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What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz

Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm

18 Comments

Now, I’ve had this in my drafts box for ages.

The zoo/farm is near Bristol and I’ve been kicking around the idea of a field trip for some time – the lack of desire to give them any money being one deterrent.

What is it? It’s a tourist attraction, specialising in school trips, pushing a creationist agenda. It’s the kind of thing I’d expect to see in the Bible Belt of the States but it’s been nestled in South West England for some time now.

You could be forgiven for thinking “that’s a bit harsh” and that they are in fact a decent, educational establishment. The website is fairly innocuous until you reach the far-right tab ‘Evolution and Creation‘, which links to a ‘sister website’, Earth History: A New Approach.

Some gems:

We believe the fossil record does not show one evolutionary tree of life but rather genetically controlled diversification from a number of original forms

As the currently measured value of an element’s decay rate (or half-life) has no theoretical basis, the only way we can test which is true is to compare the results against the primary evidence.

ORLY?!

They keep winning awards – including this year’s Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge – and this hasn’t gone unnoticed, at least by the BHA.

Edit: Righteous Indignation ran a report on the zoo back in August from Dr*T (from around 19:00), in which he explores the whole of the bible passage about Noah & the flood; it’s, um, interesting…

James Gray hits the nail on the head (emphasis mine):

‘This is an appalling decision. It is entirely inappropriate that the Council should support an establishment that advances creationism and seeks to discredit a wide variety of established scientific facts that challenge their religious views, such as radio carbon dating, the fossil record and the speed of light.’

‘Teachers and parents look to the Council for assurance that children will experience high quality educational visits that meet the relevant government guidelines. Awarding this particular zoo a Quality Badge risks exposing hundreds of children to anti-scientific dogma.’

‘This is not a freedom of speech or freedom of religion issue. The question is whether the information displayed by this zoo meets the tests of accuracy and truth that parents, teachers and other educational professionals expect.’

I was first made aware of the Zoo through Facebook as some people from one of the Atheist Bus Campaign/Richard Dawkins groups (I forget which) had visited and posted their photos, which included T-Rex models in the ark and shots of the merchandise in the gift shop; mostly books about Christianity’s creation myth. Marketed at school trips, remember.

Do have a look at Paul Sims‘ write-up and particularly the photos at the end. You can see the kind of things they put in their ‘educational’ material; why apes aren’t related to man, proof the ark was real and so on.

Welfare Worries

Aside from its religious fundamentalism and anti-scientific propaganda, the zoo has animal welfare issues too. Last year they had their BIAZA membership revoked because of a failure to disclose information about their acquisition of tigers from circuses. The RSPCA also criticised their plans for an elephant enclosure.

There have been (and probably still are) protests there because of alleged animal cruelty. If you look around reviews* of the place, they range from enthusiastic thumbs-up, through it’s-ok-if-you-ignore-the-crazy, all the way to outrage both at the ‘educational’ content and animal welfare.

*…The giraffe had one pole in a field with a empty twig to chew on. One of the tigers looked a little crazy as he just walked around the same route in his little house bashing his head on the glass each time. Most of the animals had cuts on their legs, is this normal?!

They were also accused of killing some of the animals to reduce Winter spending; however, it is difficult to pick out the substantial accusations as there are always plenty brought by ARE groups, which are likely to be full of twisted-truths and exaggerations. There are a few legitimate reasons why this may have happened; to feed the carnivores, to maintain healthy stocks, etc.

Reality Check

This is the 21st century; genetics tells us more every day about our evolutionary past and place in the gigantic web of life on this planet. In an increasingly secular state, why does a place such as this exist? Claiming to be educational yet ignoring much of what we already know.

This is not an alternative theory; it’s ridiculous denialism, likely permitted because religious belief is a handy excuse to push agendas whilst avoiding a lot of the controls placed on non-religiously-motivated activity.

Why is it still open after all this? How much more exposure is necessary?

Shall we go?

Updates and links:

  • Dec 2013: Prof Alice Roberts visited and described her experience for The Guardian
  • Feb 2014: Zoo receives another LOTC education award (see comments below for more info – you can also find them on Twitter)
  • Feb 2014: Hayley Stevens visits the zoo for Darwin Day and provides a clear account of their questionable “educational” materials and animal welfare.

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Author: noodlemaz

I prefer to think of myself as a realist rather than a pessimist, but perhaps that's just optimistic. Honest, atheist, scientist, feminist.

18 thoughts on “Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm

  1. I’ve been here before.
    It is run down. It’s not the nicest place to be.
    On the plus side, the only places I really saw kids were the play areas, not the “learning” areas.

  2. This should be funny, but its “here” in the UK which makes it too close to home for me to laugh.

    Instead, words just fail me.

  3. I did a news bit on Righteous Indignation Podcast about their ‘Education Award’ a few months ago which complements your post nicely:

    http://parafort.com/ri/?p=1023

    Amazing it’s still in existance!

  4. I see from the LOTC website that their ‘Quality Badge’ was developed in conjunction with The Department for Children, Schools and Families. So that’s yet another government agency that should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

  5. There used to be an excellent photo set on Flickr which showed all of the zoo’s signs, captions and displays. It was enraging stuff, packed with half-truths, fallacious arguments and what I’ll generously assume was shocking ignorance, rather than lies.

    Unfortunately it seems to have disappeared (or my google-fu is weak), but IIRC they were originally posted by someone from the Bristol skeptic community, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to track them down if you’re interested. Definitely worth a look (and a valuable resource for campaigning against them), and saves giving them extra money and perceived popularity.

    As a side note, I recently heard that Anne Widdicombe is a fan of theirs. I can’t remember the source for that though, so don’t take that as gosp– er, I mean, “don’t take that as rigorously tested”. 🙂

  6. If there are reports of sick animals in bad conditions at Noah’s Ark, the RSPCA should be contacted. If there is evidence that children are being taught myth as fact, then Ofsted should be contacted (though did I read somewhere that Ofsted liked the Ark?)

    Regarding a visit without paying, you could always write a letter along the lines of:

    “I believe in creationism, but I have a couple of friends who are waivering on the issue. One is a teacher who may decide to bring her class later in the year. Could you please send me 4 tickets so I can take them along and show them the truth about our beautiful planet and our Lord God?
    Yours sincerley
    Jo King”

    Or something along those lines.

    🙂

  7. I was surprised that you still show old discredited film and displays that are not displayed here now. The CAPS under-cover investigator was found by the subsequent Zoo Inspectorate to be lying and CAPS allegations unsubstantiated. Professor Steven Harris is a hypocrite; he has access to one of the biggest animal part collections in the country at Bristol University. Noah’s Ark was not breaking the law over tiger burial. Off show animals may be buried. The sick tigress was off show for her final week. But anyway her body had been exhumed and buried by the time of the BBC’s programme – which was a cynical attempt at harming a squeaky-clean award-winning zoo.
    BIAZA officials knew very well that our tigers came from Martin Lacey. They told me so in September 09. They got frightened when our boundary fence was cut in 7 places, our sign graffiti’s by animal rights activists, and we called out the police helicopter for a break-in. Illegal violence, alas, is sometimes successful.
    Our tigers are now owned by us.
    Do you understand the science behind our doubts about both Creationist dating and constant radioactivity dating? Try our http://www.earthhistory.org.uk/questions-of-age if you are willing for some surprises.

    • Yes, I’ve a biochemistry & genetics degree, but can ask some people who have studied geology, physics and chemistry to give their two cents as well, if you like…

  8. typo in my last: for buried read burned in line 6

  9. I’ve been to this place before and was shocked by the ignorance of the various posters adorning the walls. As someone with a biology degree it’s particularly disturbing that North Somerset Council allow school trips to this place. It’s an educational disgrace and a pretty poor day out as well, the animals there seem to have Spartan enclosures with very little inside to stimulate them.

  10. Pingback: Interesting Links, January 2011 | An Eclectic Mind

  11. 1) Do you like animals?

    No; Great go to Noah’s Ark Farm Park.
    Yes; Stay away. These animals need to be rehomed, the park is not fit.

    2) Are you religious, I mean crazy religious “New Earth”?

    No; Stay away… Theses people are insane.
    Yes; Great, go to Noah’s Ark Farm Park.

    3) Are all of your children over the age of ten?

    No; Unless your children have rubber bones avoid.
    Yes; Great, go to Noah’s Ark Farm Park.

    4) Do you want to look at animals but learn nothing?

    No; Go to Bristol Zoo.
    Yes; Great, go to Noah’s Ark Farm Park.

    (Please answer YES to all of the above before booking a ticket to Noah’s Ark Farm Park)

    Here’s a few things I noted while out with my family;

    • Lions
    This almost brought me to tears. A beautiful male and his female in one small “run” pacing around with nothing to amuse them. There was a look out point built. That was at such a steep angle and so wet that I saw the beautiful Lion was brought to the ground after several attempts to climb it.

    Both lions returned to pacing the area. Not the area you would expect to see a Lion in. It was a small grass area with nothing for them to keep entertained with. The area was so small.

    • Tigers
    Use a search engine to find the park, have a look at the tiger “images”. Got the one where the tiger it led on a bed? Bingo! That’s what you will see.

    Made worse by a group of school children banging on its window. You can’t blame the children as let me be clear; A tiger in a box, with a glass window & nothing prevents any of them “getting to close”.

    I swear I heard the Tiger mutter, “kill me!”

    • Giraffe
    I must admit, I was only inside for a minute. The stench was so strong that my eyes burnet and streamed. The purest smell of ammonia! Inside were several giraffes pacing. Again, nothing for them to amuse themselves with, not enough space. The main investment being the look out platform for visitors. Lets been those paying customers happy?!?!

    • Meer Kats
    Since the TV advert we all love Meer Kats. Do you want to see them in a tiny run? I certainly didn’t. Their space again was too small. They were fighting over one tiny heat lamp. Two of the Meer Kats were in their own section aka a fish tank. They were unable to get into the main run. Unfortunately one of the Meer Kats did not look too well. That Meer Kat was pacing back and forth non stop, it was sad to see.

    • Heat Lamp (chick)
    Ok, only one chick but still… My 11 year old was saddened to see one tiny chick next to the Meer Kat enclosure under a heat lamp… dying. I would have asked somebody about it but the teenage girls who work there looked busy. Yep, teenage; all the staff seemed to be 13 – 15 years old.

    Etc. etc.

    • Outside Play Area
    This is not suitable for children under the age of 10. My 3 year old would have fallen off and broken at least one bone. My 11-year-old thought, “it looked dirty and rubbish”. So then, next…

    • Trampoline
    Wet/ Soggy/ Dirty. “2 minutes at a time” Yes children 2 Minutes. Oh what’s that, no enclosures? Nope my 3 year old can’t go on here. Again, my 11-year-old thought, “they looked dirty and rubbish”. So then, next…

    • In Door Play Barn
    I say “indoor” however let me be clear an old asbestos built barn with no warm air, broken concrete floor & the signed expectation that “No Shoes” will be worn. Dreams of a weather-proofed barn quickly vanished. Brrr… Hot water bottle anybody??

    Etc. etc.

    I am ranting;

    All the animals I saw excluding the guinea pigs and rabbits were not catered for fully. Their cages were barren, small, dirty and unthought-of. The park is not ready, big enough or skilled enough to have all of these animals. The park should be condemned and the owners prosecuted. As for the animals, relocate them… Please!

    You will learn nothing from this place. It is not educational in anyway. The animals may as well be puppets. Puppets would have been better.

    Please, keep your money… Go elsewhere. Boycott Noah’s Ark Farm Park.

    • Hi Jo, thanks for this, disturbing reading though it is.
      I have tweeted the Born Free Foundation to see if they have any advice on getting an inspection and, hopefully, some help for the animals:

      On their website they also have a link to file a report online, or write them a letter – it says pictures are especially useful (so if you have any…)

      I’ll keep looking for other ways to take this forward. I think it’s important that we do so; assuming your perception of their situation is accurate, it sounds like something could be done to improve their welfare.

      I’ll drop you an email as well so you can get in touch there if it’s easier than coming to reply here.
      M

      • Thanks for the email.

        I have sent the same rant to trip advisor etc. I hope that the chap at their local council does something… Although I don’t think he saw any real issues with all the points I raised.

        In the words of my 11 year old “if they are into god etc, why do they hate animals”.

        * must get her a scarlet A t shirt soon. She’s such a bright girl *

        The half dead chick seemed to be the only interesting for the the council chap.

        Thanks for giving a c#*p enough to write back. I’d like to see the owner of Noah’s Ark in trouble and these animals rehomed (not the circus!).

        Jo

  12. Please sign and share this petition calling the Welsh government to investigate if schools should be going. You don’t have to be Welsh to sign. Only a few days left.

    https://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/epetition-list-of-signatories.htm?pet_id=1020

  13. Went to the zoo yesterday. Firstly not enough room for the big cats and no stimulation for them. No better than a zoo. Just created to make money and spout mad stories to vulnerable children. All the farmer wanted to put over to the children was that Noah was real and that all of science was wrong. Darwin must be turning in his grave. This farmer could use his time better to educate children correctly about environment and also learn what the animals really need to live and not just exist as an exhibit.

    • I’m still getting over going. I’ve never felt the need to publish a bad review about a kids play park; until I went there. The poor animals. Makes me so sad.

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