Archive for May 19th, 2014

Charity steps up pressure for change at Turtle Farm

| 19/05/2014 | 46 Comments

(CNS): The World Society for the Protection of Animals launched a new report last week with the support of UK members of parliament, who are backing the charity’s call for a change to the Cayman Turtle Farm. The report details ongoing animal welfare issues and urges the transformation of the facility from farming to conservation. Highlighting what it calls the stimulation of turtle meat sales to tourists, it also questions the Farm’s conservation credentials as well as the environmental problems it creates and points to the significant subsidies from the public purse. However, the CTF said the report misrepresented the facts and denied selling meat to tourists, blaming local restaurants for creating that market.

The report, entitled "The Cayman Turtle Farm: A Continued Case for Change", was backed by Joan Walley MP, Chair of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee, which has also raised concerns about the Farm in its own report, and Dr Matthew Offord MP, who hosted the report’s launch. The MPs spoke about their own concerns regarding the conditions at the Farm, which they both visited last year. The MPs are part of growing group that is pressuring the UK government to do something about what is considered a very controversial facility outside of Cayman.

Despite some advances made during its last visit, the charity detailed its ongoing concerns, pointing to the continuing husbandry and welfare problems, and emphasized the CTF’s stimulation of turtle meat consumption by visitors.

“While the true volume of Caymanian demand for turtle meat is unconfirmed, from 2010 to 2011, the Farm aimed to maintain production levels of turtle meat at 1,600lbs per week effectively anticipating a level of demand that has not been qualified. By also selling turtle meat to tourists, the Farm may spur a market for turtle meat that would not otherwise exist,” the WSPA stated.

The report also goes to the heart of claims made by the Cayman Turtle Farm that it is not just a butcher but that it has been central in conservation and research about turtles. It noted that of the 31,000 turtles released, 80% of which were tagged, only 13 have ever returned to Cayman beaches. Just 12 wild-caught and 31 captive-bred turtles produced viable eggs in 2012 from the many thousands of turtles held at the facility. It accuses the Farm of damaging the environment as a result of the untreated waste pumped directly into the sea, which is damaging the reefs and ocean water quality. The report also reminds readers of the more than CI$10 million per annum that the CTF sucks up in public subsidy.

Dr Neil D’Cruze, from WSPA, said the Farm is still failing to meet the welfare requirements of the 9,000 plus endangered turtles in its care.

“Some small changes have been made at the Farm, WSPA’s new report highlights that these simply do not go far enough. Add to this the potential negative impacts that the Farm has on wild sea turtle populations and marine biodiversity whilst also operating at a significant loss; it remains clear that the Cayman Turtle Farm must stop sea turtle farming,” he said, adding that the WSPA would continue to work with UK and Cayman Island politicians to demonstrate the need to transition the Farm into a turtle rehabilitation facility.

The Farm hit back and accused the charity of misrepresentation.

“What the WSPA is doing with this latest released report is merely a regurgitation of their previously stated claims, plus ongoing misrepresentation of facts to suit their aim to stop turtle farming by any means, ignoring long-standing local cultural traditions and displaying a reckless disregard for the truth.“

The Farm said the allegation that it is stimulating demand for turtle meat was the “most egregious fabrication” as the farm doesn’t sell turtle meat to tourists. “If local restaurants choose to serve turtle, which is a traditional cultural dish in the Cayman Islands, and tourists choose to patronise those restaurants – that is merely their choice in a free society,” it said.

The Farm also refutes allegations that it is overproducing and said it has over 500 individual customers and over 30 local restaurants. “The demand is real and immediate: almost all of the meat is sold fresh the very same day it is harvested,” the CTF said in a long release in response to the WSPA report. It said it was impossible to know how many Farm turtles had returned to Cayman but studies confirmed that turtles released from CTF migrated far and wide helping to increase the population of green sea turtles. It also said there had been a “huge upswing in the number of sea turtle nests in Cayman in recent years.

“There were approximately 20 Green sea turtle nests here in 2000, whereas in 2012 there were approximately 180: a nine-fold increase in the twelve year span,” as it took credit for that increase. Insisting that its existence prevents poaching, the Farm said the increase in sightings of sea turtles around Cayman was due to its own efforts.

Describing itself as Cayman’s number one land-based attraction, with over 200,000 visitors annually, it justified its gargantuan subsidy from the public, claiming it has a “positive macroeconomic impact” because it sustains hundreds of jobs in the local economy.

It also refutesclaims that the discharge is causing environmental harm, saying nearby reefs are fine and that the farm continues to operate under a proper Water Discharge Permit issued by the Water Authority.

“The WSPA is clearly interested only in telling a lopsided story to suit their agenda. WSPA representatives have given little credit to the strides that CTF has made in recent years in measures taken to ensure animal welfare, and they havechosen to ignore or refute the real conservation benefits of CTF,” a farm spokesperson stated. “The WSPA has not yet achieved its aim of stopping turtle farming in the Cayman Islands, so they are continuing their lobbying efforts and misleading sensationalism in order to strong-arm the UK Government, the Cayman Islands Government, the Cayman Turtle Farm, and the Caymanian people to get their way.”

The photo above was released to WSPA via an FOI request and shows how several hundred turtles were left to die when they were exposed to the sun in a waterless tank as a result of a pipe leak in 2012.

See statement from CTF below and full report from WSPA.

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Local activist uses judicial system to win again

| 19/05/2014 | 26 Comments

(CNS): Sandra Catron has won yet another courtroom victory, despite not yet having obtained a place to complete her articles. The local activist won a civil case on Friday to recoup the costs of her veterinary and medical bills following one of several attacks that she and her pet Shih-Poo, Coco, suffered by a neighbouring dog. Although not yet a fully qualified lawyer, the local activist has won several criminal and civil cases in the courts, demonstrating that the rule of law is available to all. However, even though the magistrate found undeniable evidence of the attacks in this civil action, the director of public prosecutions (DPP) is refusing to pursue a criminal case against the owners, despite Catron’s complaint.

Catron was awarded the $107.25 vet bill and costs. The evidence in the case included a live witness who was present on the night of the attack, as well at CCTV footage, photographs, the vet’s report and a report from the Department of Agriculture.

The defendant, Jacqueline Thompson-Moore, had denied responsibility and accused Catron of releasing the alleged dangerous dog then walking her own dog, which was then attacked. However, CCTV footage demonstrated that Catron and her pet had been victims of an attack.

“I’m pleased with today’s decision,” Catron said. “The court upheld the rule of law and all pet owners should be aware of the liability they have as pet owners. If a ferocious dog is permitted to be on the loose and causes damage to a person or property, they will have to pay for damage. I waited until the third attack to proceed with civil action because it was clear that little was being done to preventthe attacks.

“I am hopeful that now that the DPP’s office will do the right thing with the criminal complaint and charge the defendants. The evidence is strong and this is a rather straightforward case. If they are not prepared to see that justice is done, I would be most obliged for the opportunity to commence the criminal prosecution myself,” she added.

Nevertheless, Catron recently said she felt that the DPP’s decision to reject the police file in this case was because she was the complainant. With several dangerous dogs cases going through the courts in instances with just on attack, Catron claimed there was a bias against her.

“I feel that because I have successfully challenged the judiciary on so many occasions I have become a target,” she had said. “There is no logical explanation for the DPP to decide not to prosecute this case.”

Although satisfied with the civil outcome in what she called an anticipated victory in the courts, Catron also raised concerns about the police officer who had dealt with this particular attack in December last year.

Catron said that during the proceedings the defendant told the court that the officer on the night in question told her that he had examined Coco and there were no injuries to the dog, so she had nothing to worry about. The dog had, however, sustained internal injuries. Catron has since contacted the police commissioner, as she said that at no point did the officer examine her dog and his statement to the owner of the alleged dangerous dog was not appropriate.

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Anglin silent as case closes

| 19/05/2014 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A West Bay man chose to remain silent last week in the face of the allegations that he was responsible for the murder of Swiss banker Fredrick Bise. As the crown closed its case against him, Chad Anglin declined to take the stand in his own defence and allowed his attorney, leading UK criminal barrister Jonathan Rees, QC, to speak for him. Simon Russell Flint, QC, another of London’s criminal legal experts, who put the case against Anglin on behalf of the director of public prosecutions, told the jury, as he summed up the evidence against Anglin Friday, that while some may find Bise’s homosexuality distasteful, he did not “deserve to be killed because of it". Rees said the crown had presented a case based on theory but not evidence.

Russell Flint described Bise’s murder as horrifically brutal and violent during an attack of such ferocity he sustained multiple face, head and neck fractures. The lawyer said that the evidence suggested Bise had been taken by surprise as there were no defence wounds and his semi-state of undress when his body was found suggested that he was “jumped” by his killers when he was at his most vulnerable, probably just after he had engaged in sex with one or both of his killers.

The crown claims Anglin is one of two men who killed Bise in a joint enterprise and the second man, also from West Bay, is due to be tried later this year.

In closing his case against Anglin, Russell Flint said he was the last person to be seen with Bise when the two men left Kelly’s bar on the night before Bise's body was found in Mount Pleasant in the back of his own burned out SUV. Anglin's DNA was found on cigarette butts found in and around Bise’s house and next to the Swiss banker’s torched vehicle. The attorney said Anglin had also confessed his crime in the form of a threat to a teenage runaway and he had lied to the police over and over about his connections to Bise as they disclosed their evidence agaisnt him. He had also destroyed all the clothes he was wearing that night in an effort to erase any forensic connection of the killing to him.

The crown put forward the possibility that the motive was a hate crime. They said Anglin had expressed his dislike of homosexuality to witnesses and to the police, not least because he had said he had been molested in the past by the man the crown says was also his co-killer in Bise’s murder while the two were staying at Caribbean Haven.

Russell Flint told the jury that on the evidence they could be sure that Anglin had killed Bise.

However, it was because of a lack of evidence that his legal adversary, Jonathan Rees, QC, argued the jury must acquit.

He said that the crown had presented a considerable amount of theory regarding Anglin’s possible guilt but not enough evidence.

“The picture here is far from clear,” he said. Rees told the jury that the crown could not say who killed Bise, when he was killed, why he was killed, where he was killed or what he was killed with, as he warned the twelve men and women that theory was no substitute for evidence.

“The court is no place for speculation,” he said.

Rees pointed to the risky behaviour displayed by Rees and noted by several witnesses. Pointing to what he called his “sexual appetite”, the lawyer said this led him into “situations that left him vulnerable”.

He said that under close scrutiny the crown’s case fell to the grownd as there was no evidence that Anglin had killed Bise.

“This was an unspeakable crime but it would only compound the tragedy if the wrong person was convicted,” he said, as he told the jury that Anglin was in their hands. He said the prosecution’s case had fallen short and their verdict must be not guilty.

Rees said there had not been enough evidence to charge Anglin when the police first investigated the crime in 2008 and there was still not enough evidence now.

The ten women and two men serving on the jury are scheduled to be directed in law by the presiding judge, Justice Alex Henderson, on Tuesday morning at 10am before being sent to deliberate on their verdict.

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