Category Archives: Public Perception

Alexandra Morton jumps on the anti-vaccine crazy train with funding campaign that insults donors

Alexandra Morton has just self-shredded any last vestiges of credibility she may have had with her cynical new ad campaign, in which she tells tall tales while pandering to the lowest common denominator of stupidity.

With the two ads shown so far (below) she’s jumped on the anti-vaccine crazy train AND got a first-class ticket in the Food Woo Clown Car up front. Her ads assume that the people who will read them are stupid, gullible suckers. She is insulting the very people from whom she is soliciting donations.

Insult #1: Consequence-free fundraising

The campaign hasn’t launched yet, but she’s panhandling for money through a crowd-funding website. The kind of fundraising site that doesn’t issue tax-deductible receipts for the charitable causes it hosts.

Crowdfunding has a positive place in the charity landscape, but it is also ripe for abuse.

So guess what she’s going to do, suckers. She’s going to fool you. You’ll never know exactly how she spends all the consequence-free cash you’re giving her. She has no obligation to ever tell you. All you have is her word.

There’s no action plan attached to the campaign. The only commitment is to “make a high impact advertising purchase to run a series of ads.”

That could mean anything.

Sure, you might see a few billboards in Vancouver, or a newspaper ad in the Sun. But you’ll never know the true cost of the ad campaign. You’ll never know if she’s pocketed the leftover cash.

Here’s a tip: if you donate, ask her to publish all receipts related to the campaign on her blog. After all, if she’s so trustworthy, she’s got nothing to hide, right?

Insult #2: Anti-vaccine crazy train ad

Oooh, a scary syringe, evoking fears of needles, something unnatural, something BAD!
Oooh, a scary syringe, evoking fears of needles, something unnatural, something BAD!

First of all, look at how this ad is attributed to “Department of Wild Salmon” and the deptwildsallmon.org website. Currently that link forwards to alexandramorton.ca, Morton’s personal website and the heart of this campaign. But isn’t it interesting that if this campaign takes a turn that’s not in her favour, she could simply disconnect that link between the sites? Clever, n’est pas?

Second, the ad implies, through the use of a syringe, that farmed salmon are injected with drugs for delousing.

 WRONG.

Sea lice treatments are provided in feed. Guess a dog food-like pellet doesn’t make for a scary image though.

The only time farmed salmon ever receive injections is when they are vaccinated at the hatchery against common ocean diseases.

Morton knows this. She knows sea lice treatments are given only in feed.

We can only conclude that by attempting to link injections, salmon and scariness, Morton is putting herself in the same camp as anti-vaccine idiots, and she’s doing it wilfully. That’s cynical, and could possibly even be seen as libelous, if anyone feels like getting litigious over these ads.

PS – Organic chickens are vaccinated, too.

Insult #3: “You are what you eat” malarkey

By implying that eating something that eats "unsavory" ingredients, Morton also rules out organic mushrooms, which derive nutrients from horse manure.
By implying that eating something that eats “unsavory” ingredients is bad, Morton also rules out organic mushrooms, which derive nutrients from horse manure.

Yes, salmon feed can contain protein from hogs. So what? Mushrooms grow in horse manure. And guess what. Organic poultry eat feed that includes fishmeal. Chickens would never eat fish in the “wild,” so if farmed salmon eating hog and chicken protein is bad, then so is organic chicken eating anything but bugs and grass.

Salmon convert pork protein into salmon protein. Mushrooms convert manure nutrients into mushrooms. It doesn’t mean that if you eat mushrooms you are eating manure (unless you don’t wash them) and it doesn’t mean that if you eat salmon you are eating pork.

You are NOT what you eat, unless you break it down to the very basic levels of proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Morton is banking on the ignorance of the general public when it comes to farming animals, nutrition and food. Ignorance is one thing, which is easily corrected. But Morton is also banking on the hopes that her audience will be too stupid and gullible to carefully consider her claims.

That’s the insult.

Insult #4: Implying negative health consequences

In the text on her crowdfunding page, Morton stops short of saying that eating farmed salmon is bad for your health, because she knows there’s no proof for that statement (but plenty to the opposite). But you can tell she really wants to when she says “Meanwhile controversy is boiling over in Norway on the health risks of eating farmed salmon echoed by the premier US business news service Bloomberg.

But that’s not true, either. The Scientific Steering Committee of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety recently published nearly 300 pages of independent, unbiased research showing that seafood, including farmed salmon, is safe to eat regularly for all ages.

There’s hardly a controversy. Unless one or two unqualified people disagreeing with hundreds of qualified people counts as “controversy.”

If you want to give money to this woman, it’s your wallet. But beware. She’s showing an alarming lack of scruples in this latest campaign.

Footnote: Just like Food Babe

Dr. Amy Tuteur, who blogs as the Skeptical OB, has posted a fascinating piece this month looking at the Food Babe and selling fear.

If you haven’t heard of the Food Babe, she’s a self-proclaimed expert who has made a name for herself, and a huge following, by examining, criticizing and condemning the ingredient lists on food packaging.

As Tuteur shows, she is also banking on a gullible, uneducated audience to promote herself and make a living.

Morton seems to be taking the same approach.

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David Suzuki Foundation using fake Falun Gong Chinese spammers for “SEO”

Someone at the David Suzuki Foundation needs to re-think their “Search Engine Optimization” strategy.

Farming it out to Chinese spammers probably wasn’t a great idea.

I uncovered this today when I noticed an inordinate number of tweets about David Suzuki’s latest opinion piece about farmed salmon, co-authored with Jay Ritchlin.

The tweets were all identically worded, and all appeared at exactly the same time.

2014-05-05 11_35_25-Twitter _ Search - #salmon 12014-05-05 11_36_01- Twitter _ Search - #salmon 2

Interesting, n’est pas?

But what really caught my interest was when I started clicking on some of these profiles to see who the hell are all these people.

A good handful of them had also tweeted an identically-worded comment about something completely different: the upcoming video game from Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. It appears these tweets were posted for the electronics chain Best Buy.

2014-05-05 11_37_26-Twitter _ Search - #Gaming2014-05-05 11_37_56-Twitter _ Search - #Gaming

The real kicker is that most of these accounts claim to be either linked to the Epoch Times, which is linked with the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China, or  claim to be linked directly with Falun Gong.

But they have very few followers.

2014-05-05 11_39_45-TweetDeck

They are spam services masquerading as legitimate accounts, impersonating Falun Gong supporters to avoid detection and deletion.

I’m not surprised Best Buy uses these types of services, but it’s a surprise to learn that the sanctimonious David Suzuki Foundation uses them too.

 

Junk science attack on processing plant gets its facts totally wrong

Just because a study is peer-reviewed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good science.

Here’s a perfect example. A new paper published by John Volpe, Michael Price and Alexandra Morton — who have published more than a few studies among them with spurious claims and questionable data — suggests that farmed salmon from Nootka Sound processed on Quadra Island are threatening wild salmon with sea lice and diseases coming out the processing plant’s effluent pipe.

But there are some serious flaws with this paper that suggest it should be retracted.

For one thing, at the core of the study’s premise is the claim that “Walcan Seafood only processes fish from open-net salmon farms on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Dill 2011); therefore, the sea lice we recovered undoubtedly originated from infected Atlantic Salmon that were farmed in a distant region.”

Most people in Campbell River and on Quadra Island know that Walcan processes a lot more than farmed salmon. Walcan processes farmed salmon and wild sockeye. They process shellfish. They process whatever people pay them to process, and they do a great job of it.

Here’s an article from 2010 several months after Morton collected data for this study, featuring Walcan president Bill Pirie talking about how great the record sockeye run was that year for business.

Walcan workers are running off their feet, putting in 12 to 14-hour days, seven days a week as Campbell River area fishing boats bring in the sockeye for processing.

Here’s a video of the plant, taken around the same time Morton was collecting data for this study, showing the plant processing oysters.

But wait, there’s more. The source this paper cites says nothing that backs up the author’s claim. Click on the “Dill 2011” link above and look on page 29. Nowhere does Dill say that Walcan only processes farmed salmon from the west coast of Vancouver Island.

That’s a serious flaw in this paper that the peer-reviewers missed.

pgwalcanlg2
According to the four nitwit authors of this study, Walcan only processes farmed Atlantic salmon. Therefore, this photo is a lie.

And it’s important, because again, the paper’s central premise is that “Marine salmon farms and their processing facilities can serve as sources of virulent fish pathogens; our study is the first to confirm the broadcast of a live fish pathogen from a farmed salmon processing facility into the marine waters of Canada’s Pacific coast.”

This begs the question: What comes out of the effluent pipes of processing plants which process wild salmon? After all, there are well over 100 of them in BC.

Why didn’t the authors of the paper do a comparison with at least one of these other processing plants?

The answer is because they knew the comparison would disprove their hypothesis instantly.

Wild fish carry sea lice and diseases, too. They have done so since long before the first people came to BC and they continue to do so. Anyone who denies this fact is either lying to you, or just plain ignorant.

It’s guaranteed that if you go test the effluent pipes coming out of wild salmon processing facilities you will find stuff.

In fact, you will probably find more stuff than this paper shows, because farmed salmon processing facilities in BC — including Walcan — have spent more than $4 million installing effluent treatment and collection systems, which are not even required. They installed them because they believe it’s the right and responsible thing to do, and to show BC that salmon farmers and processors are doing everything they can to make sure there is no risk to wild salmon from their operations.

There’s another reason why farmed salmon processors have spent millions on these systems — so they can achieve the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices standard, assuring customers that salmon from those facilities are among the safest, most environmentally-sound and safest sources of seafood in the world.

In contrast, most wild processors discharge untreated effluent and bloodwater directly into the ocean.

The authors of this junk science paper fail to acknowledge any of that, instead building on a flimsy (and false) detail to construct a spurious conclusion, unsupported by any data — even their own.

This should never have been published. The authors should be ashamed of themselves for trying to fool people with such an obviously biased, flimsy piece of junk science and at the very least it should be retracted, corrected and the data compared with data collected from a wild salmon processing plant.

Then we might have some useful science that can actually tell us something instead of what this says, which is “We, the authors, hate farmed salmon and are willing to say anything to get you to agree with us.”

 

 

Read the full paper here.

Someone’s lying: an infographic, and putting it to a vote

Every time someone disagrees with Alexandra Morton, she adds them to her conspiracy theory. She honestly believes that BC salmon farmers have so much political influence that they have managed to perpetrate a cover-up involving tens of thousands of people in government agencies, universities, and in foreign government bodies.

Salmon Farms are gatekeepers

Wow, it’s amazing the little BC salmon farming industry, which only produces about 75,000 tonnes of fish per year and creates far fewer economic benefits than sport fishing, can have such power. One might even conclude that it’s a ludicrous conspiracy theory.

Because it is.

Someone’s lying though. Who is it? Consider this infographic and decide for yourself.

Who is lying

Let’s put it to a poll, purely for the sake of interest. Cast your vote below.

Storytime: the Chicken Farmer

Today we want to tell a story to make a point.

This is how the story goes.

FV_chicken_barn

Once upon a time, there lived a chicken farmer. He built a chicken farm in the Fraser Valley to grow chickens to sell to grocery stores in Vancouver. His farm was next door to a bird sanctuary.

The farmer believed he had the best of both worlds. He could raise his animals and support his family right next to the beautiful bird sanctuary, which he and his family loved to explore on lazy summer days. His children grew up knowing all about farming, and thanks to their regular treks through the bird sanctuary, they also grew up knowing all about wild birds.

Life was good, until one day, when the farmer left the house to go do his morning chores, he saw something new.

A crowd of angry people were on the road outside his front gate, waving signs and shouting. Puzzled, he went to his gate to see what was the matter.

When the people saw the farmer approaching, they shouted louder.

“Stop killing wild birds!” shouted one person.

“Get out of our public airshed!” shouted a second person.

“All you care about is making money!” shouted a third.

The farmer tried to talk to the crowd, try to understand why they were so upset and to explain that his farm wasn’t doing anything wrong. But every time he tried to talk the crowd shouted louder and drowned out his words. Eventually he gave up and went back to doing his morning chores, hoping the crowd would go away. They did.

That evening, when the farmer sat down to dinner with his family, he turned on the evening news. He was surprised to see his farm and the angry crowd on the TV. The interviewer focused on an old man, who was soft-spoken and had a kind face. The farmer recognized him as the old man who lived up the road. They had once been friends, but recently the old man had taken to criticizing everything the chicken farmer did on the farm, watching with binoculars and regularly phoning the authorities with bogus claims of wrong-doing.

Now, the old man was on TV talking like he was an expert on chicken farming, and claiming that diseases from the chicken farm were going to spread to the nearby bird sanctuary and kill the wild birds.

The chicken farmer was flabbergasted. No one from the TV station had tried to talk to him. He phoned the news desk to complain, and was offered a follow-up interview the next day.

When the TV crew arrived the next morning, the chicken farmer was proud to show them around his farm and explain how he kept his birds safe and healthy. After they left, he felt good about the interview and couldn’t wait to see the evening news.

That evening, when he sat down to dinner with his family, he turned on the evening news and saw his farm and the angry crowd again. He was dismayed to see that after all the time he spent with the TV crew, only a few brief seconds of his interview and only a few images of his farm were used in the story, which ended with a new, lengthy criticism from the old man up the road.

The angry crowd and camera crews came and went for weeks. One day the old man found a dead bird in the bird sanctuary near the farm fence, and claimed it must have died because of the chicken barn. The chicken farmer started getting angry phone calls from people in Vancouver, blaming him for killing wild birds.

Another day, the old man brought his angry crowd and the camera crew to a grocery store where the chicken farmer’s chickens were sold. The old man and the angry crowd told everyone not to buy the chicken, because it was bad and killed wild birds. The chicken farmer got more angry phone calls from people in Vancouver. None of them ever bothered to ask for his side of the story.

Another day, the old man claimed to have found diseases in dead birds inside the sanctuary which could have only come from the chicken farm. On camera, he offered several badly decomposed bird carcasses as proof. When the farmer was able to get on camera to explain that his chickens were healthy, and that detailed information about their health was available on the government’s agriculture website, nobody listened.

One day, when he went out to do his morning chores, the chicken farmer saw the old man standing by his front gate with a camera crew, but no angry crowd. The chicken farmer decided to go see what the old man wanted.

“Give me some of your chickens to test,” said the old man. “I don’t trust the test results from the government testers.”

 

What do you think the chicken farmer should do?

Lazy media ignores context in farmed salmon stories

It’s the media’s job to provide context, but when it comes to reporting on farmed salmon, they fail miserably.

The latest example comes from Eastern Canada. While Canadian media was busy vilifying farmed salmon for possibly containing viruses which affect nothing but farmed salmon, they ignored reports showing that terrestrially-farmed meats routinely contain bacteria ­– the kinds of bacteria which, if the meat is processed and handled incorrectly, can be harmful to human health.

According to the National Antimicrobial Retail Monitoring System report, nearly a decade of research done by the US FDA and the Centre for Veterinary Medicine, your chances are very good for purchasing chicken, turkey, pork or beef containing E. coli, salmonella, enterococcus or campylobacter. Or perhaps all of the above.

It’s pretty much a given that, unless you are a vegan, in the past decade you have eaten meat containing these bacteria.

E_Coli_chart

Should you worry? Should you declare your home a meat-free zone and go vegan?

If you want, but as we’ve pointed out before, the worst case of food-related illness in North America was from cantaloupes, which tragically killed 30 people. And other vegetables have been at the centre of food-related illnesses and deaths too, notably spinach. Vegetables often contain the same bacteria as meat, but like meat, they are usually present in such low quantities that they pose no health risks.

So if you’re a vegan, chances are good you’ve eaten these bacteria too, with no ill effects.

This sort of context is important in any discussion about the food we eat, be it salmon, chicken or spinach. But in the rush to “get it first” and “get people talking” the context is unfortunately the first thing the media cuts out in their reporting.

And because there’s a lot of money tied up in “demarketing” farmed salmon to boost wild salmon, there’s a lot of baloney out there about the healthiness of farmed salmon. Context is sorely needed to balance the nonsense, but most media are too lazy to do even basic investigative work to balance the claims of anti-salmon farming loudmouths.

The science speaks for itself. We are not aware of contaminated farmed salmon causing any deaths (unlike contaminated cantaloupes and spinach). In fact, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and World Health Organization recently published a comprehensive report showing that the health benefits of consuming oily fish (including farmed salmon) greatly outweigh any risks.

And overall, meat, seafood and veggies are safe. We live in an age where our food supply is the safest it’s ever been. There is no need to be fearful in the grocery store.

So media, enough with the scaremongering farmed salmon stories already. It’s time to show some responsibility and investigative skills and put the context back in your reporting.

A scientific look at the conspiracy-minded

Why do people believe the most ridiculous conspiracy theories?

You know, theories like “it’s too hard for the government to manage wild salmon so they are letting salmon farms kill off wild fish because in the end managing salmon farms is easier.”

Well, it turns out that people who are most willing to believe in nefarious conspiracies are most likely themselves to engage in nefarious conspiracies.

‘We wanted to test a new explanation of why conspiracy theories are endorsed in an internet age when people have access to a matrix of often conflicting information from a variety of sources,’ said Dr [Karen M.] Douglas.

‘We found that in their search for explanations under such uncertain and confusing conditions, people rely partly on projection — the assumption that others would behave much as they would.

‘We’re not saying however that all conspiracy theorists are immoral or that they have arrived at their beliefs through projection. It’s important to note that other factors may lead people to believe in conspiracy theories. Also, our research says nothing about the truth or objective plausibility of such theories. However what we have shown is that one reason some people endorse conspiracy theories is because is they project their own moral tendencies onto the supposed conspirators‘, she said.

Interesting stuff. And when we see some of the furtive and conspiratorial behaviour from anti-salmon farming activists (e.g. making scientific claims withouth publishing data; accusing anyone who disagrees of lying; manipulating people through ‘groupthink,’ blatantly ignoring facts which contradict their opinions) it kind of makes sense.