Judge dismisses Cooke’s motions to dismiss sustainability, animal welfare lawsuit



Cooke Aquaculture’s efforts to dismiss a lawsuit challenging True North’s sustainability claims and Cooke’s animal welfare claims have failed, and the lawsuit is ongoing.

A federal judge in Washington, DC has dismissed four motions to dismiss from Cooke Aquaculture in St. John, New Brunswick, in an attempt to end a lawsuit brought by Animal Outlook, an advocacy group that opposes the breeding of animals.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2020, accuses Cooke Aquaculture, its True North Seafood brand and Wanchese Fish Company of deceiving consumers by falsely claiming to produce salmon using “sustainable”, “natural” methods and “optimal” compliance. animal wellbeing. standards.

“Cooke’s Representations of Sustainability Lead DC Consumers to Believe Its’ Sustainable ‘Farms’ Go Beyond Expectations [its] regulatory requirements ”and its products are“ environmentally sound, ”“ naturally bred, ”and adhere to“ optimal ”animal welfare standards,” Piper Hoffman, senior legal officer for Animal Outlook, told SeafoodSource, citing the complaint .

Cooke is not commenting on the pending litigation, Cooke vice president of public relations Joel Richardson told SeafoodSource.

Animal Outlook – formerly known as Compassion over Killing – said in 2019 he found evidence of animal abuse at the Cooke Aquaculture Salmon Hatchery in Bingham, Maine. The group released a video showing incidents where workers at a salmon hatchery – the group claims it is the Cooke’s Bingham hatchery – killing fish by slamming them to the ground and stepping on them. Maine Department of Agriculture Animal Welfare Division investigated the incident and found that no punitive measures were necessary after the company implemented a number of reforms.

Animal welfare issues are a key part of the lawsuit, but they’re not the only one, Hoffman said.

“The complaint challenges many aspects of Cooke’s advertising, including claims related to the environment, the ‘natural’ nature of the product, as well as animal welfare practices.”

The complaint includes evidence beyond the Bingham, Maine hatchery incident “such as Cooke’s environmental violations in many places even beyond Maine, product testing and other factors. “said Hoffman.

Cooke argued that the case should be dismissed for several reasons. One was that while Animal Outlook seeks an order directing the Cooke defendants to advertise and sell farmed Atlantic salmon in the District of Columbia, Cooke and True North “never targeted the consumers in the district with advertising for farmed Atlantic salmon, and they have never sold such salmon in the district, ”Cooke said in a court filing.

“In other words, Animal Outlook wants the court to order the Cooke defendants to stop doing something they never did,” Cooke said.

Cooke also said that one of the defendants named in the lawsuit, Wanchese Fish Company, does not own and does not own any of the other defendants in this case.

“Its main activity is the processing of scallops and shrimp caught by vessels operating in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters along the east coast, although it processes other fish which are sometimes caught by these ships. She does not raise salmon and does not have any other commercial activity in Maine or on the west coast. “

Only one distributor in the District of Columbia has, in the past, purchased trace amounts of salmon from Wanchese under the True North brand, but Wanchese permanently ceased all such activity before being named as a party to the lawsuit, according to Cooke.

Richman Law and Policy, lawyers for Animal Outlook, have filed a lawsuit against Cooke. Richman is the same company that filed sustainability class actions against Subway and Mowi.

“Producers of animal products are systematically and regularly engaged in false and misleading advertising practices. It is well known that consumers carefully consider breeding and sustainability claims as an important factor in their purchasing decisions, ”said Hoffman.

Producers of animal products are well aware of this and regularly tout so-called animal welfare, environmental or “natural” claims to sell products, Hoffman added.

“These lawsuits aim to promote transparency to combat the consumer deception that contributes to this exploitation,” she said.

Since the sustainability lawsuits began, several seafood suppliers have called Applied Food Technologies, a Florida-based DNA testing lab, to find out how they can be proactive, the president of the seafood company told SeafoodSource. company, LeeAnn Applewhite.

Applewhite suggests that companies offer seafood labeled “sustainable” that is randomly tested to ensure that it is the species the company claims to be.

“If the species we match are on their sustainability list, if they end up in a lawsuit or get appeals, they can do their due diligence. It’s a win-win, ”said Applewhite.

Major seafood companies, including Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea, have Applied Food Technologies regularly test samples of their seafood to ensure it is the exact species that has been imported, Applewhite said. However, the majority of seafood importers and sellers don’t test regularly, Applewhite said.

“Nobody likes to spend money that they don’t have to spend,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


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