The truth behind your cheap Christmas salmon

In its latest film the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU), a collaboration between Ecostorm and the Ecologist magazine, travels to Peru to investigate a host of unreported environmental and social costs – including pollution and health problems, overfishing, and impacts on ecosystems and wildlife – arising from the production of fishmeal and fish oil, principal ingredients in farmed salmon feed.

Parts of the south American country’s coastline have been seriously contaminated by waste from fishmeal plants, say pressure groups, contributing to reduced catches for artisanal fisherman, who fish to feed their families and for income. Overfishing by the large industrial fleets – scouring the ocean for anchovies, core to producing fishmeal – is also blamed for negatively impacting on the wider food chain.

Impoverished communities living near to fishmeal plants in the port city of Chimbote, home to some 40 processing establishments, say the industry has made their lives a misery, and claim that airborne pollutants are responsible for asthma, bronchial and skin problems – allegations backed up by medical experts.

People aren’t the only victims. Sea lions, a protected species, are being killed by fishermen, who see them as competitors for the dwindling fish resources. In addition, seabird colonies, who feed on anchovies, are under threat – quite simply because there isn’t enough fish to go around.

And the EFU has established that this controversial fishmeal is flooding into the UK as demand for cheap farmed salmon increases – we’ve learnt that at least one major supplier of farmed salmon to British supermarkets and wholesalers has partnered with a feed company procuring significant volumes of its fish-meal from Peru.

Peru is the world’s biggest producer of fishmeal and oil. The fishmeal industry is worth almost $2.5 billion, with 400 plants producing approximately six million tonnes of fish flour and one million tonnes of fish oil annually. Both are largely derived from oily fish including anchovies, herrings and sardines. The high nutritional values of these fish – which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial to the health of both to humans and animals – has led to massive demand globally.

Pat Thomas, editor of the Ecologist said: “Salmon are the tigers of the sea. They are predators and carnivores and raising them in captivity raises a number of significant problems, including how to feed them the high protein diets they require to stay healthy. The aquaculture industry has long been singled out for its unsustainability and heavy ecological footprint, but I think British consumers will be shocked at the human and environmental price they are paying to put cheap salmon on the table this Christmas.”

Watch the film at and

The Ecologist magazine, featuring a major print investigation, will be available on news stands from 5th December 2008.

Revealed: the cruelty of UK pork supplies

Europe’s pigs are being farmed in horrendous and often illegal conditions, a new investigation by Ecostorm on behalf of Compassion In World Farming revealed this month. Conducting an undercover investigation in farms across Europe investigators found poor welfare prevalent in virtually all farms visited. Most of the sows – the mother pigs – that were seen were kept in stalls so narrow that they cannot even turn round. Most fattening pigs are packed into overcrowded barren, often dirty pens.

The study recorded a high rate of poor animal welfare:

  • Up to 100 per cent of visits found routine tail docking – prohibited by EU law
  • Widespread lack of environmental enrichment – prohibited by EU law
  • Continued use of confinement systems for pregnant and mothering sows – currently allowed by EU law

“In general the situation of the pigs was very alike in all countries we visited,” explained one undercover investigator. “The pigs looked uncared for, they showed aggressive behaviour and there was nothing for the pigs to do. The floors were bare, space was very little and the places very dirty. It’s horrifying to imagine that most of the meat sold in the supermarkets, restaurants and that we see in daily life is being kept in these conditions.”

Chief Policy Advisor for Compassion in World Farming, Peter Stevenson said; “Our investigation illustrates the effects of an industrial system on a highly sentient, intelligent animal. Most pigs in the EU suffer greatly in the harsh world of factory farming.” The six month long study was conducted on an unprecedented scale to expose conditions across Europe. Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom all came under scrutiny and provide a snapshot of pig farming across the continent.

See coverage of the investigation in The Independent

Awards success for Ecostorm films

A film produced by Ecostorm on behalf of WSPA and the Handle with Care coalition has won “Best documentary on animal rights-special award” at the STEPS International Rights Film Festival held in Ukraine. The film, ‘Handle with Care – exposing the long distance trade in live farm animals’, was the result of more than 12 months investigative filming in over ten countries. One of a series released under the Handle With Care banner, the film has also been shortlisted for an award at the Albert International Wildlife film Festival, to be held in France in March 2009.

Eating our future – Public Service Announcement released in US

A specially-commissioned public service announcement (PSA) – produced by Ecostorm on behalf of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) – has been released to accompany the launch in New York of a major new report examining the environmental impact of industrial animal agriculture.

WSPA’s report, Eating our Future, details how current agricultural practices in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world contribute to the environmental, economic and social crises faced by developed and developing countries alike, and makes a call for shifting to humane and sustainable models of production.

Bangladesh leather investigation – film opens Ethical Fashion Show in Paris

Hell for Leather – the debut film of the Ecologist Film Unit, which investigated Bangladesh’s leather trade, has been screened at the International Ethical Fashion Show in Paris.

The film, which documented the environmental and human rights abuses connected with leather production in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, was screened prominently at the pioneering fashion show, one of the world’s only dedicated ethical fashion events. For more information see

A solution to the food crisis? How one chicken might just change the world…

Set against a backdrop of rising global food prices, and the spread of factory farming in countries such as India, The Ecologist Film Unit – a major collaboration between Ecostorm and The Ecologist magazine – this month releases a film which tells the story of a food revolution in Southern India.

View the film at The Guardian

Produced in conjunction with UK NGO Compassion in World Farming, The Giriraja Chicken – India’s answer to the global food crisis details the extra-ordinary way in which scientists and communities are working together to increase livelihoods, consumer safety and animal welfare in rural India using an ancient breed of chicken.

Intensively-farmed chickens in India and elsewhere are typically given large quantities of antibiotics which threaten the health of the consumer; they are also fed on soya grown from the deforested wastelands of Amazonia in Brazil.

Ordinary farmers cannot compete with corporate-owned factory farms. The vast economies of scale that they operate on – often cramming tens of thousands of birds into one shed alone – has effectively squeezed small scale farmers out of India’s poultry market.

There is a solution, however. Scientists at Bangalore University have developed the Giriraja or ‘Mountain king’ chicken. Bred using natural techniques from ancient strains of Tamil chickens, this hardy bird provides nutrition and income for local people without the need for continual and costly supplies of drugs and feed. Naturally resilient, the Giriraja is a living breathing micro-finance initiative that is giving back livelihood to those left behind in India’s economic boom.

Sniffing a success story, corporate-owned poultry companies have already tried to buy out the not-for-profit scheme set up by the university, but without success. For now the Giriraja is helping communities lift themselves from poverty and is a sustainable farming success story that leads the way for the rest of India and the world to follow.

Jim Wickens, Ecologist Film Unit producer says: “Touted as a cure to poverty, factory farming is actually the new cancer in rural India. Unsustainable, cruel and corporate owned, these farms threaten the health of consumers, the wellbeing of the chickens and most importantly they are killing the rural communities they compete against. We wanted to make this film because the Giriraja perfectly illustrates the way in which small-scale pro-poor initiatives are the only effective answer to the spiralling food crisis and chronic poverty that besets rural India today.”

According to Ecologist editor Pat Thomas: “It’s important to see this story in its larger context. The globalised food system that most of us rely on is inherently unsustainable. It requires huge inputs of energy, and creates enormous amounts of pollution including greenhouse gases, and sickening amounts of waste. The Giriraja Chicken story is both a cautionary and a celebratory story for us in the developed world. Cautionary because the kind of food poverty that people in rural India face could so easily and so quickly become our problem. But also celebratory because it shows the benefit of combining local knowledge and small scale agriculture to solve some of the problems of getting fresh, good quality food to those who need it most.

“We can implement similar solutions in this country with better access to allotments, more back garden agriculture, and greater support for Community Supported Agriculture projects. Wherever you live, producing food for self-consumption is a vital part of the food system – it gives people control over what they eat, provides a continuum of local knowledge down generations and across cultures and in doing so promotes community, biodiversity and sustainability.”

Reprieve for humpback whales after investigation thwarts Greenland’s hunt plans

An Ecostorm investigation with WSPA has acted to convince commissioners at the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) annual meeting to vote ‘no’ to including ten humpbacks in Greenland’s whaling quota.

The undercover investigation revealed that 25% of whales killed by Greenland – which they are permitted to hunt only for aboriginal subsistence purposes – are sold commercially, resulting in significant profit and exploding the myth that their whaling quotas are purely subsistence based.

Last month WSPA presented IWC commissioners with compelling evidence, providing them with the information necessary to ensure a ‘no’ vote from a majority 36 of the 65 voting nations.

WSPA’s Claire Bass commented on the vote from the IWC meeting: “This is fantastic news as fewer whales will be cruelly killed. WSPA’s investigation has given the IWC the information it needed to see through the myths of Greenlandic whaling and make the right decision.”

Speaking on the importance of the vote, she added: “This is a significant victory in a bigger campaign to end the slaughter of whales globally, and we will continue in our campaign to end the cruelty of whaling.”

To view the investigative film and read further news reports see:

Eco-activists targeted with spies and news manipulation

As part of our unique collaboration with The Ecologist, Ecostorm is pleased to announce publication of a new special report and accompanying film “Melting Point: the new frontline in eco-activism” in the July / August edition of the magazine.

Ahead of next month’s ‘Climate Camp’ at Kingsnorth, Kent – where a coalition of campaigners have pledged to shut Eon’s power station complex down – the Ecologist Film Unit investigates how government and big business are countering resurgent eco-activism with spies, strong arm tactics and news manipulation.

To view the film visit: or

The print report is carried in the current edition of the magazine, available by subscription or from any good newsagent.

Melting Point is the second in a major new series of films produced by the Ecologist Film Unit. The debut film, Hell For Leather, an investigation into the shocking human and environmental cost of cheap leather production in Bangladesh, was launched in June and broadcast to millions of viewers globally on the BBC World channel.

Former chief government scientist brands Heathrow third runway ‘White Elephant’ ahead of climate camp

In an exclusive interview with the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU) Professor Sir David King has said that government plans to expand British airport capacity are both short-sighted and economically unsound. Sir David, until recently the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, said that the Government’s own policy of drastically reducing carbon emissions made nonsense of current proposals to expand airport capacity:

“I’m looking at this from a marketing point of view – if we’re moving towards decarbonising our economy this must mean that alternative means of transport, land transport, will be favoured over air transport,” he said.

“This must mean that by pricing carbon dioxide, by putting fuel tax on aviation fuel as well (which is the British government position) that we will drive people toward land-based travel rather than air, and investments in new runways will turn out to be white elephants,” he added.

Sir David, who famously described climate change as “a far greater threat even than global terrorism”, made his remarks to the Ecologist Film Unit while being interviewed in June 2008 for the film Melting Point – The New Frontline In Environmental Activism about the extreme reaction of Government and big business to the new generation of climate change activists. His comments come less than two weeks before this year’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station where protesters will gather to express their deep concern over rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Earlier this month John Hutton, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, told an audience at Farnborough air show that the government would press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow despite the objections of environmentalists.

But Sir David’s comments reinforce previous allegations – including those made by opposition politicians and former BA Chief Executive Bob Ayling – that the controversial plans are economically flawed as well as environmentally dangerous.

According to Ecologist editor Pat Thomas: “Sir David’s damning indictment of the UK government’s airport expansion plans is timely and most welcome. There are an increasingly large group of concerned people, all across the country and from all walks of life, who want their views to be heard on the subject of climate change. As our extraordinary film shows, the Climate Camp protesters who will be descending on Kingsnorth power station next month, far from being a threat to our present or future security, are shouting in one voice about the need for a stable climate and a sustainable, secure future for the UK. It’s good to hear Sir David adding his voice to the rising chorus of dissent.”

About the film

Melting Point – The New Frontline In Environmental Activism (10 mins) details the espionage, news manipulation, legal threats and even violence that have become the knee-jerk response of Government and big business to the increasing and vocal concerns of environmental protesters in the UK.

Ahead of next month’s Climate Camp at Kingsnorth power station, this exclusive and powerful film exposes the extraordinary tactics being used to reframe concerned citizens engaging in their right to protest, as dangerous terrorists. It can be viewed, along with other EFU productions, online at and will distributed for broadcast externally.

**The full filmed version of Sir David King’s interview, in which he also describes carbon capture and storage – the Government ‘clean coal’ solution – as an “unproven technology” and criticises the rampant consumerism and dangerously limited thinking about renewable energy that is keeping the UK from becoming a “decarbonised economy”, is also available on request.

About the Ecologist Film Unit

The Ecologist Film Unit (EFU), is a collaboration between the Ecologist magazine and the investigative agency Ecostorm. It makes hard-hitting, topical documentaries which are streamed on the internet, and shown on TV and at film festivals and events.

Revealed: the shocking human and environmental cost of cheap leather

A major investigation by Ecostorm for the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU) has revealed the appalling and unreported human and environmental cost of the leather trade in Bangladesh, South Asia. The investigation, entitled “Hell For Leather”, is released this week as a short, hard-hitting, documentary film and as a special report in the June edition of The Ecologist magazine.

Filmed and researched in Bangladesh over a two week period, the film and report reveals how leather used in consumer goods, including shoes, handbags, trinkets and luxury car interiors – some of which find their way onto European high streets – is linked to serious health problems amongst tannery workers.

It also exposes how the toxic chemicals used in leather tanning lead to environmental degradation via the rampant discharge of untreated effluents from tanneries into water supplies and waterways. The investigation focuses on the impoverished communities living and working in Hazaribagh, Dhaka’s major leather producing area, and the detrimental effects these toxic chemicals are having on them.

Home to over 100 tanneries, the Hazaribagh area of Dhaka produces much of Bangladesh’s leather, most of which is destined for export abroad. $240 million worth of skins are exported annually from Bangladesh alone, most sent to the fashion houses of the EU, Japan and China, for working into shoes, handbags and other accessories sold on high streets the world over.

“Hazaribagh has been classed as one of the 30 most polluted places in the planet – a roll-call of toxicity shared by the likes of Chernobyl. The difference with Hazaribagh of course is that it is situated in the middle of the fastest growing city in the world. It is amazing that with so much concern for child labour, air miles and organic food, the chronic problems of leather production in places such as Bangladesh have gone without notice,”. Jim Wickens, producer of Hell For Leather and co-director of Ecostorm, said.

Challenge to Greenland’s whaling claims

An undercover investigation carried out by Ecostorm on behalf of WSPA has found evidence to challenge the myth that Greenland’s whaling is exclusively for aboriginal subsistence purposes.

Greenland is granted a quota of 233 whales annually by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) despite the international commercial ban, because they claim that the whales are needed by aboriginal communities for their own use.

Investigators discovered that some of the whaling is in fact commercial. The inquiry, carried out in April 2008, found supermarket freezers full of whale products, industrial plants for freezing and drying whale meat, and even stock piles of unsold whale meat. At least 114 supermarkets in Greenland carry whale products for retail sale.

Claire Bass, WSPA’s Marine Mammals Programme Manager, said: “Our evidence will blow everyone’s impressions of Greenland’s whaling out of the water; the results have proven that some ‘subsistence whaling’ is no longer providing food critical to indigenous peoples. We’ve traced unacceptable animal suffering back to commercial profit margins.”

Based on the investigation, WSPA estimates that US$1million profit is being made from one quarter or more of the whales that Greenland is allowed to slaughter for subsistence purposes. Consequently, WSPA believes that Greenland’s whaling has crossed the line into commercial whaling.

To watch the investigation film and read the report please see:

Scottish ‘misled over seal hunt fur’

Seal skins from the controversial Canadian hunts are being sold in Scotland to make sporrans – traditional decorative items popular with tourists and as fancy dress – and buyers are being misled about their origin, an investigation by Ecostorm for Sky News and IFAW, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, has revealed.

During the inquiry, investigators discovered that customers in some Scottish shops are told the fur used to decorate the traditional Scottish garment comes from Greenland and is a by-product of a hunt where the seals are killed for food. But the investigation – broadcast by Sky News – has revealed the truth: the skins come from animals slaughtered purely for their fur.

To watch the film and read the report see:,,30000-1317653,00.htm

Ecostorm joins forces with The Ecologist magazine to form specialist film unit

ecofilmunitlogo1-e1362746428673In a major new venture, Ecostorm has teamed up with The Ecologist magazine, the world’s most widely read environmental magazine, to launch the Ecologist Film Unit (EFU), which will make hard-hitting, investigative films to be streamed on the internet, broadcast on TV and at film festivals and events.

Building on the Ecologist’s reputation for agenda setting reporting on environmental issues and Ecostorm’s investigative film production skills, the EFU will make documentary films that lift the lid on a host of unreported environmental scandals that will shock viewers out of any misplaced complacency that the planet’s problems can be solved simply by switching light bulbs and more recycling!

The EFU’s debut is “Hell For Leather”, an investigation which examines the appalling, and unpublicised human and environmental cost of the leather trade in Southern Asia (see seperate news release).

“The EFU will take the kind of leading edge environmental reporting we are known for to a much wider and more diverse audience, in a much more immediate way. Ecologist editor, Pat Thomas, said. “It will also offer an antidote to the kind of ‘tick-box’ environmental reporting of some mainstream news and provide a model of how print and online media can work effectively together to drive change”.

“The launch of the EFU is an exciting move for the Ecologist” said publisher Jemima Ransome “The world wide web is fuelling a new grassroots environmental activism that the Ecologist believes will be crucial in motivating widespread and meaningful action. At the same time it is also an invaluable medium for engaging a new, younger audience with environmental issues – important since they are the future caretakers of our planet”.

The EFU is currently working on a number of exciting follow ups to “Hell For Leather”, for release later in 2008, and is actively seeking commissions from television news outfits.

Jailing of Chinese campaigner highlights dangers of web activism

The jailing of Chinese human rights and democracy activist Hu Jia for subversion after posting articles critical of the Chinese regime on the Internet highlights, say campaigners, the increasing dangers facing activists using the net in many countries across the world.

A recent Ecostorm report, The Price of Dissent, disturbingly revealed how campaigners and journalists in, amongst others, China, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Tunisia and Jordan, face serious persecution for using the net to distribute material deemed as unacceptable by the ruling authorities.

Several pressure groups, including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty, have launched campaigns dedicated to exposing and tackling the problem.

The news of Hu Jia’s imprisonment for three and a half years comes as a new report by Amnesty International today exposes China’s appalling – and current – human rights record in Tibet and elsewhere in the country. Campaigners are critical of much of the international community – and of the organisers and participants of the forthcoming Olympic Games – for turning a blind eye to the situation as the athletic games approach.

For Reporters Without Borders Internet Enemies campaign, see:

For the Amnesty report on China’s human rights record see:

Index On Censorship

Indonesia: new film highlights health risks of country’s wet markets

An investigative film produced by Indonesian pressure group Yudisthira – and Ecostorm – examining the health risks posed by the country’s numerous wet ‘poultry’ markets has been presented to the Indonesian government as part of a new public awareness campaign designed to highlight the links between the spread of diseases such as avian influenza and poor farming practices.

The film, created from footage obtained during undercover investigations carried out in Bali and Java, was produced as part of a pilot training programme commissioned by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and includes graphic evidence of poor animal welfare conditions and of the associated threats posed to human health.

Indonesian wet markets traditionally sell live animals out in the open. Depending on the region, animals are often caged and killed onsite for preparation. The wet markets have been frequently linked to the country’s ongoing risk from the deadly H5N1 version of avian influenza, which has so far claimed in excess of 100 lives in the country.

During a ten day Ecostorm training programme, Yudisthira campaigners received instruction in operating PD150 broadcast cameras, covert cameras, shooting basic sequences for editing, planning investigations and onsite filming, carrying out on-camera interviews, writing storyboards, and logging footage. Then, in a joint field investigation, the footage and information needed to make an effective campaign film was gathered.

Yudisthira, an active member of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) -led Asian Coalition for Farm Animals (ACFA), is currently working on a two-part advocacy campaign consisting of an assessment of poultry welfare in the wet markets of Java and an assessment of antibiotic residues in broiler chicken meat sold in the wet markets of Denpasar, Bali.

Ecostorm carried out investigative and broadcast film trainings in four countries during 2007, with three more currently planned for 2008.

For more information see: