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Seafood on the agenda for animal rights activists

Hannah Thompson-Weeman

Vice President of Communications

Animal Agriculture Alliance

Animal rights and vegan activists have been aggressively targeting animal agriculture for years, launching coordinated campaigns against the beef, dairy, poultry, pork and egg industries. Unfortunately, it appears that seafood may be the next protein in the activist crosshairs, and the aquaculture and fishing industries should prepare accordingly. A salmon hatchery was recently targeted by Compassion Over Killing, an extreme animal rights activist group, with an “undercover video” campaign. Now is the time for all involved in seafood production to become familiar with the animal rights movement and prepare for additional activist campaigns.

The 2019 National Animal Rights Conference was held in the Washington, DC area over the summer, and several sessions focused on fish (a noticeable increase in discussion of fish over previous years). In a session titled “Abuse of Aquatic Animals,” speakers from activist organizations Compassion Over Killing and Fish Feel said fish are “the largest category of exploited vertebrate animals.” Commercial fishing was described as “cruel” and “incredibly wasteful” and people were encouraged to go vegetarian in order to save fish from dying. The speaker from Fish Feels called for more activism on behalf of fish, saying “aquatic animals suffer the most out of all farmed animals and receive the least amount of recognition from both the animal rights and animal welfare communities.”

In another session titled, “Fighting for Fishes,” speakers from Fish Feel and United Poultry Concerns said that fish are “misunderstood and abused.” Both fishing and aquaculture were criticized, with speakers claiming that we are overfishing the oceans and farmed fish are abused and skinned alive. The session closed with a call to action for audience members to go vegan, spread the word about how amazing fish are and post comments online about the cruelties of fishing and aquaculture.

These quotes make it clear that animal rights and vegan activist organizations are coming after seafood consumption, and we’re already seeing examples of this in addition to the recent campaign by Compassion Over Killing. Groups like Mercy for Animals have released “undercover video” campaigns targeting fishing, and extreme organization Direct Action Everywhere included aquatic imagery in a recent protest. These tactics will only increase as the activist movement continues to attempt to erode consumer confidence in eating seafood. The Open Philanthropy Project, a grant-providing organization funded by one of the founders of Facebook, has awarded considerable funds to groups who want to target seafood, including $250,000 to Compassion Over Killing for “investigations.”

The aquaculture and fishing industries can learn from prior experiences of the animal agriculture industry and prepare for the following tactics to be employed.

  • Undercover video campaigns. Activist groups will pay people to get hired on farms or fishing operations to capture footage that can be used against the industry. They may take imagery out of context to create images that look alarming to the untrained eye, or if they witness any actual mishandling they won’t stop or report it immediately.
  • Legislative efforts. State legislative measures dictating animal care are often lobbied for by activist organizations and have the potential to impact your ability to provide safe, nutritious and affordable seafood for all. While these measures may sound appealing to consumers or lawmakers without experience in the industry, they usually are not actually beneficial to animal health and wellbeing and are solely intended to drive up costs of production (and therefore food costs, reducing consumers’ ability to purchase animal products).
  • Restaurant/retail pressure. In addition to pushing for legislation, activist groups will pressure food brands to adopt certain supply chain policies with the same goal of making production less efficient and incrementally moving toward veganism. Your restaurant and retail customers may be targeted with social media campaigns, petitions, advertisements, lawsuits and more.
  • Protests/trespassing. Activists will trespass to “rescue” animals, or will hold large and disruptive protests outside of farms and facilities.

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the communication gap between farm and fork with growing membership from the aquaculture and fishing sectors,  strongly recommends that companies involved in farming or catching fish adopt strong security measures. Recommended preparations include installation of gates, fencing, cameras, motion-sensor lighting and locks; implementation of a thorough hiring process including reference checks; procedures for handling unauthorized visitors; and policies for responding to protests. For advice on security and mitigating the threat of animal rights activism, contact the Alliance at 703-562-5160 or

Category: Animal Rights Activism

Tag: Aquaculture,