By Nick Joy
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