The following is a thoughtful post from our friend and Christian author William Kruidenier on the question of eating fish in general, and industrially farmed salmon in particular ...
More than once, I have been asked by people who learn that I'm a "vegetarian" (vegan), "Do you not even eat fish?" As an organic gardener who peruses numerous seed catalogs every year, I can't remember ever seeing seeds for a bush, vine, or tree that grows fish. Why do people think vegetarians eat fish? Or, why do people think fish are any less a form of meat than a cow or chicken? Out of sight (beneath the surface of the water), out of mind, I guess. I have been interested to read recently that new scientific research is showing that fish are every bit as sentient as land-based animals whose sentiency is finally being widely acknowledged.
It's not unusual among some meat eaters to think they are acting somehow more responsibly, if not nobly, by eating "fish"—and especially salmon. (I know; I used to think that way.) It's another example of fact vs. fantasy, people being disconnected from the source of their food. What most salmon eaters don't know is that the fish on their plate has been raised in a factory farm every bit as disgusting as the CAFO's (Confined/Contained Animal Feeding Operations) in which cattle are raised, and the factory farm houses in which chickens and pigs are raised (those raised by commercial operators).
Unless you live in Alaska, Canada, the Scandinavian nations, or Scotland or Ireland, and are catching your own salmon in the icy rivers of those countries, you are not eating the romantic, pink-hued, wild salmon you think you are. You're eating a fish that was raised in a murky pen submerged in the waters off the coast of one of these countries (and others) and fed pink dye to turn its flesh pink like wild salmon (whose flesh turns pink from eating natural plankton in the wild), doused with chemicals to kill sea lice and cure anemia, and fed a chemically-based fake-food designed to fatten the fish for market as quickly as possible. And all the fish's waste, and the residue from the chemicals, flows right through the pens into the open ocean. The ocean bottoms beneath these floating cesspools are deserts, devoid of normal aquaculture life forms, both plant and animal.
Because these fish-farm pens are located on the coasts of nations in whose rivers wild salmon spawn, they are on the migratory routes of the wild salmon. The sea lice that infest the fish pens and decimate the stocks of penned salmon (and multiply rapidly in the artificial environment of the pens) also attach themselves to the wild salmon migrating nearby, and now the rapidly-shrinking wild salmon populations of the world are being decimated as well.
Like land-based CAFO's, these sea-based CAFO's are an environmental disaster. Human beings have an amazing capacity to bungle the natural systems that have ebbed and flowed successfully for millennia.
For me, the problem is two-fold: Treating sentient beings as commodities to satisfy the palates of taste-based, appetite-driven humans, and the environmental disaster that is being created in the name of profit. (One British Columbia expert in the following video notes that salmon is "not a staple food.")
The following four videos are a 20-minute film (broken into four segments), released in 2009, on the problem of ocean-based salmon fisheries, and the refusal of two giant companies, that control most of the operations, to clean up their act. It is not a sensationalistic film like some "animal rights" films are. It is science-based and thoroughly documented.
I'm posting all four segments here to encourage you to watch them one at a time if you don't have 20 minutes to devote to all four. And if you eat salmon, thinking somehow you are sparing other animals a trip to the plate and doing something to lessen the impact of animal agriculture on the planet, you definitely need to watch the videos.
NOTE: This movie was not produced from a vegetarian or animal rights perspective; rather, an environmental perspective. Activists against pen-based ocean farming are lobbying for raising the salmon in enclosed tanks to contain the chemicals and wastes, as you'll see in the fourth segment of the movie. This is obviously not an ultimate solution in that it only addresses one of the two issues I mentioned above, that of environmental damage. But it says nothing about the fish. Breeding sentient beings in a tank instead of a pen is hardly a solution for animals created to follow migratory patterns in the world's oceans and rivers. But since men are stronger than salmon, the fish aren't likely to get a vote.
If you prefer to watch the videos on YouTube, Segment 1 begins here, then you can click on the following three segments.
Segment 4: (be sure to watch this until the end of the credits to see an example of how the Norwegian conglomerates are responding to this issue)
[Thanks to vegan.com for the heads-up on resources for this post.]
(many thanks to William for sharing "Salmon CAFO's," originally posted on his personal blog; videos featured are from the short film Farmed Salmon Exposed: The Global Reach of the Norwegian Salmon Farming Industry, which has an accompanying informational site; photo copyright Anyakin Viacheslav/123rf.com)