volumes about you and your antiquated view of the world.

      When are you going to learn that nobody cares about the dietry needs of a few reptile eating Caymanians, they care more for the endangered species that you exploit? Your heritage is history, of course the UK could invoke its own heritage and reclaim and repopulate this rock with only UK citizens, but you wouldn't want that either.

      So lesson number one, the world moves on, otherwise we will never learn from the mistakes of the past, get used to it.

      • Anonymous says:

        What UK heritage? The original Caymanians were British. I am not sure what your point is.

        The WSPA is just determined to be a pain in the posterior. While I didn't have strong feelings about the issue before I am now firmly in support of the turtle farm.   

  2. Anonymous says:

    Soon everything will be endangered and you won't be able eat lettuce and tomato

  3. Anonymous says:

    Watch a documentary Food inc on youtube and wonder why a lot of animals still operate walking in there own crap a foot high. well if it has not been banned or taken down agian!

    Another is 

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any chance that part of the $8 million thrown into the black hole, a.k.a. Turtle Farm, gets somehow diverted into the pockets and non-descript accounts of those who have the means to make that money disappear?  I mean when was the Turtle Farm last properly audited?  Oh, I remember, some time ago – and what did they find?  Didn't someone have to resign because that someone "borrowed" some money? 

    • Anonymous says:

      If you took the time to do some basic research, you would find that the audited accounts of the CTF are completely up to date. It is in fact one of the few government bodies that meet the statutory deadline for completing their annual audit.

  5. Maths says:

    Turtles do carrysalmonella – all you have to do is google turtles and salmonella and you'll have more than enough evidence to convince you that there is a high risk associated with handling turtles. Another example of Caymanians refusing to acknowledge the facts…  I wouldn't rely on any "statistics" coming out from government either – with a 20 something per cent pass rate in mathematics, I doubt that any figures are remotely accurate.  No wonder this facility can't break even.  The $8 deficit calculated at the beginnning of the year is in fact an $8 million dollar deficit – someone just didn't know how to line up the zeros accurately.

    • Anynomous says:

      Everything you eat can carry salmonella.  Do you think eating pork, beef, chicken, especially chicken the nastiest thing on earth.  Do you think all these are healthy?  No they are not. 

      However it is about time Cayman men and women stand tall and defend our turtle farm.  Do not let these foreigners come here and dictate.  They do not have to eat our turtle meat because we want it all for ourselves.  They can keep the Mad cow and chicken wing and the swine pork chops.  Gosh!!.

      Cayman is tired of saying but out of our affairs.  We are not swimming in your toilet, so do not pee in our pool.

      • Maths says:

        The foreigners will dictate (e.g. Human/Animal Rights) as long as you are part of the world community, and as long as you continue to reap the benefits of being British subjects.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don't really understand how anything said by the WSPA can be considered slander or misrepresentation considering the fact that if anyone has been to the Turtle Farm in the last 10+ years they will know that they have seen overcrowded tanks, injured animals swimming with open wounds and sores in filthy water and tiny concrete tanks. I am by no means an advocate for shutting down the Turtle Farm, and I do believe that we should still be able to eat turtle meat as it is a  part of our heritage, especially considering that such a small amount of our population still actively eat the meat. However, is Cayman that well off that we can afford to say "yes, keep the farm ad an $8 million loss"? As far as I can tell, that $8 million could be far more useful elsewhere. Keep the turtle farm as a tourist attraction, a conservation center and a scientific research establishment. By all means, allow them to continue doing their work corresponding to the conservation and protection of these animals, but the business and structure needs to be scaled down. I remember back before Hurricane Ivan when the turtle farm was a modest and humble establishment – following Ivan they seemed to have gone more the thrill/amusement park direction with its construction and implementation. This is totally unnecessary. Why on Earth would tourists come and pay such a high entrance fee to come and snorkel in that enclosed sea-water 'tank' (for lack of a better word) when we are surrounded by some of the most amazing and pristine waters in the world? You would never catch me paying what they're asking for a 'snorkel experience' I can get for free just by stepping in the water anywhere off our island! Scale the Turtle Farm back, and bring it back to its roots. Ensure the health, safety and prosperity of the turtles and other animals housed there and I am sure that the WSPA will back off.

  7. Animaliberator says:

    This issue will keep spinning until we all get dizzy from it. The bottom line is that meat consumption nor visitors revenue will not cover the operating expenses regardless of any argument put forth to keep it open. A current poll shows that only 6% of our population eat turtle meat hence the low revenue on that part. Add everything else up, CTF will likely keep running short of the 8-10 million per year to keep a few people employed more then anything else.


    The education here should be that if the government can afford to lose that much money each and every year, it should be better spent on exactly that; Education. At least that way we would be investing in a brighter future for many rather then a lesser one for a handful.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think we need to look at this Turtle Farm vs WSPA from a veriety of directions.

      The Turtle Farm is losing 8 mil per year. This is not good news for a struggling economy but I did see a comment somewhere that they have cut some 3 mil off the lost. Like the rest of Government the Farm must cut loss and streamline operations.

      The Turtle Farm is a merge of a Scientific Farm and a water park.

      The Farm was design to help the Turtles survive. We seem to be talking out of both sides of our mouth so to speak by being such a Farm and selling the meat.

      The Water Park was added a few years ago to help the tourist product. It gives a little variety for people to come to the Cayman islands to see/do. Is it working is the question?

      We would have to look into how many people from the cruise ships etc are coming to the farm.

      The WSPA/Media are going overboard on this. The WSPA is for the protection of Turtles and so is theTurtle Farm. The WSPA report should be used not to shut down the Farm but to help improve its treatment of Turtles. The response should be two fold first improve conditions for the Turtles at the Farm and second by releasing more Turtles to the wild as the pens are overfilled and is causing the bulk of your problem.

      • Anonymous says:

        "The WSPA is for the protection of Turtles and so is the Turtle Farm."

        Yes, but the WSPA cannot condone and turn a blind eye to the fact that at the end of the day, the Turtle Farm is still slaughtering animals belonging to an endangered species.

  8. Anonymous says:

    WSPA showing their true colours.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Finally some backbone toward the ecofreaks wackjobs

  10. durrrr says:

    WSPA needs to kindly STFU.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to the third world.  

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CTF, for taking a stance and not backing down. This WSPA can't seem to get what they want so they are resorting to dirty tricks now.

    I agree though that the cramp facilitites need to be addressed. Perhaps we can turn those big swiming pools into turtle accomodations?!

    The Green Sea Turtle faces an uphill battle. The CTF is helping by releasing them into the wild. Yet, for the first time in my life, I am hearing that an entity that is actually trying to ward off extinction of a species is being attack. Why? Because they also farm enough to eat as well?!!!

    This is complete bull rare-end matter. CTF, if youare somehow forced by the UK, which I can't see that happening legslly, to shut down the farm, release EVERY turtle into the wild. And lets see how long the species survive that many obstacles that await them out there.

    And when there is two left, we will demand that the WSPA save them all.

    Sounds silly right?!, that's because what the WSPA is attempting to do is even worse than silly and is on the other side of common sense.

    Lets let go all cows that are packed up in CAFO's, and see how long they survive as a species.

    • Anonymous says:

      The CTF deficit should surely be utilised on a higher standard of education, as this poster illustrates all too well. His reptile eating ways have obviously had a profound impact on his ability to put a coherent argument together.

      These idiots cannot see that it is totally unaffordable to continue with this barbaric project and attempt to produce a meat that is by any standard unnecessary. Most supporters play the heritage card, however how many of these people actually have a pure Caymanian heritage that exceeds further than 50 years, not many I suspect?

      Perhaps if they spent more of OUR money on implementing a proper education system and then travelling further than East End or West Bay, they might realise that the world doesn't follow their narrow minded view of animal welfare or dietry need.

      • Anonymous says:

        To :Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/08/2013 – 13:17.     Dietry? Really? Did you mean dietary?.Before you go chastising someone's quality of education you might want to work on your own.


    • Beachboi says:

      If CTF does release them all there will be fewer than 2 because for the sake of "culture" they will be taken from the wild, slaughtered and put in a pot to stew.  It is done even now to those that do return here to nest.  Since turtles will return to the beach of their birth to lay I dearly hope that they take all the turtles to the Pacific and hope that they cant find their way home.  There is one thing that you said that is correct.  The green sea turtle faces un uphill battle especially when they have people like you on their side!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Idiot, the fact that you decided to leave out all the REAL forces of destruction that the GST faces, you decided to lay their destruction on the entire population of Caymanians and their culture.

        Only thing worse than a fool, is  small minded people like you, who out of hate will stop at nothing to force your views down the throats of others.

        Take a tea break.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Screw the turtles. I just want the 8 million dollar subsidy to stop.


    Sell the place for a buck or shut it down now.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think it was Hitler who said that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.

    I'm currently overseas and when doing a Google search on unrelated issues the WSTA ads "Close down the Cayman Turtle Farm" came up on the top of the page very often.

    Either Google are supporting them or they are spending a ton of their donors money on this campaign. Either way millions of people must be seeing their ads.

    It is easy to take pictures from just the right angle and edit them to make things look much better or worse.

    I don't visit the Turtle Farm often, not because I oppose it but because there is not that much to do there.

    But when I have been there I have noticed the pick-up pool is less crowded than others and there is somewhere to clean your hands right by the pool.

    As to the other pools, they are somewhat over-crowded perhaps, but far less so than any farm in the West.




  15. Whodatis says:

    WSPA are showing themselves to be a pathetic, desperate joke of an organisation.

    They really ought to move on to other prey, otherwise they may find themselves as the next "endangered species" as the world sees them for what they really are – manipulative characters.

    • Animaliberator says:

      How right you are, they are manipulating humans all over the world to be a little kinder and show more respect for animals in general regardless of purpose as to what all these animals do for us such as sacrificing their lives to feed or entertain us and indeed quite often in dispicable ways as we are all aware off. Somebody has to do the dirty work to make them understand that animals have rights too. But I guess you are not in to that kind of practice which would be fine, but then do not blame others who do please.

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually they appear to be winning. I expect more contributions are going to them than to the turtle prison.

    • Datisme says:

      The fact that you think someans they must be good. Your world is very different from the real world but I am glad you found a place in it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Another stupid response from Whodumbis. The western, free world deplores the farming of all endangered species, get your lard ass off this speck of a rock and learn what really happens out there in the big wide world.

    • Whodatis says:

      Everyone is entitled to their own opinion … regardless of how hypocritical and illogical.

      However, I'm tired of this issue – it really is not worth the effort.

      If some choose to get their panties all in a bunch because of the animal that some Caymanians choose to eat – that's on them.

      What WSPA ought to do is focus onthe ever-widening Horsemeat-gate scandal over in the UK. Have you all heard the latest on that? Fascinating stuff!


      • Anonymous says:

        He likes to answer his own posts doesn't he?  Oh, deluded angry Whodatis, the horsemeat issue is Europe wide, so take that anti-UK attitude somewhere else, we are so tired of you and your absent daddy issues.

      • Anonymous says:

        Doh !! Why do you think that there has been such uproar over the discovery of horsemeat in some UK meat supplies. Yes stupid, it's because we care about the origins of our produce and the animals that we choose toexploit. Unlike the wise old Caymanian reptile eaters who don't give a damn about the animal, its welfare or its origins. They go by the stone age right of if it isn't a human male, kick it, beat it, kill it and eat it. Then they claim its heritage or culture instead of the truth, just plain ignorance.

    • Anonymous says:

      So so angry.  So so little to say.

  16. Anonymous says:

    classic case of caymanian arrogance and ignorance…..

  17. Rrp says:

    How many tourists to cayman is this campaign going to sway in not visiting the farm while vacationing here next year? How much more money are we going to have to funnel into it as a result?

  18. Anonymous says:

    CITF you in too deep.  You won't win this one with your spin talk.  Time to get out.  Call it a day  release the turtles and close the place down already.

  19. Anonymous says:

    WSPA should focus in their own backyard where the Brits are eating horsemeat. We don't find that acceptable but you don't hear us telling them what to do.

    See article->

    • Anonymous says:

      The WSPA are more concerned with the protection, health, safety and conservation of an endangered species not an accidental mix up of meat in the supermarkets. Get your facts straight.

      • noname says:

        Well it not like we go and catch them in the wild and throw them into tanks. They are "farmed" animals so get your facts straight.

        Maybe the WSPA should create a conversation facility and show us how it should be done, obviously they have the money and TIME to do it. But I wonder.. where would they get the turtles from? the wild? or Cayman Turtle Farm at $80KYD per LBS? – there we go CIG, $8 million loss just turned into surplus.

      • Anonymous says:

        I never understood that. The "who cares" mentality unless a species is "endangered". Either care about animals or don't. 


    • Anonymous says:

      Its not by choice though you uneducated idiot, its been done by criminal negligence not by state sponsored cruelty.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you think that bad conditions in the Turtle Farm are the same thing as someone fraudulently selling horsemeat as beef. I think you will find that "the Brits" don't find it acceptable either.