I can be contacted on thehighlandtiger@yahoo.co.uk

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A review of Animals and Men Issue 47

Thanks to an esteemed colleague, I've just recieved a copy of Animals and Men, the journal published at random intervals by the Centre of Fortean Zoology.

I must thank Mr Downes, for his many comments about yours truly, although I must admit, I seemed to be blamed for everything according him.

So in the interests of fairness I've decided to give a full review good or bad of this publication. And maybe correct some errors on the way.

First of all, I must make a comment about the status of the CFZ. They inform us that they are registered with the "British Government Stamp office" as a non-profit making organisation. Yet questions should be asked "where is the money they recieve, going to". After all,a lot of the CFZ directorate are believed to be on benefits and do not work, except what they do for the CFZ. And yet they run a publishing company. A company that I am unable to find registered at Company House. They solicite donations of goods and money, and yet I wonder just how much is actually declared to the Inland Revenue.

I'm sure Mr Downes will correct me, if I have made any errors, and I'll be happy to post any replies he makes on this subject.

So in the meantime, a word to the wise. The CFZ is NOT a registered charity, and should you donate anything to these people, it may be prudent to enquire just what they do with the money.

On the subject of money, in his editorial Mr Downes makes note of "various erstwhile associates of the CFZ who have betrayed our confidence in them, and we are now something like £15,000 worse off than we were 3 years ago. Apart from the fact that that is a lot of money for a group of people who don't hold "proper" jobs to have, Jon is remiss in not mentioning that trying to re-coup his lost "earnings" includes hounding a recently widowed woman for money.

Also in his editorial he makes mention that the CFZ has become "unpopular in some quarters" , and he puts this down to jealousy and "unlike some folk in the field - we don't spend a vast majority of our time on self-publicity". Laughably this comes from someone who everytime a story appears in the press or the CFZ goes on some "expedition" he pens a lengthy press release to all the major news agencies. And considering that he owns what is in essence a "vanity publishing company" you couldn't be more self publicising if you tried.

Perhaps he should be a little more honest, rather than looking to promote his version of events. He should remember there are two sides to every story...........!

However, back to the review.

The next section is the news file. A great section with short articles on new species found in the previous months. This is what the CFZ is really good at, and although I'd known of most of the discoveries, there were a few I'd not heard of. Praise where praise is due here.

Next was a couple of short obituaries, including one for Robert Rines of Loch Ness fame. He was one of the stalwarts of the original Nessie hunting brigade, and it's always sad when people like him leave us.

We follow this with a group of articles by Oll Lewis under the title of the "Aquatic Monsters log book". These are basically a group of cut and paste fish based stories from around the world. Interesting in themselves, but nothing you wouldn't find yourself scanning the worlds news websites.

Nick Redfern writes the next section "Letters from America", a short piece on the "goatman" and a review of a book that Mr Redfern contributed to. I always have reservations when people review their own work or have a vested interest in that work.

We then have the "Mystery Cats Diary", a group of re-hashed news stories of big cat sightings in the UK by in Mr Downes words "the UK's premier big cat researcher - Mr Neil Arnold". I have been informed that this section, until recently was written by a Mr Mark Fraser, but a difference of views on financial matters in relation to books written by him and published by the CFZ, led him to leave the CFZ and publish his own works and works by members of the Big Cats In Britain group himself. It was this leaving of the CFZ that caused a senior member of the CFZ to say that the books written by him and other big cat researchers were just "tedious lists of sightings anyway"

So after that Mr Arnold has now been elevated to the "heavyweight champion of the wooooooooooorld", sorry "the UK's premier big cat researcher". I've heard of Mr Arnold before and a quick research of his background confirmed my thoughts.

He spends most of his time on the Womens Institute circuit lecturing on big cats. Mr Arnold believes that there are hundreds of breeding big cats in the South East of England, and they are the offspring from cats brought over by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago supplemented by additional animals released in the UK in 1976 after the introduction of the Dangerous Wild Animals act. Although he is unable to show any proof of these claims, he has written several books on the subject consisting of "tedious lists of sightings". Surprise surprise the CFZ Press have published most of his work. He is also writes extensively about ghosts........enough said really.

Next we have an article from some real big cat researchers. In Australia Ruby Lang and Mike Williams have done sterling work on the big cat phenomena down under. They have a book coming out shortly, and I for one will certainly be buying it. You may have to look hard, but within the framework of the CFZ there are some good researchers, and this should not be forgotten.

Details of their work and book can be found at http://www.australianbigcats.com.au/

Corrinna Downes the CFZ's administrator pens a nice little piece for all you "twitchers" out there, with news stories of rare birds seen on the British shores.

We now come to the largest article in the journal. Written by Richard Freeman the CFZ's "zoological director". Yet another grand title fostered on someone who strangely doesn't have a zoology qualification, and it was my expose on this that led to changes in Mr Freemans bio's on both the CFZ site and Wikipedia. For an organisation not interested in self-publicity, they seemed to have found time to put themselves on wikipedia.

This article was about the expedition to Sumatra in search of the orang pendek. Inspite of the CFZ sending out press releases indicating this was their expedition, it was in fact organised by Adam Davies, but it did include members of the CFZ who paid for the trip out of their own money.

Now most followers of these sort of expeditions will know what happened. An orang pendek was spotted by a member of the expedition, but inspite of watching the creature, albeit partially obscured, for quite a time, no pictures were taken.

Other people have called expeditions that include the CFZ more like "boys adventure trips" rather than real scientific efforts, and things like this won't dispel these thoughts. In fact, NONE of the expeditions by the CFZ have turned up any evidence of the creatures they were looking for. Something people should remember when donating money to the CFZ.

Hairs and DNA samples were taken and as far as I know, none of the samples taken have come back as evidence for the orang pendek. Did they see the orang pendek, I don't know. I believe they saw something, but what it was, who can say. However at least they went out there looking. Adam Davies who is not a member of the CFZ has been to Sumatra several times, and no doubt he will return in the future. Hopefully next time he'll go with a more scientific group of people.

Now on releasing the story, a great number of people commented on the lack of a picture, just like myself. Unfortunately Mr Freeman took umbrage to this questioning. He makes note of this in the article. "upon reaching the UK, I was interviewed by Apex news about the trip. They released my interview and some of the pictures I had taken. Ultimately the UK tabloid paper The Sun ran a story on it. A number of online communities, including an American cryptozoological site, picked this up. The outporing of vitriol from this site was astounding. Members criticised every aspect of the expedition as well as throwing in personal insults.

Now I was part of those people criticising, but it is interesting that in his efforts to look like the victim here, Mr Freeman has left out some pertinant points.

Yes he was interviwed and a story did run in The Sun, but only after Jon Downes contacted them with one of his "non-publicising" press releases. In fact in their desperation to get the story out first under the CFZ banner, they failed to even mention the expedition leader Adam Davies. In fact after a conversation with Loren Coleman on Cryptomundo, Mr Davies admitted he knew nothing about the interview nor the release of pictures of foot prints. You would have thought that common courtesy would dictate that he was informed, or perhaps not, this is the CFZ we are talking about. A quick search of the cryptomundo site will confirm all this.

Onto the rest of the review. Next we have Mr Arnold again this time wearing a different hat talking about Flemish mystery animals. Yet another list of sightings, although seeing as I'd not heard of most of them, I didn't find them tedious.

Following this, we have one of the best articles in the journal, by Mr Downes young prodege Max Blake. Jon has high hopes for young Max, and if this article on the Aurochs is anything to go by, then the CFZ may be redeemed. Full praise here to a young writer.

An advert for the CFZ's Weird Weekend follows, along with a few letters. There then follows 5 book reviews, 3 of them published by the CFZ Press. Again, reviewing your own books is a bit much is it not?

Finally there is a short piece by an unknown individual called "the sycophant", obviously a humerous take on the Fortean Times article writer called the Hierophant. I find this amusing, as one of the reasons Jon refuses to allow me posting on his site is because I refuse to reveal my identity, and yet he is happy for something similar to write in his journal. Double standards perhaps.

So what did I think of the jounal?

Well, if you take out the self publicising look at me articles, then there are some great articles. It's a shame that the CFZ has such a problem with criticism.

But I won't let that stop me doing so.............

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