Two summers ago I decided to stop eating tuna after I had seen yet another disquieting documentary about its catastrophic over-exploitation.
It was surprisingly easy to stick to my decision once I had taken it. The hard part was to not try and convert everybody around me.
After all the only way to make up your mind, is to do it yourself… I am not a brochure nor an app on sustainable canned tuna. I could be, sort of, but it should be up to others to consider me as such.
It was of course a symbolic decision. It would not have any impact on the situation of the tuna population out there. Of course not.
But what, I pondered, what if everybody picked one fish* he would not eat?
Would that make a difference within the bigger scheme of conserving what still hides and dives out there, down under the water surface?
(*For the time being I have limited the experiment to fish. I am afraid that if I allow all animals immediately into this exercise, nobody will choose a fish – they are simply less popular, being less visible, understandable, cuddly etc., except for dolphins of course).
So I asked around: “If you had to pick one fish you weren’t allowed to eat, which one would it be?”
“A dolphin” most people answered which forced me to narrow my question down: “It has to be one you usually eat”.
They looked at me with a friendly, superior smile, gave it a thought anyway and let their intuition (taste?) talk: squid, tilapia filet (not getting it), whale (still not getting it), coalfish, cuttlefish, shrimps etc.
Between parenthesis picking out one animal you will not consume anymore is on a very superficial level, a sort of totemism:
A system of belief in which each human is thought to have a spiritual connection or a kinship with another physical being, such as an animal or plant. People generally view the totem as a companion, relative, protector, progenitor, or helper, ascribe to it superhuman powers and abilities, and offer it some combination of respect, veneration, awe, and fear. There is usually a prohibition or taboo against killing, eating, or touching the totem.
This is also what I told my interviewees and suddenly they were all in a hurry to leave. Understandably. Totemism is an uncomfortable topic in our modern scientific times, isn’t it.
But what would happen if I would indeed consider for example the bluefin tuna to be my totem animal?
I searched the Web for information on tuna totems and bumped into thousands of recipes and a few vague spiritual sites from which I could deduce that the tuna totem did indeed exist, but not much more. The only valuable piece of information I found was: He [tuna] was always one to let his heart rule his head.
I could relate to that. Slowly and carefully, the thought occurred to me that maybe I should investigate this fish a bit further… get in touch with it, so to speak.
Now, apart from me and my bluefin totem, I am actually quite confident it would make a difference if everybody picked just one fish he would not “touch” anymore – in the utmost freedom of course to also connect on a more spiritual level with his shrimp, squid, tilapia filet etc.
I end this post with a tiny ode on the bluefin:
It is the ultimate fish, one of the fastest, the most powerful. A fish that navigates the wide Atlantic on an epic journey and like us, it is warm blooded […] People know tuna as food, few know the real power, intelligence and grace of the bluefin.
(1) Hoss [Public domain], url
(2) Cuddly fish (youtube)
(3) Gbaddorf [CC-BY-3.0], url
(5) Danilo Cedrone (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) [Public domain], url