So as a student of Food Development and Innovation, I spend a lot of time focusing on food trends and creating products to match consumer desires. Increasingly though, the impact of the commercial food industry on the environment is coming under scrutiny.
Food is probably the largest industry on the planet if you include every step of the process – according to the World Economic Forum, the food industry creates around 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This isn’t really surprising, as food is both an essential necessity and a luxury and forms a huge part of our cultures and lifestyle.
Britain has an incredibly global food culture and we can always expect affordable food from halfway around the world to be in the supermarket all year round. This is great for us, as it means we can pay less for a banana grown in Columbia than an apple grown in Britain. However, it also distances us from the ingredients, we don’t often consider where it comes from and who is profiting from this system. But to combat this confusion, we depend on labels and stickers to assure us that our food is produced fairly, responsibly or sustainably, such as Rainforest Alliance coffee, Fairtrade bananas and fish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.
And this is where Seaspiracy comes in. While the documentary features lots of shocking footage of dolphin hunts, the Faroese Grind and the Shark Fin trade, these are all things I’ve been aware of for years and have seen in other documentaries which aren’t so sensationalised and reliant on tropes. There’s a Stacey Dooley documentary from 2020 on The Grind which is a traditional form of whaling in the Faroe Islands that looks at the practice from more angles and more objectively for example.
But the claim in Seaspiracy that dolphin-safe tuna is essentially a lie and is used just to increase trawling the oceans and clearing out habitats really shocked me. The Marine Stewardship Council have responded to the documentary disputing some of the claims. Online I haven’t really seen anything objective to prove or disprove either side on the specifics. But both the documentary and the Marine Stewardship Council agree that out relationship with seafood and sea life needs to change.
I’m also incredibly wary of the way certain food cultures are classed as essential and others evil by the documentary. Millions of people worldwide and many in Britain live in coastal communities that rely on fishing and I definitely think that it’s something worth protecting. A consumer switch to veganism is what the documentary is promoting – after watching it I’m definitely not convinced that I’m ever gonna do that, however I do want to restrict my eating of seafood. My grandparents live in Bridlington in East Yorkshire which is England’s largest lobster catching port. you can walk to the harbour and see the lobster pots being set out and collected and see the boats which gather them. It’s an industry that has taken place there for hundreds of years and it can hopefully continue for hundreds more. So personally, I’m happy to enjoy seafood when I know where it comes from and I don’t believe it to be destroying the ocean, but I’m no longer going to be buying fish regularly for the low cost I’m used to. For fish to be caught in a way that is not demolishing entire habitats, I don’t think it can be sold as cheaply as it currently is.
I really recommend that you watch the documentary. I’m a incredibly sceptical person so I ended up reading up on all the accuracies/inaccuracies afterwards. It’s always important to view things from other angles and although I think the documentary is very flawed, I do think it’s a wake up call we all need.
Have a great week,
Seaspiracy, available on Netflix
Stacey Dooley investigates The Grind, available on BBC3
Food Industry and Greenhouse Emissions: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Net_Zero_Challenge_The_Supply_Chain_Opportunity_2021.pdf
BBC fact check for Seaspiracy: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/56660823
Marine Stewardship Council response: https://www.msc.org/media-centre/news-opinion/news/2021/03/26/response-to-netflix-seaspiracy-film