Three separate class action lawsuits filed last week accuse Nestle-Purina PetCare Co., StarKist Co., and Bumble Bee Foods of fraudulently labeling their products as “Dolphin Safe,” while use suppliers whose fishing practices endanger marine mammals.
The Nestle-Purina lawsuit, filed on May 13, 2019, in California federal courts, claims the company labels its Fancy Feast brand of cat food as “Dolphin Safe,” while the company buys tuna from brokers who trade with fisheries who deliberately encircle both tuna and dolphins, hauling the whole catch in and killing dolphins as a result.
And it’s not just dolphins that get caught in these drift nets; it’s also sea turtles, sharks, albatrosses, and other marine life that are getting tangled up and dying because they’re not using dolphin-safe fishing options.
According to the complaint, consumers are paying a premium because they want to make sure that they’re not harming dolphins or other marine mammals and that the tuna are caught in a humane and sustainable way.
The difficulty for the companies named in the suit is that there is no practical way of determining if the tuna they buy is indeed dolphin-safe because they buy from brokers who assure them it is. The problem for brokers is the origin of tuna is obscured because they buy fish from another company who’s buying from another company who’s buying it from another company in a tangled web of lies and deceit.
The high seas – in other words, the oceans beyond the 200-mile national limits – where the fish are caught are a lawless realm. Here fishing ships put out lines of hooks up to 75 miles long, which sweep the sea clean of predators and any other animals that encounter them.
Without knowing every step in the supply chain, it is difficult – if not impossible – for companies to make assurances that their products are indeed dolphin-safe. Without that knowledge, companies who are using such marketing ploys are doing so with the intent to defraud and deceive consumers.
Unhindered by regulation, driven by greed, companies like Nestle-Purina and the fishing industry is the greatest threat to our oceans. And as consumers, we must make the connection between our choices and the consequences they have on marine life.
If this story tells us anything, is that this is why traceability is so critical. Without it, we are shopping blindly, oblivious to the reality of a world where fish are caught without consideration of the dissemination of marine life.
The “Dolphin Safe” Canned Tuna Class Action Lawsuits are Lori Myers, et al. v. Nestle Purina Petcare Company, Case No. 5:19-cv-00898, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Duggan, et al. v. Bumble Bee Foods LLC, Case No. 4:19-cv-02564, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and Gardner, et al. v. Starkist Co., Case No. 4:19-cv-02561, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Nestle Purina Admits Putting Fish From Slave Labor in Cat Food; November 29, 2015
Nestle Purina Accused of Using Fish Tied to Slave Labor in Cat Food; August 29, 2015
Nestle Purina and Mars Admit Fish Caught by Slaves May be in Pet Food; July 29, 2015
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