Seaspiracy Call to Action
Written by Alexis Mercedes Rinck, Aronya Waller, Christian Galindo, and Amaris Norwood
The Veggie Mijas Chapters across the country recently held events to discuss their thoughts on the documentary, Seaspiracy (from here on out referred to as the documentary). There was an overwhelming response of feeling tired and frustrated due to the lack of perspectives in this biased documentary. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) voices and experiences continue to get decentered from these discussions. It was very blatant that privilege was at play for this documentary’s release. At Veggie Mijas, we believe this was not the right approach to discussing the issues within our oceans. We hope that the ongoing valid criticism of this documentary will inspire future documentaries to reframe their message on veganism.
A crucial step in achieving total liberation is focusing our activism on uplifting BIPOC voices in the movement and recognizing the different injustices in the fishing industry. In making this documentary, it was evident that elevating the voices of the already underrepresented BIPOC communities who continue to rely on, innovate, and preserve sustainable fishing practices was not a priority. Here lies a missed opportunity to consult BIPOC experts, who hold essential ancestral knowledge of Indigenous practices crucial to preserving our natural resources. Ali Tabrizi (from here on out referred to as the filmmaker) took to exploiting, for the sake of shock value, the extreme human injustices occurring to workers at the hand of the fishing industry. Instead, this could have been an opportunity to gain and uplift crucial cultural perspectives to address these inhumane conditions on a large platform adequately.
One of the most troubling aspects of the documentary was a fixation on individual action and an erasure of the larger structures and systems in which the seafood industry operates. From highlighting shopkeepers in East Asia selling shark fins to the ultimate assertion that this crisis can be fixed solely through consumers switching to a plant-based diet, the documentary fails to call upon the role seafood corporations, non-governmental organizations, and governments play in perpetuating violence and environmental destruction. In addition, fails to call upon the viewers to consider taking more political action (i.e., calling representatives, starting/signing campaigns, organizing a march, educating family and friends).
This documentary pushed forward the single narrative many of us within the collective and beyond are trying to dismantle within the animal rights movement. We must hold this documentary accountable. We will not discuss this documentary beyond this letter to not continue to profit from the privilege that goes well beyond its release. For example, the filmmaker encourages documentary viewers to visit his website for information about the documentary, but instead, viewers are prompted to shop for meal plans and merchandise. This is the type of bad vegan advocacy that is seen in mainstream veganism. As plant-based consumers, we must consider the animals, cultural context, understanding, representation; human rights; and the correct placement of blame.
Official Call to Action
1. To the filmmaker, we call on you to issue an apology for your cultural insensitivity. There was a lack of understanding and lack of consideration to the BIPOC communities who were featured in the film. Part of veganism and the animal rights movement is also fighting for the workers involved and their livelihood. In commercial fishing, there is an aspect of human trafficking and slavery is not discussed enough. If you are going to fight for the fish, you also must fight for the humane rights of the people.
2. To Netflix, you chose to promote this documentary when you could have focused on securing options that better represent BIPOC communities and how each culture interacts with land and nature. When a film takes place in different countries, cultural context must be prioritized. For example, this context is needed when considering and discussing Indigenous fishing practices. Instead of exploiting a culture, why not discuss the origins, needs, and issues that may affect sustainability?
3. To future filmmakers, when creating documentaries, do not exploit other cultures when the same issues are happening in your backyard. The British-Iranian filmmaker may not have considered how going to Asia exploited BIPOC cultures. The filmmaker unfortunately aligned himself with white supremacist framing and the stereotypical portrait of mainstream veganism. He could have stayed closer to the United Kingdom to show the issues of commercial fishing. Moving forward, we ask that filmmakers, writers, and the news media do not exploit BIPOC cultures across the world for shock value.
4. To media creators, trigger warnings should be added at the beginning of any graphic content and/or media. These warnings should be required throughout visual media to give viewers the option to skip the scene, especially when extended gruesome footage is included in a documentary. Just as we have become accustomed to receiving trigger warnings about violence and assaults, this should become second nature.
5. To the readers of this letter, instead of blaming individuals, let’s look at the industry itself. Change can start at the bottom, but commercial fishing companies are profiting off individuals—workers, small communities, and consumers with marketing and labeling ploys that cannot be backed up. Write to the commercial fishing industries and ask how they obtain their fish and what indicators prove that they were fished humanely. In addition, it is imperative that you ask these companies for proof on how they care for their fisherman, what benefits workers receive, and how they prevent human trafficking on boats. Finally, please ask how they ensure that the Indigenous and local communities in which they are fishing easily obtain the food they need instead of traveling further into dangerous seas, as well as what they are doing to ensure sustainable fishing practices for local communities.