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reLAKSation no 1149

Travel News: The first thing to know about campaigner Don Staniford is that he never uses social media when he is out and about. He only updates his accounts when he has returned to wherever he is living/staying. The second thing to know is that whilst he may believe his claims, many of them are either untrue or misleading.

This week he began his ‘End Salmon Farming digivan tour of the British Isles. According to Ecohustler, a digivan is a super-sized LED screen on the back of a van, effectively a huge mobile TV on which Mr Staniford will screen videos shot inside salmon farms.

On the 28th of October, Mr Staniford posted a detailed itinerary of his tour which he planned to begin at Marks & Spencer head office in West London at 8am. This was followed by a visit to the RSPCA head office in Horsham at noon.

I saw the first stop on this tour as an opportunity to reach out to Mr Staniford and discuss his many claims, especially regarding sea lice. My view is that he takes a photo/video of one sick fish in a pen then implies to the world that this fish is representative of all the salmon on the farm and even of all farmed salmon in Scotland. The reality is very different, but it is in his interests to mislead journalists, vegans, anglers, and any of the public he can find.

At 7.45 am on a bright sunny but cold morning, I arrived at M&S head office and waited for Mr Staniford to arrive, and I waited and waited and waited until by 8.45, I concluded that he had bottled out and decided to give M&S a miss.

During my wait, I perused the news on my phone and noticed that Mr Staniford had posted a message on Twitter at just after 7 am together with a posting on his Typepad page. Effectively, this said that he done a ‘dry run’ outside the Oxford Street M&S store the previous evening and that he would be protesting outside the RSPCA office at 11am (not noon). Clearly, if he was posting on social media at 7-7.15 am, he was not planning to visit M&S unless he was staying close by. He certainly made no mention of M&S HQ. Perhaps he thought that his visit to a store the previous evening would be in lieu of the visit to their head office.

However, when the editor of Fish Farming Expert messaged Mr Staniford to enquire why he had not stuck to his itinerary, he replied that London was ‘gridlocked so we’re starting at the RSPCA head office in Horsham instead’.

As I mentioned I arrived at North Wharf Road at 7.45 and my position afforded me an uninterrupted view down Hermitage Street of the A40 Westway which is a main arterial route into London and during the hour I waited, the traffic ran freely all the time. In addition, I was listening to BBC Radio 2 breakfast show on my earphones. The show has regular traffic and travel updates and there was no mention of any problems in London. I am afraid that this is just another example of the misinformation dispensed by Mr Staniford. There was no gridlock. He had already decided to give London a miss having protested briefly outside M&S Food in central London the previous night. If he had been stuck in traffic, he would have put out a message on social media in case any of his supporters had planned to turn up to protest outside M&S headquarters. Perhaps he had heard that I had planned to attend and wanted to avoid having to answer any difficult questions.

His failure to turn up to his own planned visits may only be a small thing but ultimately it is about honesty and in this case, Mr Staniford has shown that honesty is very much lacking.  I would argue that many of his claims also fail a similar test.


All credit; All credit to personnel from the RSPCA and the Soil Association for coming out to speak to Mr Staniford despite him appearing on video claiming that they were hiding away in their offices. Representatives of both organisations gave a good account of themselves and their relationship to salmon farming. However, Mr Staniford is not really interested in what they had to say as his view, and the view of his vegan colleagues, is that salmon should not be farmed. No amount of regulation will satisfy them. There is only one outcome that will make them happy and that will never happen.


Camera never lies: Mr Staniford has claimed on X that the public cannot be prevented from discovering the ugly truth about Scottish salmon unlike salmon pharmers (sic) the camera never lies. No-one disputes that the photos of one or two salmon that he has promoted are not real. The difference is that Mr Staniford implies that these fish are typical of all farmed salmon in Scotland whilst the truth is that they are not.

Mr Staniford believes that he should have access to any salmon fam he wants to visit and photograph in order to show the public what is really happening on salmon farms, but as yet he has not shown that the fish, he has photographed are representative of farmed salmon in Scotland. The science tells a very different story to Mr Staniford’s.


Digivan: The famed digivan finally made an appearance in Mr Staniford’s photograph gallery. According to the original poster, Mr Staniford and his van was supposed to visit Bristol, Cardiff, Hereford, and Birmingham on November 1st, followed by Chester, Liverpool, Manchester and Grimsby on the 2nd.

His published schedule listed just a visit to the Soil Association office in Bristol on the 1st followed by Cheshire and Merseyside supermarkets and supermarkets in Grimsby on the 2nd. Yet again, Mr Staniford has changed his planned schedule. It seems that stores were only visited on the Wirral, where Mr Staniford lives and in Grimsby where Mr Stanford has spearheaded a campaign against a planned land based farmed. Despite the claims of widespread local opposition to the farm, the photos of his visit suggest that none appear to have turned up to support Mr Staniford on his tour.

Of course, if Mr Staniford was truly honest, he would have cited the location of every store he had visited together with associated photos. However, as most supermarkets look alike, the photos could have been taken anywhere. There is no proof that he has visited the supermarkets he planned to have visited. What is clear from the photos he has posted is that they are just a photo opportunity rather than a determined protest. It appears that shoppers have shown no interest in the images that Mr Staniford wants them to see.  Equally, the lack of support for his tour from those who claim to support him would suggest that that he remains a relatively lone voice.


Ocean Rebellion: Last week Ocean Rebellion protested outside Fishmongers Hall demanding that there be no more fish farms in the sea. Two performers from the organisation performed a bizarre game called Pink Pong, a game created to draw attention to the terrible cruelty of the Scottish salmon industry, who they claim with the backing of the RSPCA are exposing salmon to horrific tortures and polluting the pristine waters of Scotland.

The two performers were accompanied by two other members carrying a banner stating no more MSC lies. This was because the MSC and ASC were holding their annual awards dinner at the hall. What the MSC has directly to do with salmon farming is not so clear.

Yet again, here is a protest consisting of just four people, hardly what might be described as a major event. Interestingly, Ocean Rebellion’ criticism of salmon farming is sourced from Wild Fish. This is a case of one badly informed organisation supplying another badly informed organisation with supposed accurate information. It is also worth remembering that Wild Fish’s membership are already expert at torturing salmon by catching them with a hook in the mouth and dragging them around the water until exhaustion allows them to be landed on a riverbank.

Ocean Rebellion’s reference to the MSC could be because the MSC approve and certify ‘overfishing’ and allegedly allow salmon farms to profit from the destruction of the world’s fish populations. Salmon farming appears to be the scapegoat for all overfishing both for human consumption as well as by other animals for example, the 3 million tonnes plus that goes to feed pet cats.

Sadly, Ocean Rebellion are simply peddling the misinformation supplied by other groups following their own blinkered agendas. Four people are hardly representative of anyone.


Scientist: New Scientist is a well-respected weekly popular science magazine widely sold in the UK. However, whether this magazine should be renamed to reflect the publication of a column which lacked any science at all is open to question. The subject of the column was of course salmon farming. It was written by Graham Lawton, a staff writer at New Scientist who is also author of “Mustn’t Grumble: the surprising science of everyday ailments”. His column was titled ‘Something smells fishy’ in which he said that although he knew that there were problems with sea farmed salmon but after seeing the damage inflected by life in an ocean pen, he says he will never buy it again.

The damage he saw was on one farmed salmon that had escaped from a salmon farm in Iceland. Its fins were ragged, and its tail stunted while one of its eyes had been eaten away almost to the bone. He writes that even in this bedraggled state, a fish will end up on the plates of consumers.

However, Mr Lawton did not just happen across this one fish. He was in Iceland as a guest of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia who had organised and funded a press trip for selected journalists to highlight the harms of open net salmon farms. During their trip they met with Jón Kaldal of the Icelandic Wildlife Fund and Elver Friòriksson of the conservation group the North Atlantic Salmon Fund.

Mr Kaldal told the journalists that ‘It’s a monstrous way to produce food’ saying that the time salmon spend in the pens is an ordeal. He continued that ‘this is factory farming’ and ‘it’s not sustainable’. He went on to say that it is possible to farm salmon without trashing the environment and torturing the fish using land-based farming.

Although Mr Lawton lists a number of undesirable issues caused by salmon farming, much of his column is devoted to sea lice. Mr Kaldal says that wild salmon might have one or two lice, but many farmed ones are riddled with them. Mr Friòriksson adding that some fish are so badly affected by lice that large patches of skin get eaten away entirely. None of this is supported by any scientific evidence. It is simply the usual ranting of angler led organisations (the Icelandic Wildlife Fund appears to be only interested in migratory fish rather than wildlife in general and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund is certainly interested in protecting salmon for anglers).

Neither Mr Lawton nor his fellow journalists actually got to see a salmon farm. They were due to visit Arctic Salmon, but the company cancelled at the last minute and instead offered a spokesman who said that the company accepts that there are problems in the industry but that they comply with all its environmental and welfare obligations and currently has a mortality rate of around 5%.

Of course, a mountain of activist claims regularly appears in the mainstream press, but New Scientist is a science-based magazine and the fact that a whole page is given over to a trip to Iceland paid for by a highly misinformed outdoor clothes company with their own agenda does New Scientist no credit. In my experience, Patagonia, like many other critics are not actually interested in the science because it doesn’t support their blinkered narrative.