Save turtles, close Turtle Farm

After a two-year wait, the initial results of the turtle meat study are now public. World Animal Protection is unsurprised to see that only around 1 percent of Caymanian residents eat turtle on a weekly basis.

Unfortunately, we are also not surprised to see that in response to these results, the Farm has once again tried to duck behind what we (and other sea turtle protection groups in the Caribbean) commonly call their “conservation curtain.”

Their tired old, and frankly false, conservation claim is that the Farm is the only way to protect and prevent the extinction of Cayman’s turtles. A clever bit of propaganda used to justify the cruelty, public health and financial costs of the Farm.

However, in reality, there are many other approaches that could be used to protect Cayman’s turtles. These alternative ways do not place the welfare of its turtles, the health of its residents, and the stability of its economy at unnecessary risk.

For example, we are all aware of the huge sums of Caymanian dollars that are poured into the Farm each and every year just to prop it up. But what if these millions were redirected to the Department of Environment instead?

Surely even a fraction of the Farm’s massive subsidies could cover the equipment and salaries needed to tackle poaching and protect Cayman’s remaining nesting sea turtles. To reiterate, the Farm’s claims that it is the only way to conserve Cayman’s turtles are simply not true.

The turtle meat study is not complete. But, Caymanian residents have new vital information to inform much-needed discussion about the future of the Farm. Ultimately it is they that will decide whether and how to protect their turtles.

But this decision should be made with a clear understanding that there are other ways to conserve sea turtles. Ways that address the root causes of their declines rather than simply treating the symptoms of the problem.

While these discussions take place, for now, the Farm is peeping out from behind the same old tired conservation curtain. It’s a shame how it does not seem to have noticed that its recent behavior and the turtle meat study has left it in tatters.