Douglas Anthony Cooper
The most influential advocate for the eradication of pit bulls is an academic fraud. Merritt Clifton is prominent not simply because he has been making noise for decades, but because he uniquely claims to be a rigorous statistician: a scholarly expert. People who hate pit bulls lean on this man’s putative expertise.
And he’s a charlatan.
The loudest voice in favor of eliminating pit bulls in Canada is probably Barbara Kay, a journalist with the National Post. Her campaign is largely successful: Canada has some of the most punitive breed-specific laws (BSL) in the world. And she told me proudly, in an email:
My primary source, you will not be surprised to learn, is animal-industry historian and investigative reporter for more than 40 years, Merritt Clifton, until recently editor of Animal People News and now editor of his own site, Animals 24/7. My other primary source is Colleen Lynn of Dogsbite.org.
Colleen Lynn is a menace; she’s a web designer who was once bitten by a dog, and has been on a vicious campaign to eliminate the pit bull type ever since. Still, she makes no pretense to academic credibility. Merritt Clifton, on the other hand, very much pretends to be an eminent scholar, and is truly dangerous.
In the first few minutes of the video linked here, for instance, you will see him pronounce: “I have more than a hundred peer-reviewed publications.”
This would seem truly impressive — that’s a hefty body of published work. It’s troubling, however, that not one of these publications shows up in a search on JSTOR, the comprehensive academic database online. Nor can I find a single example of his copious oeuvre in Harvard’s library, which can also be searched online. One hundred publications, admirably invisible.
I finally found one. Clifton mentions Asian Biomedicine in the video, and floating around the internet is a single article that this obscure journal published in 2011. The journal’s own website seems to have vanished, but they do say on their Facebook page that they are “peer-reviewed.” Perhaps there are a hundred such articles? Probably not: a sandbox draft of somebody trying desperately to get Clifton and his projects on Wikipedia lists one academic publication. This one.
The video is posted on a blog maintained by Josh Liddy, an activist against BSL, who notes that Clifton’s claims are “dubious.” Mr. Liddy is far too polite. These claims are “fictional.”