Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry by Richard Flanagan

If you like to eat salmon, this book reveals what lies on our plate could well be a horror story which no movie could ever replicate. I like salmon but definitely not now that I’ve read this book.

Flanagan does a thorough job of revealing the craziness that is salmon farming. From the introduction of a fish to Tasmanian waters which is not suited because the temperature is not cold enough, the unfolding environmental damage this farming causes, to the Tasmanian government turning a blind eye on this multi-billion-dollar business.

It is an eye-opening story and I for one have completely turned off salmon. I was already wary after seeing the Four Corners report some years ago which revealed that the pink colour of salmon is artificial. I turned off it for a while but like many, I just forgot and fell for the seduction of the fish on my plate. Flanagan gives us a horror story of what we are really consuming and it’s not pretty.

“For we eat horror: factory farmed chicken heads and guts and claws and feathers, as well as petrochemical dyes, possible carcinogens and anti-biotic residue. We dine on destruction.”

Flanagan shows us so much more about how a farmed salmon lives in overcrowded filth, plugged with antibiotics, fed with soy which means that Brazilian rainforests are being pulled down to meet the demand for animal feed including farmed salmon. Another by-product is that the drinking water for Tasmanians has been at times compromised, not to mention the entire ecosystem of the once pristine Tasmanian coastline.

“Tasmania’s long history of well-documented corruption of politics by major industries such as forestry and gambling —and its lack of an ICAC—means Tasmanians survive in a culture where the expectation is that the system is corrupted.”

“Even when the salmon companies were found to have committed criminal acts—such as the recently uncovered scandal of Tassal’s illegal caging of seals in 2016—the Tasmanian government worked to ensure they evaded prosecution.”

Flanagan argues quite successfully in my opinion, backed up with solid and thorough research that the whole salmon industry in Tasmania stinks. At times, he writes with raw emotion and you can’t escape the affect it has on the reader. Agitation by people is one thing but not buying the product might just save the environment.  Read this one and be shocked but more importantly be informed.

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