In 2019, Animal Outlook released the first-ever undercover exposé of salmon aquaculture in the U.S.
Our investigator worked inside Cooke Aquaculture in Bingham, Maine, exposing senseless violence against these sentient animals at an industrial Atlantic salmon hatchery supplying Martha Stewart’s new True North Seafood line.
The groundbreaking video takes you beneath the surface of fish factory farming and reveals putrid conditions, rampant disease and widespread cruelty to fish intensively crowded in barren tanks.
The plight of fish often goes unseen and unheard, but our new exposé brings to light the dire lack of protection for millions of animals raised for food.
In light of climate change and environmental threats, many people are rightly worried about our oceans. Our investigation reveals the cost of the massive demand for fish: Extreme factory farming. Working inside Cooke Aquaculture, our investigator witnessed shocking conditions with consequences for both farmed fish and consumers.
Update: In April 2022, the judge in our lawsuit wrote that the cruelty we described was "grotesque and reprehensible," though she dismissed the case for procedural reasons.
Key Date: Court rejects Cooke’s attempts to dismiss lawsuit on June 24, 2021
Cooke filed four separate motions trying to escape the lawsuit Animal Outlook filed against it in 2020, but on June 24, 2021, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ruled against Cooke on all four motions. Our lawsuit, which aims to stop Cooke from continuing to mislead and deceive consumers into purchasing its products, is now proceeding toward trial.
Key Date: Lawsuit filed on June 28, 2020
On June 28, 2020, Animal Outlook, represented by the Richman Law Group, filed a lawsuit against Cooke Aquaculture for misleading and deceptive advertising in violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection and Procedures Act. The lawsuit alleges that Cooke’s advertisements that its practices are “sustainable” and “ecologically sound,” and that its salmon are “naturally raised” under “optimal” animal welfare standards constitute false advertising.
Cooke filed four separate motions trying to kill the case, but the court ruled against it on every one. On June 24, 2021, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia denied all four motions, and the case is now proceeding toward trial.
The lawsuit follows the 2019 release of Animal Outlook’s investigation into Cooke Aquaculture’s salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine, the first-ever undercover investigation of salmon aquaculture in the United States. Our investigation revealed conditions far from “sustainable” or “natural,” including workers slamming, stomping, and slamming fish into concrete; improper veterinary practices; and filthy conditions, including fish with spinal deformities and fungal growths.
Our investigation is far from the first time Cooke has found itself in legal trouble for its irresponsible aquaculture practices which directly contradict its advertising claims. Fines and settlements totaling millions of dollars for violations of laws across multiple states, including the catastrophic release of 250,000 non-native salmon in Washington state, numerous permit violations in Maine and the illegal discharge of pollutants in multiple locations, have plagued Cooke over the past few years.
Cooke’s industrial aquaculture practices are a far cry from the wholesome, responsible image of “sustainable farming” that it actively portrays. Our lawsuit aims to stop Cooke from continuing to mislead and deceive consumers into purchasing its products.
“The science on fish sentience is clear: fish have the capacity to suffer and feel pain.”
Aquaculture: A Sea of Suffering Photos
Our shocking video illuminates the truth of how these animals are forced to live. Carelessly and cruelly handled, the way fish are treated would be considered unconscionable if they were a dog or even a bird. Despite having a similar ability to feel pain as mammals and other animals, fish do not receive the same protection or consideration.
Our undercover video reveals:
• Workers’ abusive handling of fish, including slamming and stomping on fish, and violently throwing fish, including treating them like basketballs and performing “trick shots”
• Workers cruelly killing fish by slamming them on the ground
• Underfed, hungry fish mistaking the pupils of other fishes' eyes for food and eating them
• Ineffective anesthetization during vaccination and fin clipping
• Fish thrown into buckets and left to suffocate in piles of dead and dying fish
• Conditions so filthy that fish must be vaccinated
• Painful spinal deformities and fungus growth on fish intended for human consumption, including fungus eating away at the faces of the fish
• Extreme crowding in barren conditions and high death rates of eggs and fish
This investigation also revealed haunting insight from workers at the hatchery, with one saying, "It really bummed me out killing fish like we do. 'Cause they just suffocate. It's so rough. Over the years you kinda get desensitized."
While the aquaculture industry sells itself as a solution to the state of our overfished oceans, there’s a big catch: Millions of farmed fish are subjected to conditions at industrial aquaculture facilities like the one we investigated, where we found widespread cruelty: Fish being slammed, stomped on and thrown long distances, in addition to languishing inside filthy tanks where they are overcrowded and underfed. It’s long past time the fish farming industry is held accountable for the suffering it’s forcing upon animals.
• November 1, 2022 - One Green Planet : Petition: Call on the U.K. to Extend its Animal Welfare Laws to Fisheries
• September 23, 2022 - Spectrum Local News : State rejects animal welfare petition to better regulate fish farms
• August 11, 2022 - Spectrum Local News : Citing a ‘troubling vacuum in oversight’ animal welfare groups call for new rules to govern fish farms
• June 9, 2022 - SalmonBusiness : False-advertising lawsuit against Cooke Aquaculture dismissed
• June 9, 2022 - Infrafish: Judge dismissed deceptive farmed salmon marketing lawsuit against Cooke
• June 8, 2022 - SeafoodSource.com: Sustainability lawsuit against Cooke dismissed, animal welfare group exploring legal options
• August 25, 2021 - Our Hen House: "ANIMAL LAW PODCAST #75: THE CASE OF THE SUFFERING SALMON FT. PIPER HOFFMAN AND JAY SHOOSTER"
• August 5, 2021 - One Green Planet: "GMO Fish are Not the Answer to Overfishing"
• August 2, 2021 - One Green Planet: "The Environmental and Public Health Impact of Commercial Fish Farming"
• July 29, 2021 - One Green Planet: "Automatic Fish Speed Cleaning Machines” Gut Fish Alive"
• July 2, 2021 - Seafoodsource.com: "Judge denies Cooke’s motions to dismiss sustainability, animal welfare claims lawsuit"
• July 1, 2021 - Intrafish.com: "Cooke unable to quash lawsuit over 'deceptive marketing practices'"
• March 2, 2021 - Vox: "The next frontier for animal welfare: Fish"
• November 12, 2020 - One Green Planet: "The Environmental and Public Health Impact of Commercial Fish Farming"
• December 12, 2019 - Radio Canada International: "Aquaculture giant Cooke escapes sanctions in Maine"
• December 11, 2019 - Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: "N.B. seafood giant won't be disciplined after animal cruelty investigation"
• November 22, 2019 - Maine Public Radio: "State Investigators Say They Won't Pursue Further Action Against Cooke Aquaculture"
• November 22, 2019 - SeafoodSource: "Maine, GAA conclude audits into Cooke’s Bingham facility, accused by vegan activist group of cruelty animals"
• November 23, 2019 - Bangor Daily News: "Fish cruelty allegations prompt changes at Bingham salmon hatchery"
• October 11, 2019 - VegNews: "Undercover investigation exposes cruelty at Martha Stewart-backed salmon farm"
• October 9, 2019 - The Animal Reader: "Undercover footage shows extreme suffering at salmon factory in Maine"
• October 9, 2019 - Huddle: "Cooke Aquaculture Apologizes For Incidents At Fish Hatchery"
• October 8, 2019 - The Guardian: "Seafood company under investigation after allegations of animal abuse"
• October 8, 2019 - Mainebiz: "After undercover video shows fish mistreatment, owner of Bingham aquaculture site apologizes"
• October 8, 2019 - NBC News Maine: "Hatchery investigated after hidden camera shows salmon abuse"
• October 8, 2019 - AP: "Hatchery investigated after hidden camera shows salmon abuse"
• October 8, 2019 - Veganista: "First-Ever Undercover Investigation at Fish Factory Farm Reveals Sadistic Abuse"
• October 8, 2019 - National Fisherman: "Undercover activists claim animal abuse at Maine salmon hatchery"
• October 8, 2019 - VegWorld Magazine: "First-ever undercover footage of salmon aquaculture finds cruel and filthy world"
• October 7, 2019 - Salmon Business: "Disturbing undercover video shows animal cruelty at Cooke salmon hatchery: 'We are not happy about this'"
• October 7, 2019 - Undercurrent News: "Glenn Cooke ‘saddened’ by animal welfare complaint, hidden video at salmon hatchery"
• October 7, 2019 - Seafood Source: "Undercover video of Cooke salmon hatchery in Maine reveals animal welfare issues"
• October 7, 2019 - IntraFish: "US aquaculture association decries 'malicious, unacceptable' practices depicted in Cooke salmon video"
• October 7, 2019 - Yahoo News Canada: "N.B. seafood giant vows change after hidden camera shows 'unacceptable' treatment of salmon"
• October 7, 2019 - Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: "N.B. seafood giant vows change after hidden camera shows 'unacceptable' treatment of salmon"
• October 7, 2019 - Bangor Daily News: "State investigating Bingham salmon hatchery for alleged animal cruelty"
• October 7, 2019 - Maine Public Radio: "Farmed Salmon Company Apologizes After Video Surfaces Of Maine Workers Mishandling Fish"
• October 7, 2019 - Morning Sentinel: "Bingham aquaculture facility kept fish in cruel, unsanitary conditions, group says"
• October 7, 2019 -Sentient Media: "Suffering by the Millions at Atlantic Salmon Hatchery"
• October 7, 2019 - Lady FreeThinker: "New investigation reveals the 'cruel and filthy' world of salmon farming"
Fish Farming 101
Just as billions of land animals suffer inside factory farms, so too do farmed fish.
Often crowded by the tens of thousands in filthy tanks, farmed fish often succumb to disease.
The impacts of the putrid conditions in these factory farms can spill into the already imperiled oceans, too, affecting wild fish populations.
Though sometimes we can feel as though fish are far removed from us beneath the waves, these sentient animals feel pain too, and they are vastly more intelligent than they’re often given credit for.
Fish are sensitive, intelligent animals, able to feel pain, fear and stress. In fact, many fish use tools and even recognize themselves in mirrors, a measure used by scientists to determine self-awareness. In fact, human children tend to fail the test until 1.5 to 2 years old. Like other animals, fish are sentient, and their pain sensors are remarkably similar to ours -- in fact, our ability to feel pain is likely derived from one of our fish-like ancestors.
Fish, like dogs, cats and people, need space to live, play, exercise and socialize. In hatcheries like Cooke Aquaculture, they are instead crammed into overcrowded tanks, unable to exhibit natural behaviors.
Martha Stewart’s True North Line
Cooke Aquaculture farms and raises Atlantic salmon to be sold under its marketing branch, True North Seafood—which recently partnered with homemaking icon Martha Stewart to supply salmon for her new seafood line.
Martha Stewart, a self-proclaimed animal lover, shared that she’s happy to partner with True North because the company touts sustainable practices and claims to care about its community. As the world’s major wild fish populations have been cut in half since 1970, commercial fishing is clearly unsustainable for our future. Yet Animal Outlook’s footage reveals just why factory farming fish is not the solution.
Luckily, millions of consumers are realizing that the best way to help fish and to keep our bodies and oceans healthy is by leaving animal products out of our shopping carts and off of our plates.
After being contacted about the investigation, Cory Baker, COO of Marquee Brands (which owns the Martha Stewart True North Line) replied right away, stating that the company will open its own investigation immediately and is committed to "sustainability and of course ensuring cruelty-free practices."
The only way for Martha Stewart to cut out cruelty from her salmon line is to drop it completely. Please join us today in urging Martha Stewart to stand up for sea animals by ending her True North salmon partnership and instead pave the way to the future of food by investing in a plant-based seafood alternative.
Scaling Back on Seafood
Ocean fishing is dangerous for all marine animals and our planet, but factory farming fish is not the answer. You can protect fish, the planet and yourself by giving up seafood in your diet once and for all.
Make an impact today by saying “no” to this cruel industry and replacing your next seafood meal with one of these more compassionate options.
Not many people know about the cruel reality of fish farming, but now you do. The next step is easy: Share this information. With just a few clicks, you can expose one more person to this cruelty and do your part in crafting a more compassionate world.
So tell a friend--then tell Martha Stewart. By signing our petition, you can urge her not to support cruelty and cut ties with True North and Cooke Aquaculture.
And cut ties with the entire fish industry - the best way to help animals is to leave them off your plates and out of your shopping carts. Make the commitment today to stop eating animals and help others do the same: TryVeg.com.