Science journal details turtle farm cruelty

| 27/09/2013

(CNS): Animal welfare issues relating to the Cayman Turtle Farm (CTF) have been detailed in a scientific report published Friday in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. The report points to the physical injury, disease and abnormal behaviour of turtles at the farm observed by the authors, based on evidence provided by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, a site inspection and research. The findings point to physical and behaviour problems of the sea turtles at the farm being “indicative of problematic management and captivity-related stress,” which the scientists said demonstrated the limitations of turtles to adapt to captivity.

The WSPA, which is continuing its campaign to persuade the CTF to change to a conservation facility, said the report, entitled "Welfare and Environmental Implications of Farmed Sea Turtles", presents a major challenge for the managers of the Cayman Turtle Farm, who had committed to improving conditions for what are now estimated to be around 9,500 turtles in their care.

The report was written by three specialised reptile biologists: Phillip Arena of Murdoch University, Catrina Steedman of the Emergent Disease Foundation, and Clifford Warwick, a London-based biologist and medical scientist who was recently offered the post of Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in recognition of his long career and scientific contributions to reptile welfare and conservation.

“The problematic physical and behavioural signs, in our view, related to the inherent nature of intensive turtle propagation which in particular involves overt- and crypto-overcrowding and under stimulating environments, and an associated failure to meet all the physical, biological and innate behavioural needs of sea turtles,” the authors said in the conclusions about the farm.

The animal welfare charity WPSA said the report tallies with their results following the controversial undercover investigation conducted over a year ago that documented the extent of problems at the Farm, which the CTF has been at pains to deny. However, this latest scientific report also contradicts the farm management’s claims following its own assessment inspection in December, when the farm said there was no strong evidence for WSPA’s concerns about animal welfare.

Talking about the work of the scientists, one of the authors, Clifford Warwick, said that the detailed evidence- based research into farming practices at the farm has highlighted a range of physical and behavioural problems, some of which are extremely serious.

“In our view, these concerns are unresolvable, the Farm simply cannot replicate the turtle’s natural habitat, nor can it meet their biological needs within a captive environment. Also, the transmission of potentially dangerous pathogens from the turtles to the visiting public continues to represent a significant health risk,” he said, adding that the recent changes instituted by the CTF did not alter any of these concerns.

The WSPA campaign to persuade the management to transition the facility away from farming towards conservation continues and has drawn support from over 180,000 people worldwide, as well as a host of animal welfare and conservation organisations. The campaign leader for WSPA, Dr Neil D’Cruze, said the report documents physical and behavioural problems among the marine animals consistent with animal cruelty, which is extremely worrying.

“Despite WSPA raising concerns over a year ago, this new scientific report shows that the turtles are still suffering,” he said. “WSPA has met with the new Caymanian Government and had open and candid talks to ensure that positive steps are taken to help the thousands of sea turtles which continue to suffer at the Cayman Turtle Farm. We hope the new government will learn from the errors of its predecessors and ultimately see that the long term solution for the Cayman Turtle Farm is to become a turtle rehabilitation and release facility,” the charity leader added.

The Turtle Farm has been battling the falloutfrom the bad publicity since the WSPA’s report went public in October last year. It comes at a time when public attention on the farm has also focused on the massive almost $10 million subsidy provided to the facility every year from an increasingly tight public purse.

Despite the major issues, the CTF enjoyed a bumper year this breeding season and recently cut the price of meat as a result of the increase in production. The farm has also claimed a number of improvements in the conditions and it has now employed a full time vet. 

Responding to the latest report on Friday, the CTF seemed unconcerned and said the findings were a rehash of the previous WSPA report. It accused the charity of trying another publicity attack with what it said was more WSPA-sponsored research.

“This latest article really isn’t saying much of anything the WSPA hasn’t already said before,” said Tim Adam, Managing Director of CTF. “It repeats the same allegations the WSPA made previously citing the same authors, and basically comes across as just another effort by the WSPA to force the Cayman Turtle Farm and the CI Government to completely change the operating model of the CTF since the WSPA campaign has thus far been unsuccessful in achieving that aim.”

Adam said the charity wants to stop turtle farming, stop a legal source of meat, stop public interaction with turtles, and stop the release programmes. 

“Apparently the WSPA has sponsored yet another report hoping it will help them achieve those objectives,” he said, insisting that the farm had been vindicated by it's own inspection last year, despite the extensive photographic evidence of the scientists’ findings to the contrary, and that the turtles were in good shape.

“At the Cayman Turtle Farm we are committed to the health, safety and well-being of both our guests and our animals and we continue to strive for the highest standards in all the key aspects of the work we do – sea turtle reproduction and husbandry, conservation, display and education,” Adam said. “The independent inspection of our operations confirmed the validity of our research and conservation work, and also highlighted areas for improvement. We have worked hard since the publication of the inspection report to address the issues raised by the independent inspectors, and we strive for continued improvements.”

Adam dismissed the latest findings as the same accusations. “We are frankly disappointed that the WSPA continues to repeat their same accusations about the Cayman Turtle Farm in order to damage our reputation and impede our work,” he added.

See full scientific report here.

See CTF full release below.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Is there an up to date, independent, internationally recognised report done on how the turtle farm has helped the fight against the extinction of the turtles?


  2. Anonymous says:

    Delicious….mutant turtles mmmmmm…with bacon turtles mmmmmmm

  3. Anonymous says:

    Remove the subsidy for the Turtle Farm and charge the full cost for producing turtle meat so that the Farm becomes solvent.

  4. Anonymous says:

    17:10, there is a big difference between chicken farming and turtle farming. Turtles are an endangered species, chickens are not. 

    I don't know what kind of revenue turtle meat brings into the farm annually, but my bet is its probablyminimal in the grand scheme of things. Is it really worth it? The negative press this is bringing to Cayman on an international scale can be far more damaging and long term. People are passionate about conservation these days, and they won't just boycot the Turtle Farm, but Cayman. Think about that the next time you eat turtle. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Precisely one of the reasons for the farm, to help prevent the species from becoming more endangered by taking the paochers market away from them..

    • Anonymous says:

      It is exactly that kind of thinking that the WSPCA is banking on. The hope to browbeat us into submission with their pseudo-concern for the welfare of the turtles.   

  5. Anonymous says:

    How much do Caymanians want to pay?


    The government subisdises the turtle farm with $10 million CI per year.


    Assuming that there are 25,000 "Caymanians" (give or take) then each one of those "Caymanians" (men, women, and children) are paying $1.10 per day to keep the turtle farm going.


    If Caymanians are willing to pay $1.10 per person per day ($1.09 in a leap year) to keep it going, so be it. This is their country, they can do what they want here.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is an animal FARM. I am sure that every such facility in the world could have improvements, Be it chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, fish, ostrichs, whatever. The only way not to have conditions that some persons would consider terrible would be to have NO farms at all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Tim Adams should be hanging his head in shame.  We should not lose sight of the fact tha it was while he was in charge that 300 turtle were painfully and cruelly killed because of his and his team's incompetence resulting in a 'system failure'.  (see: -turtles-killed-after-systems-failure-farm)

    The entire Cayman Islands is ashamed and embarrassed by management of the turtle farm and in particlular by the removal of qualified scientist as managers to be replaced with political appointees such as Tim Adams.  These positions should not be at the whim of the likes of Mac to appoint but should be filled by properly scrtuinised scientist which appropriate management training.  

    This whole mess fall squarely at the foot of Mac and his political appointees!!  Now we the people of the Cayman Islands must suffer in shame until we decide to demand transparency and accountabiity.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Oh dear. Must be embarrassing for Cayman when the reality of how the islands really treats animals is made public. 

  9. SKEPTICAL says:

    Mr Adam is a delightful man but, he is in complete denial on this issue, and why not – he is getting a very good salary.  He may have been an expert in telecommunications, but he doesn't know his arse from his elbow in the field of Mariculture. Plus – the Turtle Farm is not, and now never will be economically viable, on either a Profit & Loss, or Balance Sheet basis.

    • Caymanian Culture says:

      Well said.  We LIKE Timmy, but the Turtle Farm has failed, period.

      It is time to ban turtle hunting (sorry locals,  just eat tuna…) and let the 9,000 turtles go free.  If there are not hunted for their meat, the population will thrive in the sea.

      Make hunting and / or found with turtle meat or a shell a $10,000 offence and save the $20 million we waste on the farm – as a matter of fact, why not spend THAT amount on better education andwe will no longer have the meatheads hunting and salughtering turtles?

      It is not our right to eat an endangered species so get over your Caymanian BS and just get with the global world and ban turtle fishing.

      • Anonymous says:

        Tuna? Please tell me you're being ironic.

        Otherwise (a) look up bluefin tuna as a food/conservation issue. Then (b) look in to international commercial fishing subsidies. Then consider whether the Turtle Farm is out of line or not.

        Anyone for some cod and chips? (Yes, I'm being ironic.)

  10. Anonymous says:

    "Working hard" to improve and "doing enough" are two separate things Mr. Adam. CTF needs to do better, both at taking care of the turtles and improving the tourism product, and managing its money so it's not a burden to the public purse. 

    For the Caymanian public, I hope we can one day stop eating turtle so demand drops enough where it's not feasible for them to farm the animals anymore, and they switch to conservation efforts only. I am a Caymanian and grew up eating turtle meat, but I gave it up, and refuse to serve it to my kids. Turtles are an endangered species, and it's not like the old days where this is all we had.

  11. turtleman says:

    when will the outside world realise that you cannot tell Caymanians what to do, no matter how obviously wrong or harmful something is. Caymanians would rather the total destruction of their island than to listen to any advice from expats or organisations outside Cayman no matter how sound it is.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dear World,

    We are Caymanians and we are not closing down our Turtle farm…simple. Stop wasting time and go and look at something more inhumane and barbaric such as chicken farming in the US.

    You are just wasting time with these CTF articles….get a job and a life.

    • FFS says:

      We are Caymanians……….here we go again.  Don't need another lecture – especially from someone who tells the World to go get a job and a life.

  13. TurtleMeat Lover says:

    If it was left to these people the world would be eating air and drinking breeze!! When they are not after the Slaughter of Cows, its the Slaughter of Chickens or the Slaughter of Fish, or the rights of Vegatables to grow with more sunlight!!!! Whatever!!

    These people are a bunch of jokes. Just beacuse they dont like something everyone is supposed to bow to their every whim and fight their fight for them. Have they ever heard of when in Rome do as the Romans do??

    They need to fight their battles closer to home and stop the starvation and poverty in the USA, Canada and England and maybe buy a few plates of Turtle to feed their own!! They just hate when people dont depend on THEIR products to survive!

    Im over their BS!! Rant Over!!

    Continue on !!

  14. Anonymous says:

    the turle farm is a loss making vile barbaric mess……that could only be tolerated in the caymankind wonderland that is the cayman islands….

  15. Anonymous says:

    Tim Adam should not be so dismissive of this article. The Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics has a huge distribution. I was able to easily access this article on-line as will many, many others. How many readers will bother to access the CTF response, or place any credibility in spinmeistering?

    • Anonymous says:

      Tim Adams should be fired!!  This happend on his watch and has brought tremendous shame to Cayman!! When will we start to demand accountablity from our Goverment entities???

      • Anonymous says:

        With all due respect, the Turtle Farm was a failure long before Tim Adam arrived there. 

  16. Anonymous says:

    It  should be noted, but isn't in this article, that the photos referred to were purported to be a part of the WSPA's "undercover investigation" in 2011. There are no recent photos certifed to be taken at the Turtle Farm that show any of this. Plus – the people who wrote this report were not at the Turtle Farm as researchers, but as tourists, and were paid by the WSPA to complete this study.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Dear rest of the world,

    Many of us find the turtle farm and the eating of turtles barbaric and backward.  Please don't think we all support this stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble but $10 million of government subsidies every year says we all support it.

    • Whodatis says:

      Yes rest of the world…

      Continue being non-barbaric by eating our mammal cousins – sheep, pigs, horses (UK/EU, lol!), deer, cows – wait a minute … never mind.

      • Anonymous says:

        any of those an endangered species???

        welcome to the world of whodatis….where two wrongs make a right….

        • Whodatis says:

          Actually the cow is the most endangered speices on planet earth.

          Think about it … then reply.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sorry WDI but they are not going to get the difference between farmed and wild animals.

          • Anonymous says:

            I thought about it.  You are full of crap. 

            • Whodatis says:


              You thought about it … recognized the valid point that was made … then resorted to personal insults.

              If you can't take the heat, get outta the turtle-stew cooking kitchen!


    • Anonymous says:

      I find eating of poor cows and steroid fed chickens barbaric and really backward…sure hope you do also.

    • Anonymous says:

      anon 1150 you appear to be an expat living in this country or someone whose roots lie elsewhere. You do not speak for the Caymanian people.

    • Anonymous says:

      how is it any different than eating any other animal. what about the grouper, which is protected and is still on the menu because it's farmed?  i'm not supporting any cruelty to animals and the turtle farm definitely had some cleaning up to do but your comment makes little sense if you're a carnivore in this day and age.

    • Anonymous says:

      Turtle meat is part of Cayman culture and must be respected. I agree that the turtle farm should be run humanely, and that it is the best way overall to preserve local culture and the turtles future. There is no difference between this and meat farming in any other country. I am an expat and turtle is not my thing, but if you live here you have to respect it. In Cyprus they eat sparrows, deer and wild boar in Eastern Europe, iguana in Honduras, snake in Texas and many strange things elsewhere. If you hate it that much, planes leave every day.

      • Anonymous says:

        so eating an endangered species is what you call culture???…………. zzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..just another day in wonderland

        • Anonymous says:

          eating a specially bred non endangered turtle from a farm..not from the endanagered species in the sea. And the farm put 4-500 turtles back each year…what did you do to save them bozo?

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously Piracy is also a very big part of Caymanian culture and is still very much in practice.   In some parts of the world eating other people used to be a part of the culture.  Its not the eating of turtles that is the problem here.  Its the continued incompetence and unaccountability for failures that I guess are also part of Cayman Culture.  If Cayman wants to be part of the modern world and continue to live off of that world it needs to show that it can change.  Or not.  Its still a choice for Caymanians to make or not.  Just like going toward being a communist country or not.  Your choice.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Oh, enough of the politicking and propaganda already! This is just a rehash of what we've heard already from the same people. We're not closing the Farm down. Period.

    • Grandfather Troll says:

      What do you mean, "We're not closing the Farm down"?  Who is "We"?  Do you and your friend or whoever "We" is have doodley squat to do with closing it?  Sounds to me like you're just bumping your gums.   Oh!  I understand now.  You're a politician, aren't you!

    • Anonymous says:

      Tell those surfers to clean up their acts in the UK and get off of our backs. Have a plate of turtle for dinner and get the kinks out of their backs.

    • Anonymous says:

      No problem but under one condition. It runs at no cost or you put in the 10 million