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Small steps fail to protect turtles at Cayman Turtle Farm

Mar 4, 2013

After initial hopes that the Cayman Turtle Farm would make meaningful changes to the distressing conditions in which sea turtles are kept – conditions which have moved more than 178,000 people to call for an end to sea turtle farming– WSPA is disappointed to report that little action has been taken.

Suffering cannot be disputed

Last month, the Cayman Turtle Farm published a self-commissioned independent assessment, which revealed that a large proportion of turtles in its care are suffering from Several different types of injuries.

This backed up our own undercover investigation, which painted a disturbing picture: 9,500 diseased and injured turtles crammed into dirty, overcrowded tanks, unable to express their natural behaviors. It is a picture the Farm had previously denied.

But the Farm's report failed to make strong recommendations to better safeguard the turtles. In fact, the findings – which appear not to have been based on any scientific evidence – failed to address the welfare of the turtles at all.

With the release two recent studies, whose concerns prompted and verified the need for our investigation and this campaign, we are hugely disappointed not to see more immediate action from the Farm to improve the turtles' lives. 

Slow progress

While the Cayman Turtle Farm has now entered into dialogue with WSPA about welfare improvements, partly due to the 144,000-strong public petition we handed to them, it is not acting for the animals in its care fast enough.

Progress has been on a small scale. Plans to hire a full-time veterinarian, new sanitation measures, and the removal of turtle meat from the site's restaurant menu indicate some positive commitment, but do not begin to address the real issue: as long as commercial farming exists, so too will animal suffering.

We must not forget that 9,500 sea turtles are living in appalling, cramped captive conditions while the Farm considers its next move.

Farming is not the answer

Animal welfare problems are not unique to the Cayman Turtle Farm – they are unavoidable in conditions that seek to intensively farm any wildlife. However, as experts in animal welfare, we have a responsibility to speak out.

Our position is clear: there is no way to meet the welfare need of a sea turtle in intensive farming conditions. Superficial improvements cannot change this.

If the Cayman Turtle Farm transitions into a research and rehabilitation center, it would not only end animal suffering at the world's last sea turtle farm – stopping this cruel and ineffective practice on a global scale – it would also send a strong message to governments around the world: wildlife farming is inhumane, unnecessary and it is not a universal solution to the global conservation crisis.

We need your support on this journey towards better lives for these incredible animals. Please share with your friends and contacts.

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