New reports reveal animal and human cost of fish trade

Posted on the 11th June 2014

Two new reports from the UK and US have highlighted the terrible cost of the fish meat trade for both animals and humans.

The first publication from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) examines the current welfare situation for farmed fish at the time of slaughter. Current European legislation covers the slaughter of most farmed species – such as cows, pigs, chickens and sheep – in considerable detail, but the only stipulation for fish is that they be ‘spared any avoidable pain, distress or suffering during their killing or related operations’. This means that there is no requirement to stun fish prior to slaughter and that a range of slaughter methods may be used that have the potential to cause considerable suffering.

There is now significant scientific evidence that fish and many other aquatic creatures, such as crustaceans, experience pain and suffering in a similar way to land-based animals. The new FAWC report acknowledges this and recommends that farmed fish should be stunned prior to slaughter and treated as humanely as cattle and sheep. It also goes on to make detailed recommendations about what slaughter methods should and should not be used, and under what conditions, all of which only highlights the appalling welfare standards that currently exist in the fish industry.

However, the suffering involved in bringing fish meat to market is not limited to the animals themselves. The annual Trafficking in Persons report, soon to be published by the US government, and a recent undercover investigation by The Guardian have exposed how slave labour is used in the production of farmed prawns. One particular company in Thailand, CP Foods, which supplies supermarkets including Tesco, was found to be buying fishmeal from fishing boats operated by slaves, to feed to its farmed prawns. These men reported being chained up, deprived of food and forced to work for years without pay.

The prawns themselves – farmed on a massive scale to meet global demand – are subjected to eye-stalk ablation, which involves removing one of their eye-stalks with a razor blade to stimulate ovulation and increase egg production. Scientists have described this procedure as ‘cruel’ and ‘traumatic’.

Read FAWC’s Opinion on the Welfare of Farmed Fish at the Time of Killing.

Read the Guardian article on slavery in the Thai fishing trade

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