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Plant-based seafood investor has ties to group targeting Cooke

Group behind damaging Cooke video has ties to alternative plant-based seafood manufacturers.

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Before Monday, the group Compassion Over Killing (COK) was unknown to most in the seafood industry.

That all changed when the group released a video showing workers at a Cooke Aquaculture hatchery in Maine slamming fish against poles, stomping on the head of a salmon and other troubling images of animal mistreatment.

So just who is COK?

COK promotes vegetarian eating among mainstream America consumers, and its investigators go undercover inside farms and slaughter plants to gather photo and video evidence of animal cruelty that, it says, are often standard practices within animal agribusiness.

COK, according to its website, has completed more than 20 investigations inside the meat, egg, and dairy industries. It appears the Cooke investigation is its first in seafood.

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The group has ties to VegInvest, which provides early-stage capital and guidance to companies working to replace the use of animals in the food supply, according to its website. Its portfolio of companies includes plant-based alternative seafood firms Good Catch, New Wave Foods and BlueNalu, among other plant-based food producers.

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VegInvest is lead by Amy Trakinski, a former attorney who represented animal protection groups. She is also board chair of COK.

By NGO standards, COK, based in Washington, D.C. and established in 1997, is small. It reported a total revenue of $1.3 million (€1.1 million) on its 2017 tax form, the bulk of which came from non-specified “gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees received."

By comparison, the well-known animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reported revenue of $44.6 million (€40.7 million) on its 2016 tax form.

Modus Operandi

The event that unfolded at Cooke’s facility is similar to others the group has orchestrated to draw attention to animal-based food processing plants.

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For example, In 2012, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shut down a slaughterhouse in California because of a graphic video showing cows being mistreated during the slaughtering process.

COK posted a video of the facility showing cows at the Central Valley Meat Company flailing wildly as they were dragged by one leg on a conveyor belt on their way to be slaughtered, according to a Reuters report at the time.

And just as in the Cooke incident, a COK undercover activist shot the video at the farm.

Among the conglomerates the group has targeted are McDonald's, IHOP, Tyson and Subway, all of whom have embraced plant-based meat alternatives in recent years. Tyson, in the most recent example, invested in New Wave Foods last month.

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