A professor who has been an expert witness in hunting prosecutions and provided key evidence for the foxhunting ban has been accused of “manipulating” evidence in an academic row.
Prof Stephen Harris, a retired Bristol University academic, has been accused of “cherry-picking” studies, allowing him to “ignore or misrepresent the science that had been contrary to the activist agenda”.
The Crown Prosecution Service is now facing calls to review the suitability of Prof Harris as an expert witness.
The claims relate to a review published by Prof Harris on the welfare of circus animals. At the end of 2016, Dr Ted Friend, a recently retired professor at Texas A&M University, wrote to Bristol and the Welsh government, which commissioned the paper, raising concerns that the review was “biased” and analysed areas where he believed his evidence on animals’ behaviour in captivity had been misrepresented.
Dr Friend also wrote to the Italian senate, which was considering Prof Harris’s work, to warn that it contained “blatant inaccuracies”. He said: “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.”
He said Prof Harris refused to consider studies with fewer than three authors, but in doing so he excluded some of the most authoritative documents on the topic. Dr Friend has now written for the Journal of Elephant Managers Association, stating: “In 40 years as a researcher, I have never seen a reviewer deliberately omit peer-reviewed papers on this basis. Professor Harris then cherry-picked sections of my remaining papers that did have three or more authors.”
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