Have you ever heard of a “slapp suit”? It’s a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” a phrase to describe the practice of corporations suing (or sometimes just threatening to sue) their outspoken critics for libel. Corporations count on their opponents not being able to afford a costly court case or possible settlement (and in libel suits, the onus is on the accused, not the accuser, to prove their case). Thus, it is a way of using the courts to censor debate and silence opposition—not very democratic, but unfortunately, entirely “legal.” I’ve been threatened with one before. It makes sleeping at night a little difficult.
Slapp suits are a perfect example of one of the issues the Occupy movement is trying to address: corporate influence over and tampering with the democratic process. This intersects with another issue crucial to Occupy’s concerns when we turn to the specific slapp suit currently being brought against anti-salmon farming activist Don Staniford, because salmon farming is another of the unfortunately many instances where economic profits are being extracted at the expense of irreparable damage to the environment.
So we could produce a little check-list of, well, “evil” (for lack of a better word).
1. Salmon farming is big, global industry, with the largest producer—Norway’s Cermaq—supported by its national government (which is its largest shareholder) and very active in places like BC’s coastal waters.
Government/corporate collusion and transnational exploitation: ✔
2. Salmon farming, which often employs antibiotics to combat disease, is impacting wild salmon stocks, which can also be exposed to these antibiotics (and other pollutants from aquaculture), and which contract parasites and diseases from the farmed fish. The farmed fish also require a lot of resources to raise: it can take up to five kilos of wild fish and krill to produce one kilo of farmed fish (and wild stocks used to feed farmed fish are dramatically declining). The comparison to Tar Sands oil, which takes more energy to produce than it provides, is not out of place here.
Corporate profits at the expense of a severely depleted environment: ✔
3. Finally, Big Aquaculture, like Big Oil, is using its government connections and the influence of its wealth to silence opposition and—make no mistake—directly attack our freedom of speech—all in the name of short term profit.
Anti-democratic attack on the public’s well-being: ✔
So what can we do? Support Don Staniford and his fight against this undemocratic attack on freedom of speech, and this disastrous industry that is—once again—destroying the environment in the name of private profits. And be assured—we are winning. Fishermen in Canada and Norway, whose lives depend on wild fish stocks, are stepping forward to help. Concerned environmentalists, artists, and lovers of our wilderness and our sacred wild salmon are stepping forward to help. We all need to step up, and demand a better world than this.