The University of British Columbia plans to kill seven endangered green sea turtles this spring after the university is finished experimenting on them.
The turtles have been at UBC for ten years as part of a research project on climate change and fishing. Ostensibly the purpose of the project was to measure the impact of climate change on the animals as well as to measure their dive depths, and to help prevent them becoming bycatch for fishing boats.
Once the experiments are finished, the turtles will be euthanized.
All subspecies of sea turtles are endangered and there has been a public outcry over UBC’s decision to end the lives of these seven. The university originally had 16 turtles but two of them died and seven more have already been retired to research aquaria.
The public was initially made aware of the plan to kill the sea turtles because an anonymous whistleblower at UBC informed an anti-vivisection group called Stop UBC Animal Research who then alerted the press. The university employee told Stop UBC Animal Research that the animals were being killed because the building where they are currently being housed is scheduled to be demolished.
The university denies that the planned demolition has anything to do with why the animals are to be euthanized and insists that the animals aren’t being killed because the research is over, but rather as part of the final experiments, which require major surgery.
Brian Vincent of Stop UBC Animal Research said “At a time when there are all sorts of efforts to save these animals, and they’re being hit by oil spills and beach development, UBC is killing them.”
After the public outcry the university announced it was negotiating a deal with a UK aquarium to trade the young sea turtles that were scheduled to be euthanized for older and injured turtles from the UK, as though deciding to kill older endangered animals is somehow better than killing young endangered animals.
Vincent wrote in a commentary piece that the larger problem with UBC is that it receives public funding for research but is notoriously tight-lipped about the details of its experiments. He rightfully argues that an institution that receives taxpayer money must disclose the nature of the experiments they’re conducting with that money.
The new plan by the university isn’t a compromise and it certainly isn’t a step in the right direction, it’s simply trading one murder for another. We’ll never know for sure if these animals were slated for death because their building is going to be demolished or whether UBC would have made any attempts to find an alternative if the press hadn’t been alerted to their plans.
What we can say for certain is that UBC and other research facilities are always secretive about their experiments on animals because they know how outraged the public would be if they knew about the horrors their tax dollars are being spent on.
We can say for certain that even when scientists are doing experiments to “save animals” they often show a flippant disregard for animal life and have no qualms about abruptly ending it when it’s no longer useful.
Sea turtles are magnificent creatures, they can live up to eighty years in the wild and have been around long enough to see dinosaurs come and go. After ten years of experimentation the least we can do is to spare their lives and let them live out their days in peace.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species will not allow the turtles to be released into the wild after being in captivity for fear of their having being contaminated with germs from humans but it’s foolish to think that there isn’t a facility or sanctuary somewhere on Earth that could take in seven endangered animals to save them from being killed.