The Real Fake News Altering Our Laws


Newspapers breathed a sigh of relief after the fake news announcement suggesting the biggest problem to UK democracy is those damn Russians and their manipulation of social media outlets. Well no it’s not. The biggest problem for UK democracy is the acquisition of local newspaper titles by Newsquest and the left-wing Trinity Mirror group. Ever since a survey in 2013 found people trust their local newspapers, the Trinity Mirror have been buying up local newspapers with a fervour and right under the noses of the Tories. Now they can trickle pernicious left wing ideology into the homes of the masses and simply ignore any counter information that might conflict with their agendas. The public are none the wiser – quite brilliant.

A perfect example recently occurred. Since 2015 a predominantly Labour-governed Welsh Assembly, backed with a 250k donation from the political animal lobby, has sought to ban wild animals in circuses. Since that time, and on no less than 10 occasions, Trinity Mirror owned papers have carried what can only be considered passive aggressive stories trying to put local people off visiting the travelling circus. This takes the form of telling people protestors will be present or showing pictures of the protestors. Or shaming folk into thinking they are not one of the claimed 74% in favour of a ban.

Naturally, some reported on the Welsh review into the use of wild animals in circuses and allowed animal welfare groups to use their paper as a platform to tell local people they now have the science……only they don’t! Worth repeating……. only they DON’T. The worldwide science-based evidence review into the welfare of circus animals by Professor Stephen Harris was debunked by Professor Ted Friend in a letter personally sent to Lesley Griffiths AM in Dec 2016. Only Lesley, with her very good friends in the RSPCA, decided to withhold that information from the Welsh Assembly and the public.

So who is Professor Ted Friend?

He is a professor from the USA who was tasked by the USDA with conducting empirical research into the use of wild animals in circuses after public concerns and has 11 peer reviewed papers on the subject. Contrast that to Professor Harris who has none.

When the First Minister announced a ban on wild animals in circuses a few weeks back, I provided the local papers the letter sent to Lesley Griffiths in Dec 2016 from Professor Ted Friend. Did they change their stance to shine for the truth?

Err, no. Not even a mention.

I then provided the papers with the full information from 1990 over the circus debacle and an article from a recognised journal by Professor Ted Friend explaining how his data was manipulated for the Welsh circus review. Game over Lesley Griffiths?

Well no. Yet again completely ignored.

I don’t need to explain the manipulation of the public that is going on in this ONE episode, instead I will give you the evidence local papers failed to provide its customers.

1990 – Marthe Kiley-Worthington is specially chosen by the RSPCA because of her pro-animal stance to write the first ever, in-depth, ‘disinterested’ study into the welfare of circus animals. To the disgust of the RSPCA, Kiley-Worthington’s findings do not support their agenda and they offer her money to change her conclusions. She refuses and stands by her findings. The RSPCA – with all their might – turn nasty on her. She still stands by her findings. Professor Ted Friend, in his now famous 180 degree spin letter to the Italian senate in July 2017, remarked about this debacle:

“There is no doubt that the RSPCA and other groups have learned to be much more selective when finding people to write their reports”

2006 – Professor Stephen Harris is picked to co-author the RSPCA’s next review into the use of animals in circuses. This paved the way for a potential ban but data manipulation of Professor Ted Friend’s work by animal defenders sees a complaint from Professor Ted Friend going into Lord Rooker who responded by announcing a review in 2007.

2007 – The ‘Radford report’, as it became known, took evidence from the world’s leading experts and concluded in a similar vein to Marthe Kiley-Worthington some 16 years previously, finding the much publicised concerns over the welfare of wild animals in circuses unwarranted.  Professor Harris and his friend Rob Atkinson, head of science at the RSPCA, were furious and let their feelings be known in the media.

Professor Stephen Harris (Ex-Bristol University)

Rob Atkinson (RSPCA Ex-head scientific manager)

2009 – The RSPCA help fund a report called “Are wild animals suited to a travelling circus life”  by Harris et al (2009). a report written specifically to give activists a different perspective after the fully independent and impartial Radford report (2007) found nothing wrong with circus animal’s welfare. Most significantly a special acknowledgment was made in the paper to Rob Atkinson (RSPCA Ex-head scientific manager) & Dr Ros Clubb (RSPCA Scientific manager) for their comments on the review.

2015 – The now devolved Welsh Government announced they intend to ban wild animals in circuses. Accusations of a fix by the stakeholders begin in earnest when they announce Professor Stephen Harris will lead the review. If that is not bad enough, the Welsh Government sat down with him and let him agree his own criteria. The Welsh Government believe they are getting a worldwide review of all the evidence.

2016 – In early December the Harris review is handed over to Lesley Griffiths AM after passing the scrutiny of Rob Atkinson (RSPCA Ex-head scientific manager), Dr Ros Clubb (RSPCA Scientific manager) and Geoff Hosey, a Professor at Bolton University (yes, Bolton has a university!).  A two to one advantage before the persuasions begin, it’s easy to see how the out of scope Mobile Animal Exhibits (MAE’s) get included, another target for the RSPCA. However, by the end of Dec 2016 Professor Ted Friend has written a strongly worded letter to Lesley Griffiths AM. He debunks the review and accuses Harris of leaving out seminal information and manipulating his (Professor Friend’s) own data.

Professor Ted Friend:

“The Welfare of Wild Animals in Traveling Circuses by Dorning, Harris and Pickett also cited my studies many times, and their use of my studies and the literature is similarly biased.”

Rob Atkinson and Dr Ros Clubb have a history of bias against circuses documented in newspapers calling for a ban, so I wrote to the only impartial expert (Geoff Hosey) and asked if he had been made aware of the intervention by Professor Ted Friend. He replied my information supplied in June 2018, a full year and a half after the review was handed over to the Welsh Government, was the first time he had been made aware of it.

Welsh AMs are never informed about this letter. However various actions from bodies like the BVA indicate Lesley Griffiths confided with CVO Glossop. The BVA, after announcing the Welsh review would be led by Professor Stephen Harris on their website, dropped the lead author’s name for the recently graduated student name ‘Dorning’. The now debunked Harris review resurfaces in Scotland as the un-debunked ‘Dorning’ review and is referenced as such by the BVA in their submission to the Scottish Government. The ‘Dorning’ review is also used to kick-start the banning process in May 2017.


2017 – The letter Professor Friend sent to Lesley Griffiths AM in early Dec 2016 was also sent to the Secretary of Bristol University. This prompted them to hold their own review. In a letter from Professor Benton (Bristol University) to an Italian Doctor, Benton states the review found no grounds for further investigation, and yet two months later in Feb 2017 Harris was forced into retirement. Evidence of a sudden forced retirement gets support from a petition started by students asking for his return. They were told he would not be coming back.

2017 – Professor Ted Friend’s critique of the Welsh review is translated for the Italian Senate causing them to step back from an elimination of animals from circuses.

“I am concerned that very few people have actually read my scientific publications and discovered that Harris’ spin is 180 degrees from what we found.”

2017 – Although Prof Harris’ commission was for a broad review to the Welsh Government into the use of wild animals in circuses, he reveals in an open letter (29/07/2017) that Gaia Angelini (Lega Anti Vivisezione, Italy’s anti-vivisection league) is distributing his strategy for twisting the science that has found the welfare of circus animals to be at least comparable to other widely-accepted animal keeping systems.

2017 – In Autumn the Welsh public consultation takes place into mobile animal exhibits with the additional question, should we ban wild animals in circuses? Information from Professor Ted Friend was not relayed to members of the public even though the Welsh government had been alerted to the now famous ‘180 degree’ letter in addition to the letter sent to Lesley Griffiths AM in Dec 2016.

2017 – Scottish Government animal welfare advisors are also aware of the ‘180 degree’ letter from Professor Ted Friend to the Italian senate but decide Scottish Members of Parliament don’t need to be made aware of it when they go in to the chamber to debate the banning of wild animals in circuses in Oct 2017.  This despite the newly named ‘Dorning Review’ getting a mention three times during the debate with further references to its use during the committee evidence gathering meetings.

“Since the time of the public petition, an authoritative review of the animal welfare issues—by Jo Dorning and others—has been published by the Welsh Government, and was referred to several times during evidence that was given to our committee”

In correspondence I asked the animal welfare advisors why they didn’t inform the Scottish members of parliament about the debunking. They replied the debunking was irrelevant because the main motivation for a ban was not welfare but the widespread public concern over ethical considerations resulting from the public consultation they held in 2014. Investigations showed the widespread ethical concerns from the public were from just 551 people with addresses in Scotland giving answers the activists had published online. (That is still more credible than the 11 people with addresses in Wales that responded to the consultation after the activists’ groups supplied them with the answers.)

2018 – Petition P-05-796 gets backing from Welsh assembly members and still no mention of the debunking letter from Professor Ted friend to Lesley Griffiths in Dec 2016 or the ‘180 degree’ letter to the Italian senate that caused them to step back from an all-out ban. The petition relies heavily on the review for the Welsh Government by Professor Stephen Harris.

Conclusion – So there we have it. Fake news influencing legislation and not a damn Russian in sight.

Thanks to Paul Read for his assistance in getting this article published.