The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest and The Girl Who Played With Fire

Week 2 of the ‘Salmon Farming Kills’ trial between Cermaq and Don Staniford kicked off with two of the industry’s queen bees on the witness stand: Ruth Salmon, Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) and Mary Ellen Walling of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA).

The sting in the tail at the end of the day was provided by Mary Ellen Walling who testified that she was “upset” at being lampooned in two cartoons posted by the defendant Mr. Staniford on the Superheroes 4 Salmon web-site and in a letter to the King of Norway (read the letter in full online here).  Here’s the offending images:

David Sutherland, the defendant’s lawyer, then took Mary Ellen Walling to another cartoon published in The Province newspaper in September 2011 which depicted a PR official for the salmon farmers association out in the field machine-gunning seals.

Asked if she recognised the photo on the desk she said yes (those with eagle eyes can clearly see that the photos are the same).

Ms Walling then appeared to suggest that an ‘editorial cartoon’ in a respected newspaper was somehow different from Mr. Staniford lampooning her in his blog.  Whatever your sense of humour, the killing of marine mammals is no laughing matter and is the subject of a formal complaint by the defendant Mr. Staniford (and others including Paul Watson and Alexandra Morton) to the US Department of Commerce.    

 
Read more details of the killing of marine mammals online here
 
Today (24 January) sees Mary Ellen Walling return for further testimony along with Jason Mann of EWOS (Cermaq’s feed company) and Leanne Brunt of Positive Aquaculture Awareness (and an adviser to Patrick Moore’s Greenspirit Strategies).

Since the plaintiff (the Norwegian Government owned company Cermaq – as represented by Mainstream Canada/EWOS Canada) has now retreated from their previous claims of ‘Defamtory Words’ associated with the ‘Salmon Farming Kills’, ‘Silent Spring of the Sea’, and ‘Smoke on the Water, Cancer on the Coast’ campaigns the lawsuit is now being fought solely on ‘the sting’ of the words; namely that (22h has since been expunged too):

Online in full via '‘Amended Notice of Civil Claim

In launching the ‘BC Salmon Facts’ campaign, the BC Salmon Farmers Association have certainly created a media buzz.  BC Business magazine reported in June 2011: 
 
The B.C. Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) is one organization that decided to confront its detractors head on, and when it launched a series of inflammatory TV ads as part of a PR blitz last January, it kicked an online hornet’s nest”  

Read more via “Don ‘The Sting’ Staniford Vs. Mainstream Canada
 
For a review of last week read “Week 1 Review: Cermaq Vs. Staniford
 
Meanwhile, funding for the lawsuit passed the $20,000 mark last night via ‘Go Fund Me.’  This news was reported by Norway’s state broadcaster (NRK) today via the headline: “Samlet inn 200.000 kroner i støtte” and a photo of the Wild Salmon Warrior rally in Vancouver in August during the Cohen Commission. 

With legal bills expected to reach well over $100,000 there is an urgent need to raise funds – please donate online here now!  
 
The trial is scheduled to last for four weeks and run for 20 days – until 10 February.   Court hours are 10am to 4pm with a 12.30pm to 2pm lunch break.  The trial takes place in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver (Nelson/Hornby St. entrance) in courtroom number 52.    
 
 
Day 6 – Monday 23 January 2012
 
Before the judge (Justice Elaine Adair) arrives there is some friendly banter between opposing counsel – the two David’s in this David Vs. Goliath legal battle (David Sutherland representing the defendant Don Staniford and David Wotherspoon representing the giant Norwegian-owned multinational Cermaq who is the plaintiff as represented by their Canadian subsidiary Mainstream/EWOS). 
 
“I’m wearing a new shirt,” boasts Mr. Wotherspoon.
 
“This trial is a two-shirter for sure,” replies Mr. Sutherland. 
 
[Mr. Staniford, who is due to take the witness stand later this week and may be questioned for 3 to 4 days, even went to buy two white shirts over the weekend]
 
“Our first witness is Ruth Salmon,” says Mr. Wotherspoon who looks all shiny white in his freshly pressed new shirt.
 
In the public gallery, Tweeting away are Colleen Dane of the BC Salmon Farmers Association (BCSFA) and Cermaq’s PR flak Laurie Jensen.  Mary Ellen Walling, Executive Director of the BCSFA, patiently waits outside for her turn in the witness box. 
 
“Both are grumpy at me for having to wait around,” explained Mr. Wotherspoon on Friday (both of today’s witnesses – Ruth Salmon and Mary Ellen Walling – had expected to be giving evidence last week).
 
“My background is in food nutrition and I’ve worked in the food industry for over 30 years,” explains Ms. Salmon.  “I’ve been working in aquaculture for 15 years and before that worked for the dairy industry.”  Ms. Salmon used to promote milk – she’s now clearly found her true calling by promoting salmon.
 
“I started with the BC Shellfish Association and for the last 5 years have been Executive Director of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance,” says Ms. Salmon who is looking very environmental in her green cardigan (it is very chilly in the courtroom). 
 
“When the industry began there were very few regulations and no operating standards,” explains Ms. Salmon.  “Today we have high regulations and a strict regulatory framework.  We have 17 different acts and agencies which regulate salmon farming.  There’s a range of departments and acts which impact our industry.” 
 
“Health Canada sets threshold levels for dioxins and other contaminants,” says Ms. Salmon.  “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency would monitor for residues.  All food unfortunately contains trace levels of PCBs.  PCBs were banned in 1977 but they are still being detected.  Health Canada sets threshold limits on a strict level to ensure the final product contains levels below safe levels.”
 
“The science if clear of the health benefits of farmed salmon,” testifies Ms. Salmon who swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  “The health benefits of farmed and wild and the level of contaminants are similar.”
 
Mr. Sutherland, legal counsel for the defendant Mr. Staniford, objects to the line of questioning and argues that this is expert evidence. 
 
Mr. Wotherspoon, legal counsel for the plaintiff Cermaq, takes Ms. Salmon to a document on the CAIA web-site which states that ‘Farmed Salmon Are Natural and Nutritious’.”
 
Mr. Sutherland rises to object again: “Same objection – reference to a document does not change it’s character,” he says. 
 
“Is this hearsay?” asks Justice Adair. 
 
Ms. Salmon is asked to leave as the lawyers argue points of law on relevance and whether this is admissible as expert evidence.
 
“My lady, the witness is entitled to provide a statement to go to the truth,” argues Mr Wotherspoon.  “This evidence is fact based.”
 
“This witness has not gone out and investigated facts but she’s compiled information,” says Justice Adair.  “She’s gone and consulted a variety of sources....You have not convinced me yet that the evidence can go in.”
 
“I will, my lady, take the position that this evidence can go in as a compilation,” replies Mr. Wotherspoon.  “But she cannot state it is a true.  The witness can say this is an accurate summary but she cannot say it is true.”
 
“I immediately turn to relevance,” argues Mr. Sutherland.  “Her state of mind – I don’t see as relevant if it is not going to truth to guide the court on a matter of controversy.”
 
“This issue is in the public domain and is not mentioned by Mr. Staniford,” argues Mr. Wotherspoon.  “It goes to fairness of information and malice.  That’s an easy one.”
 
“I’m going to overrule the objection based on Mr. Wotherspoon’s arguments about how this evidence is to be used,” says Justice Adair.  “It’s not being used to prove the facts.....none of that is being tendered for the truth.  The evidence is being tendered to go to issues of fair comment and Mr. Staniford’s malice.”
 
Ms. Salmon is brought back into the witness box. 
 
Mr. Wotherspoon suggests to the witness that the information came from the US FDA, School of Public Health at Harvard and the Centre for Science in the Public Interest.
 
Mr. Sutherland objects again.  “It’s the same two objections,” says Mr. Sutherland.  “We’re knocking over a whole lot of rules here.”
 
“The evidence isn’t being tendered to prove the truth,” says Justice Adair. 
 
“I wonder the relevance of the information being published,” says Mr. Sutherland. 
 
“I am going to allow Mr. Wotherspoon to continue asking the questions,” says Justice Adair. 
 
“Yes, there is a high level of scrutiny of the aquaculture industry,” says Ms. Salmon.  “The general public doesn’t have a good general understanding.”
 
“The use of antibiotics has gone down dramatically,” says Ms. Salmon.  “All of the salmon farming companies have a vet on staff who authorizes treatment.” 
 
Mr. Sutherland rises to object again.  “It’s a kind of window dressing – irrelevant to the lawsuit.”
 
“I agree with my friend,” replies Mr. Wotherspoon.  “I apologize for asking that question.”
 
“Aquaculture is a success story,” says Ms. Salmon (who unlikely as it seems is no relation to Hans Christian Andersen).  “A big part of our success is tracking progress with our competitors.  Canada’s share of the world market has dropped 40%.  We are falling behind.”
 
Mr. Sutherland objects again in relation to a document of statistics and information on aquaculture in Canada.  “I have a variety of objections,” he argues.  “I would like to emphatically add relevance.  This is irrelevant, leading and hearsay.”
 
“I think there are a number of problems,” agrees Justice Adair.
 
“Yes, I won’t ask any more questions (on this line of questioning),” says Mr. Wotherspoon. 
 
“Smoking is related to heart disease and lung cancer,” says Ms. Salmon in reply to a question on her impressions of the tobacco industry.  “The tobacco industry is not transparent and unethical.”
 
“Have you seen GAAIA’s web-site?” asks Mr. Wotherspoon.
 
“Yes, I have,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “It’s very unfair.  The information was sensationalized.”
 
[Judge for yourself by visiting the GAAIA web-site – back online here!]
   
Mr. Sutherland starts his cross-examination of Ms. Salmon by asking her about the growth of the salmon farming industry and the number of Norwegian-based companies.  “Three are headquartered in Norway – Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg,” says Ms. Salmon. 
 
“BC is 65% of Canada’s salmon farming production,” says Ms. Salmon. 
 
“Is salmon farming controversial?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“I’m not sure I would use the word controversial,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “There are clearly differing opinions.  In terms of science there’s always differing opinions.”
 
“You recently received a Government grant to promote the health qualities of farmed salmon?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“Yes – to find export market activities,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “We talk about the health benefits in most of our activities.  It is a key part of our marketing.  We’re very proud to promote the high quality of the farmed salmon products.”
 
“Our whole industry is heavily based on science,” says Ms. Salmon.  “We reference scientific documents and scientists.”
 
“On the science and PCBs, it is understood that there are cancer-causing chemicals in farmed salmon?” suggests Mr. Sutherland.
 
Mr. Wotherspoon rises like a GM farmed salmon to object.  “I have trouble with this,” he says.
 
“I’ll take her to papers we referenced earlier,” replies Mr. Sutherland.
 
“I would disagree,” says Ms. Salmon.  “It depends on who’s doing the testing.  It’s generally accepted that salmon – both wild and farmed – have similar levels of PCBs.”
 
“Are you familiar with the 2004 paper by Hites et al published in Science?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“Yes – I have seen it,” replies Ms. Salmon.
 
[Read the paper online here
 
“This scientific paper was very controversial and resulted in a lot of science which disagreed with this paper,” says Ms. Salmon.  “This did result in a lot of media attention.”
 
“This is a definitive paper relating to 2 metric tonnes and 700 samples of farmed salmon,” suggests Mr. Sutherland.
 
Mr. Wotherspoon objects.  “It is not appropriate to ask her what the paper says,” he argues. 
 
“There has been no subsequent paper of similar scope which has challenged this,” says Mr. Sutherland. 
 
“We don’t publish this conclusion,” says Ms. Salmon.  “There were a lot of scientists who disagreed.”
 
“Is there a controversy?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“There’s not a controversy anymore,” replies Ms. Salmon who lobbies for an industry who actively smeared the Science paper (read ‘Spinning Farmed Salmon’). “We don’t have a controversy now.”
 
“Wild and farmed salmon have similar levels of contaminants,” says Ms. Salmon (ignoring the science which reports that farmed salmon are significantly more contaminated).  “Farmed salmon is at the low end of the commonly eaten foods.”
 
“You’re aware that the Hites paper in Science finds higher levels of cancer-causing contaminants in farmed salmon?” asks Mr. Sutherland. 
 
“Yes – in this paper,” agrees Ms. Salmon.  “The work in this area has not been able to be duplicated since.” 
 
“So you’re saying that this is not good science and it has been overtaken?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“Yes, credible scientists in this area have proved it not to be true,” says Ms. Salmon.  “There’s been lots of retaliation to this paper.” 
 
[For a comprehensive review read ‘Spinning Farmed Salmon’ by Professor David Miller]
 
“There’s differing opinions and that beneficial as that helps the evolution of the science exploration,” says Ms. Salmon.  “We have moved further along.  I completely discount this in the material CAIA publishes.”
 
Mr. Sutherland now takes Ms. Salmon to another scientific paper published in 2005 on cancer-causing contaminants in farmed salmon (read the paper online here).  “It also suggests that PCBs and other carcinogenic substances are higher in farmed salmon and applies an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standard to find it triggers consumption advisories of 0.4 to 1 meal per month,” says Mr. Sutherland.  “There are a series of papers which confirm the Hites paper.  You discount this too?”
 
“This is a good example of the scientific controversy,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “I think it is important to realize that this industry is regulated by Health Canada.  We have to out our trust in Health Canada.  We have to provide healthy products to consumers.”
 
“Have you heard of a moves in California to put warning labels on food in relation to contaminants like dioxins?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“No, I don’t know,” replies Ms. Salmon.  I’ve heard rumblings but nothing concrete.  I don’t know enough to answer your question.  I don’t remember.”
 
“Yes, I recall the time cigarettes did not have warning levels on,” says Ms. Salmon in reply to a question on warning labels on tobacco products.  “Yes, we now have warning labels.”
 
“Prior to the warnings there were PR and advertising on behalf of the tobacco industry which extolled tobacco including the health aspects?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“I am not sure I can comment,” replies Ms. Salmon. 
 
Mr. Sutherland takes Ms. Salmon to a draft report authored by the defendant Mr. Staniford entitled ‘Smoke on the Water, Cancer on the Coast’ (available soon online here!).  Mr. Sutherland shows Ms. Salmon and the judge adverts from the tobacco industry including statements on ‘Facts’ and ‘Truth’ from doctors and scientists recommending smoking. 
 
 “Do I need to be able to read the small words?” asks Justice Adair.
 
“Yes, the ads can be blow up,” replies Mr. Sutherland who just last week quit smoking.  “The point is that prior to the warning levels the tobacco industry was presenting scientific facts on the health benefits of smoking.  I am suggesting this is similar to salmon farming.”
 
Mr. Wotherspoon leaps up like a PCB contaminated farmed to object.  “I certainly don’t understand,” he argues.  “It’s unfair.”
 
“You see that on page 9 the tobacco companies are using fact, truth and evidence in their advertising prior to the warning labels?” asks Mr. Sutherland who is smoking hot right now. 
 
“Objection,” interrupts Mr. Wotherspoon who is blowing smoke on this issue. 
 
Mr. Sutherland reads from one of the cigarette ads.  “A FACT!  Science advances new data which may change your ideas on cigarettes.”  “So your lobbying and advertising is this you presenting facts about salmon farming?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“Yes – but we continue to rely on the regulatory environment in Canada,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “We look to Health Canada to determine safety thresholds and they enforce that.  We are well below the thresholds.  That’s the food system in Canada.  The job of the Government of Canada is to do that for us.  And farmed salmon is safe, wholesome and nutritious.”
 
“Are you discounting the Hites paper in Science?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“What I am doing is putting my faith in the Government of Canada,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “That takes it out of one science paper Vs. another.”
 
“But prior to the US Surgeon’s ruling leading to warnings on cigarettes the US Government and the Canadian Government did not have warnings,” suggests Mr. Sutherland.  “If the California warnings are appropriate then shouldn’t someone be able to express that view?”
 
Mr. Wotherspoon rises to object again.  Ms. Salmon is excused as the lawyers debate the issue. 
 
“The witnesses are here to provide evidence on facts,” argues Mr. Wotherspoon.  “Now he’s asking the witness to give evidence on opinion which goes to the heart of the case.  Her opinion is irrelevant.”
 
“All Mr. Staniford is doing is putting forth another view,” argues Mr. Sutherland.  “I obviously think it’s giving the witness a chance to expand her views and respond that we’re at a particular point in history.”
 
“I will withdraw the question, I don’t care what the answer is,” replies Mr. Wotherspoon.
 
Ms. Salmon is called back into the room. 
 
“I was drawing you to the adverts of tobacco prior to the warning and I’m asking you that if tobacco is not prohibited by regulation then aren’t we in the same position now with farmed salmon?” asks Mr. Sutherland.
 
“No, not at all,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “If we were going to out warning levels on PCBs then we would essentially be labelling all other foods.  We should accept Health Canada’s standards.”
 
“Should someone who disagrees not be able to do so?” asks Mr. Sutherland.  
 
“Health Canada’s role is to ensure the safety of the Canadian food supply,” replies Ms. Salmon.
 
“If someone disagrees,” says Mr. Sutherland.  “I don’t know how we move forward if we do not allow criticism.”
 
“I feel that Mr. Staniford is spreading inaccurate information and not helpful since farmed salmon is healthy and nutritious,” replies Ms. Salmon.  “I don’t see how that information is appropriate.”
 
No re-direct from Mr. Wotherspoon. 
 
Mary Ellen Walling takes the stand.
 
To be continued tomorrow (apologies - I do not have time to write up the rest of my notes - I will include the whole of Mary Ellen Walling's testimony all together in a blog tomorrow).


 
 
Today (24 January) sees Mary Ellen Walling return for further testimony along with Jason Mann of EWOS (Cermaq’s feed company) and Leanne Brunt of Positive Aquaculture Awareness (and an adviser to Patrick Moore’s Greenspirit Strategies).   Tomorrow (25 January) sees the plaintiff expert witness on cancer-causing chemicals, Dr. Michael Gallo, return via video link to provide further testimony.  Thursday (26 January) is expected to be taken up with legal arguments. 
 
Court hours are 10am to 4pm with a 12.30pm to 2pm lunch break.  The trial takes place in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver (Nelson/Hornby St. entrance) in courtroom number 52.  The trial is scheduled to last 20 days with the defendant Don Staniford expected to take the witness stand on Friday (27 January).