Thursday, 5 November 2009

Creationist zoo suspended from British zoo association

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When I was writing about the insidious creationism on display at Noah's Ark Zoo Farm near Bristol, I asked Miranda Stevenson, director of the British and Irish Association of Zoos (BIAZA), why a zoo with such an anti-scientific agenda had been allowed to become a member of her organisation. Citing free speech as a reason not to exclude them on account of creationism, she told me that the main concern of BIAZA is animal husbandry and welfare:
“Our primary concern is how zoos manage their animal collections – that they comply with reputable, modern standards of husbandry and welfare. Initially Noah’s Ark didn’t meet many of those criteria, but we mentored the owners and their staff for three years, welfare improved and the zoo became a full member in 2007.”
That was in August, and since then an undercover investigation by the Captive Animals Protection Society has revealed that animal welfare standards at Noah's Ark may not be as they seem. It is thought that the zoo may have been breeding animals, including tigers and camels, for the Great British Circus, the last circus in Britain to use live animals in its shows, although the zoo has denied that is the case. In addition, it was discovered that the body of a tiger which died during childbirth at the zoo was disposed of in a way that contravenes animal disposal regulations - its paws, head and skin were removed, the carcass was buried on owner Anthony Bush's land, and the head was revealed to have been kept in a freezer at the zoo.

The news seems to have caused BIAZA to reconsider their position on Noah's Ark Zoo Farm's welfare standards, as a local newspaper this week reported that the zoo has been suspended by the association pending an investigation into the revelations.

However, the zoo's website makes no mention of the suspension, with BIAZA still included in a list of its memberships.

[Thanks @djhanks]


Anonymous said...

What has Creationism got to do with it? The headline speaks of Creationism as though it had any thing to do with the suspension.
Haven't any other zoos without a Creationist theme been suspended before?

Eiskrystal said...

-What has Creationism got to do with it?-

Because it seems creationism poisons whatever it touches. When lying, cheating and deceit are a standard feature...what do you expect?

Paul Sims said...

I think it's a fair question to ask what creationism has to do with this story, but I do in fact think it is very relevant. As I say in the blog post, when I wrote about the zoo back in August, BIAZA told me that their main concern is welfare and, after lots of coaching from them, the Noah's Ark Zoo had eventually reached the welfare standards necessary to join them.

Basically, while they didn't agree with the creationism, they said they believed the zoo had a right to display it (even though BIAZA says it has a commitment to education, but that's a whole other debate), and as long as it met the required welfare standards it didn't want to exclude the zoo from joining.

So, on account of its perceived high animal welfare standards, Noah's Ark Zoo Farm was able to join the British Association of Zoos. In my view, this in turn lent the zoo a degree of credibility that it otherwise wouldn’t have had, which enabled it to attract high visitor numbers. Since the zoo is an outlet for its owner's make-it-up-as-you-go-along creationist ideas, the credit given to it for welfare helped it in the promotion of this creationism to the public.

So, the suspension of the zoo from BIAZA amid such serious welfare allegations undermines its credibility as an animal collection, which should also undermine the creationist nonsense on display alongside the animals.

Also, to tone down what Eiskrystal says, when I spoke to BIAZA they seemed to imply that just because the ideas on display at Noah's Ark were bad, that didn't mean everything else about the zoo was bad. On the contrary, they told me – with the exception of the creationism, Noah’s Ark was in fact a very good zoo. I think these latest revelations contradict that view – this shows that where there are bad scientific ideas, we should look closely at what else is going on around them. If a whole zoo is built on a wilful misunderstanding of (or you could say, a determination to ignore) our entire scientific understanding of where life on earth comes from, why should everything else about that zoo be of the same standard as a credible zoo like London or Chester? If its educational standards are so poor, perhaps we ought to suspect that a great deal else about the place will be poor.

Eiskrystal said...

I had just finished reading Ray Comfort's site before posting here. That is enough to make anyone slightly hysterical about poisonous creationism.