Martha Stewart: It’s Not a “Set-Up” — The Cruelty Lurking in Your Seafood Line is Real

Erica Meier
4 min readDec 13, 2019


Martha Stewart , Wikimedia Commons; fish with fungal infection, Compassion Over Killing

This past October, a video surfaced that offers the first-ever hidden camera glimpse behind the scenes of salmon aquaculture. Exposing putrid conditions breeding disease as well as widespread cruelty to fish intensively crowded in barren tanks, the footage is making waves in the industry and generating media headlines.

Based in Maine, this fish factory farm is owned and operated by one of the world’s largest seafood companies: Canada-based Cooke Aquaculture, and its corporate supply chain leads to True North, a seafood brand endorsed by Martha Stewart, who lends her name — and face — to the brand’s marketing.

When approached about this important issue of animal cruelty, Martha Stewart’s first line of defense was to simply look away and ignore the video, which was filmed by a Compassion Over Killing investigator. After repeated attempts to engage with her about the truth, she shifted her response from avoidance to accusing the video of being a “set-up.”

As hard as it may be to watch the suffering documented in this video, it shows the unfiltered day-to-day realities. It’s not a set-up. The real set-up is True North and Cooke Aquaculture’s deceptive marketing, which paints a wholesome image with attractive claims of clear waters, sustainable practices and a passion for protecting the environment. In reality, beneath the murky surface, little could be further from the truth.

Though Martha Stewart may be a self-proclaimed animal lover, her lack of any kind of sincere response to our shocking video lends further confirmation True North lacks a moral compass.

Martha Stewart: Have you taken time to watch the video and witness the suffering these animals are forced to endure from a filthy, cramped life in a tiny tank to egregious acts of violence?

This hard-to-watch video was filmed by a brave whistleblower who wore a hidden camera to capture the raw, day-to-day truth of what happens on fish factory farms when the industry thinks no one is watching.

In the words of the investigator who blew the whistle:

“I captured footage of senseless violence against fish on a daily basis and witnessed horrendous living conditions. Fish here were being raised for human consumption in filthy tanks, covered in fungus and suffering immensely.

I also frequently saw hatchery employees stomping on fish’s heads and slamming them against the ground multiple times in failed efforts to kill them. Often, they were left on the ground, still conscious and writhing in pain.”

Such acts of violence against fish are all too often overlooked or dismissed because of the popular yet widely-debunked myth that these aquatic animals are incapable of experiencing pain.

According to Dr. Becca Franks, an environmental research scientist and aquatic animal welfare expert: “The science on fish sentience is clear: fish have the capacity to suffer and feel pain.”

In fact, an abundance of research shows that fish are intelligent animals who experience a wide range of emotions including pain, stress, fear, and joy, just like other animals. They’ve been documented using tools, and they can also recognize themselves in mirrors.

To make Martha Stewart’s affiliation with True North even more misguided, it’s not just cruelty to animals that lurks beneath the surface of Cooke Aquaculture. The depth of the company’s disreputable and unethical behavior runs much deeper:

Martha Stewart: It’s time to face the facts. None of this is a “set-up”. The documented violations and abuses are real. You still have an opportunity to make waves for sea animals by ending your True North salmon partnership and instead pave the way to the future of food by lending your support to a plant-based seafood alternative.

Put simply in a phrase you’re familiar with, Martha: Compassion — “it’s a good thing!”

You can speak up for animals by signing this petition — Martha Stewart: Cut ties with cruel salmon and make a splash with vegan seafood!



Erica Meier

Former President of Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing), a national animal protection organization.