This week’s reLAKSation is a guest blog from Talk Salmon. I hope you enjoy.
An Online Guide for Fish Farm Activists
Welcome! Attacking fish farms is an increasingly popular pastime on social media. The effects of lockdown, awareness of our impacts on planet earth and the ability to master any subject within a few days of casual reading on social media have all contributed to making this sport a daily activity for many, and even a full day’s effort for some. Read on!
Unfortunately, you may occasionally encounter an actual fish farmer who may dispute what you are saying. This handy guide is for those awkward moments when you are not sure of what to say, or what the hell they are talking about. Just remember, it’s not the facts that count! Go for maximum likes, total outrage and if in doubt, start questioning the identity of the farmer, their relationship with their family, and who he or she gets their pay cheque from, etc. Then block them. Talking to actual fish farmers is never a good idea and may make you question things unnecessarily – but if you must, here are some key take home points to keep you on top:
- Fishmeal: There is too much of this in fish feed. If they point out that there is now hardly any, complain about a lack of Omega 3’s.
- Wildlife: If there is no wildlife around the farm, it’s clearly environmental devastation. If there is loads, instead focus on viruses, etc., flooding from the farm to infect wild animals.
- Chemical Use: Complain either way. Lots of scope here. Use of chemicals is unfortunately declining but go for it anyway. Everybody knows chemicals are bad. If they aren’t using chemicals, then go the animal welfare route for abusive handling. More later.
- The Swap: If you feel you are losing the argument – say the farmer is arguing that stocking densities aren’t that high, and are actually determined by years of husbandry practice, feeding uptake and fish behavioural science, etc. – just get the hell out of there. Mention something like, ‘What about the great Carradale escape,’ or ‘West African fisheries are stealing fish from the poor.’ Always works. Keep swapping subjects whenever things start getting iffy. Knowledge of any of these subjects takes up way too much time, so just remember the headings.
- Boring Scientists: As per above, there are loads of long-winded papers written about fish farming. Many of them are basically unreadable, lack much of a punchline and are totally unhelpful. Rely on famous activists to read these for you. Avoid.
- Antibiotics: Unfortunately, this is a non-starter because they basically aren’t using them anymore on salmon farms. Just avoid this subject altogether. Instead, bring up topics like animal cruelty or fish farm owner’s nationality, etc., and then post a picture of a sick salmon. Works every time.
- Disease Transfer to Wild Animals: Just because this isn’t proven doesn’t mean anything. Bang that drum hard. Put the onus on the farmer to prove that it isn’t happening. Of course, this is like putting someone in the dock and asking them to prove they didn’t swear yesterday. It’s impossible. Great tactic!
- Escapes: Great topic. Never get drawn on the fact that loads of hatchery bred fish are released into the wild on purpose. This is ‘stock enhancement’ and is good, mainly – it’s what keeps a lot of wild fisheries going. ‘Ranching’ is basically the same thing and is the basis of a lot of the ‘wild’ salmon we eat. Don’t go there. Ever.
- You Own the Truth: At no point must you consider you are talking to an actual farmer trying to make a living, feed their family, etc. Try to remember that each and every one of them are Norwegian billionaires, ecocidal shills or just psychopathic zombies. No one who works with animals on the water everyday actually likes the sea, or wildlife, or nature. Or might even have a valid opinion. Get that out of your head at the outset. These are not humans.
- Land-Based Farming: Everyone knows this is bonkers on a small island with hardly enough energy supply to keep the lights on but who cares? Great tactic to keep pushing ‘land-based containment’ because sometimes it’s hard to admit you want the whole lot gone and everybody fired, this topic softens things up a bit and makes it looks like you have thought about things for 5 minutes. If the farmer mentions energy use or fish welfare or eventual waste disposal when talking about land-based containment, just quickly swap (see #4 ‘The Swap’) to ‘rape of forage fish from West Africa’ or ‘seal shooting’ (more later).
- Parasites: Sea lice are a god given gift. Mention this as much as possible. Don’t ever get taken down the path that they come from nature in the first place, or that all farmed animals get parasites, etc. In fact, never get drawn into comparing fish farming with any other form of farming. This is losing territory. Instead, use words like ‘whataboutery’ and ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ when talking about the impacts of food production generally. Whatever you do, don’t start talking about carbon footprint or greenhouse gases, you might as well hoist a white flag. Post a picture of a sick salmon, even if it’s the same one. Always works.
- Seal Shooting: Absolute winner because everybody loves seals, particularly pups. Lots of great image potential here! Don’t acknowledge that seal shooting by fish farmers has actually been banned. Focus instead on, for example, rumoured possibility that someone may have broken the law and illegally shot one once. Just use an old image of a shot seal. Don’t mention that seals are a big problem for wild fisherman, used to be culled in the UK, and that culling continues in many countries like the US and Canada. Absolutely time for a baby seal photo!
- Pictures: At the end of the day this is the ace in the hole. Just like you, no one these days can be bothered to read much, let alone consider anything more than a surface skim. People want it punchy, clear, black and white, as scandalous as possible, and in as few seconds of browse time as the human brain can cope with. There are millions of fish on farms and at any one time there are bound to be a few manky looking ones around the surface. These are your gold and serious activists spend big time mining for them. Never get drawn into discussing comparable mortality with other farming (reminder ‘whataboutery’). Just don’t go there, continue to keep reposting these images as much as possible, repeating taglines like ‘shocking abuse’ or ‘outrageous cruelty’. Always, always be sure to edit out the 99.9% of healthy-looking fish in the background.
- Ownership: Remember, in all of this, to be fairly light on the actual hard working fish farm worker (the Corporate Victim) who has failed to catch this (aforementioned) individual fish in favour of keeping the other 50k undisturbed, and alive. You’re going for the owners, remember this. And they’re probably foreign. Just because they’re listed on the stock exchange and actually owned by people from all over the place, and maybe even their own local employees. Keep it simple – and invader-like. Don’t forget to mention that they are probably farming fish here because they aren’t allowed to in their own country. Some people believe this.
- Context: Just remember that context is your worst enemy, social media your best friend and you’ll do just great. If you don’t like the message, just attack the messenger! Impatience and information overload are your golden ticket to creating and shaping your messaging in this new age of activism. Science, introspection, real debate and discussion with people actually involved in the activity are a needless distraction. They’re History, and you’ll get far more attention and likes with that manky salmon pic anyway.
- The Fake Persona: To add effect, many activists cleverly pretend to defend seals, wild salmon, porpoises, the shoreline, etc. Great strategy – but try to remember to post something non-salmon farm related occasionally if there’s been a big news story about your species/ cause. Forgetting to look genuine about your bogus cause is a common and easy mistake. Happy Hunting!