Open letter to Marks and Spencer on Salmon

Please give us a substantive reply or we plan to escalate our campaign

Email sent - Wed, Jun 23, 2021

RE - petition - M&S - come clean about the damage caused by your farmed salmon

To - (Head of Agriculture and Fisheries Sourcing)

CC - (CEO),,

Dear Steve Mclean,

I have eaten food from M&S my entire life. M&S is my mother’s favourite supermarket. She claims your stores stock the best fruit. I currently live in Frome in Somerset and most weeks pop into your shop there for groceries.

Over the last few years, like many other people, I have become aware of the significant and growing impacts arising from the factory farming of salmon. For ethical shoppers who want to reduce their environmental impacts it is abundantly clear that we must avoid, above all else, factory farmed foods. These intensive processes cause immense ecological harm as well as being very cruel to the animals being raised in unnatural conditions.

As I walk the aisles of your Frome branch I shudder as I pass the salmon section. Here in Frome, as in most of your food halls, you are selling large quantities (10,000 tonnes+ per annum across all stores) of factory farmed salmon. In the wild, salmon numbers are catastrophically declining so I find it disturbing that this extraordinary, migratory fish has become a staple food, sold in bulk. Worse, I do not understand why you brand this food “responsibly sourced” encouraging ethical shoppers to purchase this food when the reality is dire. You are greenwashing harmful products and ignoring the ocean emergency so many of us want major companies to step up to and address.

In light of the gross disparity between the harm caused by your salmon products and the way that you are marketing them, I have set up a petition - M&S - come clean about the damage caused by your farmed salmon. So far, 80,000 people have joined my call for you to stop labelling these products “responsibly sourced.” Of course, this should just be the first step to you changing your policies on salmon and taking profound action to stop the ecological damage being caused by your business model.

Many of us have attempted to start a conversation with you multiple times on social media without success. So I am writing to you now in the hope of receiving some kind of substantive reply so that we can understand your position and how you intend to respond to this widely shared, deep concern about how you are operating and the harm being caused to the Scottish coastline and the wider ocean ecosystem.

In simple and easy to understand terms please can you let us know why you brand factory farmed salmon “responsible” in light of the following concerns -

  • Feed - salmon is a carnivorous animal. It takes up to 200 wild caught fish to raise one wild salmon. Where does the fish come from that you use to feed the caged salmon? Is this fish caught using destructive methods such as bottom trawling? How can you be sure that the fishing carried out to catch the feed fish is not damaging the oceans irreparably?
  • Pollution - salmon factory farms spew immense amounts of pollution (sewage and chemicals) directly into Scottish lochs harming local wildlife. Factory farms on land are not allowed to release their waste directly into the environment. How can you maintain it is “responsible” to do this at sea?
  • Welfare - the animals in cages suffer disease and parasites, they cannot carry out their natural behaviours. They suffer very badly and mortality rates are much higher than on land farms (up to 20% of the animals die). You buy your salmon from Scottish Sea Farms who have repeatedly been found raising animals in ‘sickening’ conditions being eaten alive by sea lice. How is this responsible?
  • Extinction - wild salmon numbers are crashing. It is widely assumed that factory farming salmon contributes to this by disease transmission and genetic contamination. What action is M&S taking to protect wild salmon? If no action is being taken - how is this responsible?

  • Mobilising our 80,000 signatories to continue to engage your customer service teams
  • In store actions at point of sale
  • Calls for a boycott of M&S

For years, M&S has trumpeted Plan A - “our way to help build a sustainable future by being a business that enables our customers to have a positive impact on wellbeing, communities and the planet through all that we do.”

It is clear that in selling 10,000 tonnes of misleadingly labelled factory farmed salmon a year you are failing your own standards. Myself and 80,000 other UK shoppers urgently demand you do better.

For my mother’s generation M&S was synonymous with quality. Your marketeers also want the brand to embody sustainability. For a new generation of shoppers alert to the ecological catastrophe happening to our world we need more than just slogans. We want brands we can actually trust to do the right thing.

Please don’t continue to let us down.

Kind regards,

Matt Mellen

Find out more about factory farmed salmon here -