BY NIGEL BEAN & PAUL READ
In part one we discussed the violent abuse that circus folk received at the hands of animal rights groups and discovered it was these groups that inflicted acts of cruelty on animals, so they could film the abuse they dished out – and lay the blame on the circuses. Particularly disturbing was Labour’s unswerving support for these crooks to the point they rewarded the main protagonist (Angela Smith MP) with a life peerage, £300.00 a day expense account and the title of Baroness Smith of Basildon.
Their follow-up plan to ban wild animals in circuses through the political process via reviews and consultations is equally as flawed and despicable. They have resorted to using the devolved Welsh assembly to conduct their business, based on collections of signatures which are neither checked or verified. The last Public consultation into mobile animal exhibits in 2017 asked if there should be a ban on wild animals in circuses. The Welsh government can only prove 11 people living in Wales answered out of a possible 3 million.
These signatures are passed over to one of their most ardent political supporters – Rebecca Evans AM. She turns to the RSPCA’s own bank-rolled and now disgraced Professor Stephen Harris – together they sit down and agree a criteria for a publicly funded review that, by coincidence, can leave out peer-reviewed research with fewer than three academic reviewers. This allows them to circumvent some of the world’s most influential peer-reviewed studies that were going to conflict with the conclusion they had already decided they were going to make.
To rubber stamp the Harris review and give it a feel of authenticity it gets peer-reviewed by Dr Ros Clubb, Science manager at the RSPCA, and Rob Atkinson, former Science manager of the RSPCA. Both have publicly expressed a desire to see wild animals in circuses banned. Unbelievably. the report does pass peer-review and not only that, its key conclusion, “the needs of wild animals in a travelling circus cannot be met” is exactly the same as the RSPCA and other AR groups had been saying for decades.
(At this point it may be worth summarising the peer-review process which has several forms, the most common being single blind review where the reviewers are not known to the author. It is a tremendous stretch of credulity to suggest Professor Harris was unknown to the RSPCA peer-reviewers. Furthermore, reviewers confirm conclusions drawn from data provided, they are not generally expected to check that the data are either complete or correct.)
The Welsh Labour Government presumed the public are either too stupid to notice, or too busy to care, about their twisted little schemes to advance animal rights fundamentalism for the RSPCA. But somebody of requisite note did notice … the highly respected Dr Ted Friend from Texas. He wrote over six empirical peer reviewed studies on circus animals for the USDA. By empirical we mean real research, he measured the heart rates of circus tigers during transportation and the levels of carbon monoxide in their beast wagons and watched their every move during transportation etc. (His adversary Dr Stephen Harris has not one empirical circus study to his name, instead he writes reviews and even references the work of Dr Friend). Dr Friend read the Welsh review 2016 written by Harris and found he had twisted his work, in the words of Dr Friend, his findings were 180 degrees from where they should be.
“I am concerned that very few people have actually read my scientific publications and discovered that Harris’s spin is 180 degrees from what we found.”
So Dr Friend wrote of his disgust of the Harris review* to Lesley Griffiths AM who replaced Rebecca Evans AM and copied in Bristol University. It turned out Harris has a history of manipulating data for animal rights groups and made lots of money while doing so. For Bristol University this was the straw that broke the camel’s back – Harris was fast-tracked without ceremony into retirement in Feb 2017, unprecedented during mid-term as students were left without a mentor.
*After the Harris review was debunked in Wales the report then emerged in Scotland under the new name of the graduate researcher Jo Dorning. The wholly debunked review is called the Harris review in Wales and the Dorning review in Scotland. It fooled the Scottish Parliament as they used the Dorning review to support any welfare concerns they had and banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Information was passed on surrounding the debunking to various government bodies but they deliberately failed to pass this up to ministers as it might affect the decision they wanted them to make.
Dr Friend jumped on a plane from the US and flew to Italy. Here he met up with Dr Kiley-Worthington, who was famous for conducting the first ever ‘disinterested’ peer-reviewed study in the nineties for the RSPCA looking into the welfare of circus animals.
They explained to the Italian senate how their work had been constantly manipulated by Harris, PETA and the ADI. They laid waste to the fallacy and much-quoted nonsense “With all the will in the world circus animals will never get the enrichment required from a travelling circus”. Dr Friend returned home and before long was explaining to animal handlers across the US how Dr Harris had twisted his data and then he wrote an article that was published in the Journal of Elephant Managers Association, appropriately called “Twisting the science to ban animals with circuses”.
The videos of Dr Kiley-Worthington & Dr Ted Friend in the senate can be found here.
All this information was passed over to the Welsh Labour Government and Lesley Griffiths AM and so what does she do? Pretend it never happened.
She kept all that information away from the Welsh assembly, so they would only ever choose to ban wild animals in circuses. (In the latest circus consultation document there is a section on the Harris review, and nothing about Dr Ted Friend’s scathing attacks on Harris, not even a mention of the letter she personally received informing her of the Harris manipulation.)
Griffiths’ mind was already set. The consultation was a fraud from the outset. Griffiths states:
“A ban will send a clear message that the people of Wales believe this practice to be an outdated notion and ethically unacceptable”.
The farce consultation was about satisfying legal requirements, so the circus folk couldn’t come back and say they were not consulted. Remember the words of Dr Friend:
“Politicians are only interested in or research when it supports what they have already made up their minds to do.”
The actions of both Lesley Griffiths and Rebecca Evans can be compared to that of some unhinged despot dictator in some far-flung banana republic. They will face the music in the future in court.
Show them we will not put up with their undemocratic behaviour – the British public are not stupid and do care, especially when animals are abused and treated cruelly so humans can be abused and treated cruelly. The circuses do love and cherish their animals so give them your support because – after threats of violence, abuse and letter bombs – they could sure do with your help right now.
Please spare 5 minutes to fill in the online consultation: