MPs back Turtle Farm action

More than a tenth of the United Kingdom’s members of parliament have signed a motion calling for action to protect the welfare of turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm. 

As of Monday, 14 January, 70 of the 649 elected members of the House of Commons had signed an Early Day Motion brought by Conservative Party MP Sir Peter Bottomley, which states: “That this House notes with concern the need to work in international partnership to reduce wildlife crime with long-term stable funding in the UK; respects the evidence given by the World Society for the Protection of Animals at the hearings of the Environmental Audit Committee; and calls for action following the WSPA report on serious welfare concerns about the Cayman Turtle Farm in the British Overseas Territory.” 

That motion, which has received cross-party support, refers to a parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee report on wildlife crime, such as trafficking in endangered species and poaching, published in September 2012. WSPA submitted written evidence relating to wildlife crime in the UK to the committee. The motion also refers to the WSPA’s separate report, released in October 2012, on the welfare of turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm facility in Grand Cayman. 

Mr. Bottomley, an MP for Worthing West, Sussex, who was knighted in the Queen’s Honours in 2010, tabled the motion on 19 October, the same day he tabled another motion congratulating the WSPA for their Turtle Farm report. 

In a brief e-mail to the Compass last week, Mr. Bottomley said: “My understanding is that there is one large Cayman turtle farm with perhaps over 5,000 turtles. I doubt there is a humane or acceptable way to farm turtles.” 

According to the British parliament’s website, the majority of Early Day Motions receive only one or two signatures. In an average session, only six or seven of the motions garner more than 200 signatures, while 70 or 80 of them get more than 100 signatures. Mr. Bottomley’s motion 611 is the 37th most popular of 924 Early Day Motions filed during the current parliamentary session. 

Early Day Motions are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons, but few are actually debated. The motions allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause and MPs register their support by signing individual motions.  

The World Society for the Protection of Animals carried out a covert investigation at the Cayman Turtle Farm last year and released a report stating that it had found evidence of Salmonella and E. Coli contamination in the turtle tanks, as well as cruel and inhumane treatment, birth defects and high mortality rates among the turtle population. The Cayman Turtle Farm has denied that there is any cruel or inhumane treatment or birth defects occurring at the facility or that the tanks are contaminated with dangerous bacteria. 

Despite describing the WSPA’s report as part of a smear campaign, the Turtle Farm agreed to carry out an independent review of the facility. The review of the Turtle Farm operations is expected to be complete by the end of January.  

The WSPA report brought the Cayman Turtle Farm to international media attention with newspapers and websites covering the story. Just last week, environmental magazine Resurgence & Ecologist published a story and video on the controversy.