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.
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.
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.
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.
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.