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Lifting the lid on John West

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: ‘John West has treated us all with total contempt’
John West Greenpeace Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

On Wednesday, Greenpeace activists installed an enormous, provocative sculpture outside tuna company John West’s Liverpool HQ, to protest against the company’s destructive fishing practices and to highlight John West’s owner Thai Union’s links to human rights abuses.

John West accused of breaking its promise to consumers – only 2% of its tuna is sustainable

The installation

The towering tuna tin was flanked by huge effigies of threatened marine life, including sharks and sea turtles, reflecting John West’s broken sustainability promise to consumers.

At the heart of the installation, the tuna tin is ripped open to reveal a screen showing short campaign films including chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and vox pops from the people of Liverpool.

The sculpture was created by pioneering art collective the Mutoid Waste Company, which has previously produced artworks for the 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony and Glastonbury Festival.

Broken promises

John West has been under fire since Greenpeace revealed three weeks ago that it had broken its promise to consumers to ensure that at least 50% of its tuna was caught sustainably by the end of 2014.

Despite a further commitment to be 100% sustainable by the end of 2016, the company has so far achieved a dismal 2%.

The ‘story behind the can’

Since the revelations, over 70,000 people have signed a Greenpeace petition calling for an end to unjust and unsustainable tuna.

‘John West claims to tell its customers “the story behind every can”. Well sitting on their doorstep is a macabre monster of a tuna can which has many stories to tell: stories like John West’s continuing environmental destruction which is killing threatened marine life – and tales of Thai Union’s links to human trafficking and the exploitation of workers.’

Louise Edge, Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace UK

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Celebrity chef and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose Fish Fight TV series was instrumental in achieving John West’s original sustainability commitment back in 2011, features in one of the films.

‘John West has treated us all with total contempt… It’s not just insulting, it’s extremely cynical.

‘If John West want to restore even a shred of credibility to their tattered reputation, I think they’ve got to do a couple of things pretty much straight away.

‘They need to stop using the kind of Fish Aggregation Devices that are ensnaring so much endangered marine life and they need to call on their parent company, Thai Union, to drive out human rights abuses from the Thai fishing industry.’

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Lifting the lid

The films also lift the lid on issues in the Thai fishing industry, including John West’s owner Thai Union’s links to human rights abuses, such as bonded labour and human trafficking.

The Thai fishing industry is currently under scrutiny for its fishing practices, labour rights abuses and human trafficking – including from the US government and the EU.

While the CEO of Thai Union has previously condemned human rights abuses in the industry, he recently stated, ‘we all have to admit that it is difficult to ensure the Thai seafood industry’s supply chain is 100% clean’.

‘Slavery is rife in the Thai fishing industry. Yet again we see the connection between environmental degradation and workers’ rights abuses in a global supply chain. John West and Thai Union need to take responsibility, and play their part in ending slavery and ecological destruction in the Thai seafood industry.’

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)

Click here to find out more about Greenpeace’s #JustTuna campaign.

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