By Nick Joy

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

AS salmon farm­ing goes through an­other pe­riod where per­cep­tion over­rules re­al­ity, maybe it is time we spent a lit­tle more time think­ing about how we are seen rather than what the real pic­ture is. I am not sug­gest­ing that we should not try to ex­plain our po­si­tion, but that we should look much more closely at how we are ex­plain­ing it.

Salmon farm­ers and aqua­cul­tur­al­ists are just as prone to jar­gon as the next in­dus­try but some of ours is patently id­i­otic.

If you pro­duce qual­ity food then it is in­evitable that you will have railed at the un­in­formed con­sumer. But we buy a much wider range of foods these days, from the pri­mary to the pro­cessed, and the av­er­age con­sumer can­not know each and ev­ery re­quire­ment for each item of food, if you think about the sheer vol­ume of in­for­ma­tion re­quired.

So it be­hoves us, as the pro­duc­ers, to ex­plain what we do well and ac­cu­rately.

For more than 40 years, the is­sue of bat­tery chick­ens has been raised.The im­age of chick­ens un­able to turn around in a cage for their en­tire life is at best un­pleas­ant and at worst dis­gust­ing. For over 20 years I have re­fused chick­ens).

Now we hit the nub of the mat­ter.The is­sue that be­dev­ils chick­ens is caged farm­ing.The use of cages is an ex­tremely emo­tive is­sue.An­i­mals kept in cages in zoos up­set peo­ple.

The word ‘cage’ never, ever has a pos­i­tive con­no­ta­tion. So please ex­plain to me why an in­dus­try so be­dev­illed by bad press can­not get rid of this de­scrip­tor?

I be­gan to re­alise how id­i­otic the use of this word was when a Swiss cus­tomer was try­ing to write a stan­dard for salmon farm­ing and in­cluded the words ‘salmon shall not be reared in me­tal cages’.

This was a guy who bought farmed salmon! If he didn’t know, then what must the poor be­fud­dled con­sumer think?

It’s not as though there aren’t bet­ter words, but we seem to be at­tached to this one. Maybe con­ven­tional cat­tle farm­ers should de­scribe their en­clo­sures as prison camps.

dam­aged by rub­bing on them.We look out for pro­jec­tions or ob­struc­tions

such that they have the op­ti­mum health con­di­tions.We strive ev­ery day to

Then hav­ing spent all this time and ef­fort we of­fer those who don’t like us the words ‘caged salmon’. I mean, with the great­est of re­spect to all of those in this in­dus­try, how dumb is that? So let’s try some new nomen­cla­ture: You use medicines not ther­a­peu­tants. I could go on and on. I am not say­ing this will change the world overnight, but it will take away some easy shots from our op­po­nents.

Ev­ery­thing you do is for the op­ti­mum wel­fare and health of your an­i­mals. You fail, as ev­ery farmer does.We fail be­cause an­i­mals aren’t ro­bots and we grow them in an open and var­ied en­vi­ron­ment.

The prob­lem that un­der­lies most crit­i­cism of our in­dus­try (apart from the angling lobby) is the de­luded idea that an­i­mals live a pris­tine won­der­ful life in na­ture.

The de­duc­tion from this is that if we just left it all alone, it would all be per­fect and there would be won­der­ful wel­fare.

It takes al­most no time to de­bunk this sort of think­ing. In the wild, only the re­place­ment rate with a lit­tle added sur­vive to adult­hood in all species.

What hap­pens to all of the oth­ers? Are they gen­tly eu­thanased? Of course not; they be­come food for other species and of­ten die hor­ri­bly.

In farm­ing, hugely greater num­bers sur­vive, though some­times we get it wrong and a big mor­tal­ity oc­curs. It hap­pens of­ten in agri­cul­ture, too, but the pub­lic un­der­stand and are used to that.

So when you think about your ad­vert or you are speak­ing to the pub­lic, sup­pli­ers or cus­tomers, can we drop this out-of-date, in­ac­cu­rate use of the word ‘cage’ be­cause it feeds the sort of think­ing I have de­scribed above. We need to stop shoot­ing our­selves in the foot be­fore we en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion for pub­lic


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