08/31/2018 - An expert witness on foxhunting and animal welfare accused of 'misrepresenting science'.

A professor who has been an expert witness in hunting prosecutions and provided key evidence for the UK foxhunting ban has been accused of 'cherry picking' evidence in an academic row.

Prof Stephen Harris, a retired Bristol University academic, has been accused of “manipulating” evidence, 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, bringing up concerns that the document 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'.

Dr Friend was told by Bristol that the work had been independently evaluated and the university saw no need for further investigation. Two months later, Professor Harris retired.

Prof Harris's work has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding from animal rights groups including the RSPCA and League Against Cruel Sports. He has denied any suggestion of bias or support of animal rights groups, insisting that his work has been held to the highest standards and his independence has been tested in court on a number of occasions, with no adverse rulings.

It has also come to light that Prof Harris has faced questions over his independence dating back almost two decades. In 2000, Terry Kreeger, a vet from Wyoming, wrote to the Government inquiry into foxhunting, complaining that the way his research had been presented by Prof Harris was incorrect. Hunting supporters have lodged complaints with the CPS. Tim Bonner, the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, claims: 'Professor Harris shows no neutrality on the subject of hunting and the CPS should seriously think about whether it can use him as an expert witness in any future cases'.

In 2015, the Lamerton Hunt trial collapsed when it emerged that Prof Harris had failed to declare a friendship with the head of investigations at the League Against Cruel Sports, which was bringing the private prosecution.

He said he had not mentioned it in based upon legal advice from the charity that there was no need to do so.