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LETTER: 'The seafood industry is picking a fight with the wrong people'

Bashing vegans is easy -- but they're not the real problem.

The following letter was sent to IntraFish in response to Dominic Welling's recent column on fighting "fake fish", from Blake Lee-Harwood, programs division director at the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP). Lee-Harwood leads SFP's Strategy, Communications and Analysis Division.

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Dear Dominic,

Congratulations on a well-written and witty broadside against the menace of rampant veganism but I think IntraFish has honestly missed the point here. In fact maybe several points, for instance:

Get ready to fight fake fish

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Two of the prime drivers for veganism are environmental sustainability and animal welfare - both high profile issues which go completely unacknowledged in the article.

Many retailers and fisheries have a good environmental story to tell but some don't, and we need to hear far more about how the industry is promoting ocean conservation and providing a very low carbon protein which far out-competes beef and pork in terms of climate change. And where is the acknowledgment of welfare issues in the seafood industry? Completely non-existent! Sooner or later customers are going to wonder why farmed fish get welfare standards but wild fish go completely unprotected.

Secondly, it's very unlikely that anyone bringing more "fish-like" products to market is going to put real seafood out of business -- it will simply expand the market and audience for foods that taste like they have a marine origin. I've never met anyone in the seafood industry who thought new aquaculture products were going to put wild caught seafood out of business, so why is it different with vegan products? This whole "fake fish" trend will have the overall effect of expanding the market for marine, or "marine-like," foods.

Lastly, the seafood industry is simply picking a fight with the wrong people if it tries to bash vegans. Your article identifies a mere 1.16 percent of the UK population as vegans -- how does that compare with the percentage of people who don't buy fish because it seems too difficult to cook? It wasn't the poor old vegans who put the squeeze on seafood, it was the global mega industries of chicken, beef and pork. You would do better to start running attack adverts on beef farming than bashing up the veggie crew. This whole anti-vegan thing is completely misguided and attacks totally the wrong targets.

The seafood industry has to compete in a global marketplace and deliver tasty, healthy and convenient food to consumers and it does that job pretty well (with some room for improvement). But it doesn't have an automatic monopoly on how other proteins market themselves and if I want to buy a fake swordfish steak made out of reconstituted turnips then I should be free to do so; and if a retailer wants to put that next to the seafood aisle to make it easier for me to find then that's OK too.

Come on guys, play fair with your veggie competitors and let them into your trade shows. Are you really scared of a carrot?

Best wishes,

Blake Lee-Harwood

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