Above: Two piglets rescued from the bacon industry.
It’s true, I am one of those radical extremist, protein deprived hippies that will only wear toms and drinks filtered water. Well actually I would never be seen dead in toms, but the rest is true. Although I never judge others or try to turn them into a vegan by sucking their blood, I am dam proud to be a vegan. Many times this has lead to heated discussion, something about announcing your a vegan sparks a desire in everyone to attack you, and I get it, no one wants to he hear that everything they were raised to do and believe is wrong. Before I was vegan (which initially only happened because someone was able to relate it to being good for sharks), I used to be on the other side of those arguments. However lets remember, many of us didn’t know shark fin soup had such a deadly origin, and now that we know, we would never dream of eating shark fin soup. Well, I am about to make that connection to the land animals you eat, not just the livestock themselves, but what they are fed.
Livestock that provides you with your beef, pork, chicken, dairy, eggs etc, are fed fishmeal. Fishmeal is typically produced from prey fish, which are small schooling fish that are ecologically important as prey for large predatory fish like sharks, seabirds and whales. It makes up about a third of the global catch of fish (30 million metric tons per year). Fishmeal is made by cooking, pressing, drying, and grinding of fish or fish waste. It is a solid product from which most of the water is removed and some or all of the oil is removed. Four or five tonnes of fish are needed to manufacture one tonne of dry fishmeal. Millions of tons of fish are fed to livestock and even farmed fish through this process every year.
Not only is fishmeal responsible for bycatch of sharks, sharks are also used to make fishmeal. A fisheries survey showed that little-known species of sharks, especially deep-water species, are being taken in fisheries at least as bycatch and at the minimum are being processed for fishmeal and liver oil. In addition to this the large harvesting of smaller fish is attributing to a decrease in the population of the food chain foundation, and the unavoidable bycatch of sharks in their fishing methods of harvesting fishmeal species is another factor. As much as 5,000,000 tonnes of fish were being used for fishmeal, livestock and aquaculture feed by 2001. That figure includes the entire catch of small pelagic fish used for fishmeal which is considered bycatch because they are caught indiscriminately with extremely high rates of juveniles in the catch.
By 1999, the catch of low-value pelagic fish consisted primarily of juveniles, and the biomass was reported to be in very serious decline. The demand for this product is effecting local human populations of the origin countries of these fish, and the oceans.
"Thirty million tons – or 36 per cent – of the world's total fisheries catch each year is currently ground up into fishmeal and oil to feed farmed fish, chickens and pigs," world-renowned fishery researcher and co-author, Daniel Pauly, told the University of British Colombia.
"Twenty-five per cent of infants in Peru—which produces half of the world's fishmeal using anchovies—are malnourished," says Pauly.
At the end of the day; if you really do want to devote your life to the oceans; and help them in every way possible; go vegan. It is amazing that when I am on dive boats the fellow passengers are so quick to jump at me and accuse me of being a hippy or a greenie and give me all kinds of arguments and concerns for my health; but in a world like ours; you need to do your research, and I did mine. Predatory fish populations have dropped 90 percent since the 1950s, and eating land animals causes problems for marine life, its that simple.
Even the least ocean orientated of us knows not to eat bluefin tuna, or certain unsustainable fish, but the death of a shark through bycatch in the fishmeal harvesting process is no different to the death of one to become flake. So if your going to eat steak, why not chuck in a nice piece of that beautiful shark you just ‘liked’ about 100 photos of on facebook? If your facebook cover photo is a shark, and you love them so much you cried in one of my films, and you have dreams of being behind the wheel as Colin Barnett is crossing a walkway, then how could you possibly think its ok to eat seafood where the bycatch is sharks, or steak, which was once a cow, a cow once fed fishmeal, the trawlers of which dragged a few sharks onboard in the process.
In addition to vast amounts of wild-caught fish being fed to livestock on land, mostly pigs and chickens, in order to produce meat and eggs for human consumption, pollution is an issue. Runoff and waste from factory farms kill fish and other marine life and contaminate our drinking water. These are facts, not opinions. And most of all, we live in a world where we can be healthy, in fact healthier, without the chemicals, marketing scams, high protein and thus liver damaging, preservative rich diets of meat and dairy. In fact, vegans have the highest life expectancy of all diets (that excludes accidents from our rad lifestyles of rock-climbing, base jumping, animal liberation and shark diving). The ocean is my everything, its what I was raised in; and when I learn that the livestock I consumed and the products from that livestock was often polluting oceans; or fed on seafood, I immediately made that connection and met my concerns with a change in diet. Its not a hard thing to do; because even in our wonderful Australia, injustices are everywhere; and it only takes a little bit or research to open the flaws that run through our society. You can partake in and normalize everyday activity and not understand the massive impact it has on the environment. Look at krill oil; you could be taking your supplement and watching beautiful whales on the television not linking the two; not understanding that your eating that whales food, or aware of the fact not one krill harvesting vessel has to answer to anyone about their methods or sustainability of their practice, meanwhile scientist warn we are ridding the oceans of its krill.
We all walk around saying we love the oceans, I used to do it, saying I would risk my life for my cause’, and I think back now and go all I needed to do was change my diet, and I could so simply be making a huge difference. There is nothing in my mind that thinks its wrong to eat meat, unfortunately I’m not a very good hunter due to my entire body turning into a pile of marshmallows around something even slightly cute, if I could hunt my own food, maybe id eat meat. What’s wrong with the consumption of these products now is how they are created, raised, killed and marketed to us, fed from our oceans food chain. You don’t eat shark fin soup because of shark finning, but the consumption of a steak, or bacon sandwich, which relies on the process of fishing for fishmeal, is just another cruel death of a shark, hidden behind a long process, and it is for that reason, I will defend veganism, the way I do sharks.
An interesting segment from Captain Paul Watson
“A few years ago I attended a dinner meeting of the American Oceans Campaign hosted by Ted Danson. He opened the dinner by saying that the choice he had to make was between fish and chicken for the dinner, and what was the point of saving fish if you can't eat them?Guest speaker, Oceanographer Sylvia Earle put Ted in his place by saying she did not think that he was being very funny. She said that she considered fish to be her friends and she did not believe in eating her friends. So neither Sylvia nor I ate dinner that night. We have turned the domestic cow into the largest marine predator on the planet. The hundreds of millions of cows grazing the land and farting methane consume more tonnage of fish than all the world's sharks, dolphins and seals combined. Domestic housecats consume more fish, especially tuna, than all the world's seals.”
"Globally, pigs and chickens alone consume six times the amount of seafood as US consumers and twice that of Japan,".
"Ultimately these farm animals have a greater impact on our seafood supplies than the most successful seafood certification program."
Jennifer Jacquet, post-doctoral fellow at the UBC’s Fisheries Centre.