The horrific cruelty that fish experience in factory farms and at slaughter across Europe has been documented in an undercover investigation by Compassion in World Farming.
The investigation also highlights how fish are often killed inhumanely and many suffer slow, painful deaths by asphyxiation, crushing or even being gutted alive.
The investigation was featured on BBC Countryfile, when Dr. Krzysztof Wojtas, Head of Fish Policy at Compassion, discussed fish welfare with presenter Tom Heap.
Wojtas explained: “Millions of fish are silently suffering, out of sight in vast underwater factory farms across the UK and Europe. Just like on land, these farms are crowded, grim places where the animals suffer immensely. Many are then being slaughtered in the most gruesome of ways.
“Discoveries are proving that fish are sensitive, intelligent, emotional animals. They deserve both a humane life and death. It’s time for us to Rethink Fish.”
Footage obtained by the leading farm animal welfare charity reveals the appalling welfare conditions sea bass, sea bream and trout are being reared in.
Confined to concrete tanks on land or in floating ocean nets by the thousands, these fish spend their short lives swimming in cramped waters where disease and parasites can thrive. Dead fish were found floating in tanks as live ones swam around them.
The investigation also highlights the shockingly inhumane way fish are killed. Sea bass and sea bream are commonly dumped into large buckets of ice slurry, where they thrash about, fighting for their lives, as ice gets lodged in their gills and they struggle to breathe. They can remain conscious throughout this ordeal, and many are still alive when they are packaged up in Styrofoam boxes, ready to be sold.
Investigators witnessed trout flailing about in pools of bloody water after having their throats cut. This kind of suffering is illegal according to European law, which mandates animals should not suffer while being killed. These fish can be found on supermarket shelves across the continent.
Matt Mellen, Compassion’s fish welfare campaign manager, said: “Currently, billions of fish are living lives of abject misery. Fish farming does not have to be intensive, industrial, cruel and unsustainable. More humane fish farming can become a reality.
"If decisive action is taken now, we can once again have a thriving fishing industry. Consumers will be able to buy fish in confidence, knowing that reasonable levels of concern for animal welfare and environmental sustainability have been taken into account.”
Compassion is now calling on the UK government to ensure that we introduce laws in compliance with the EU Slaughter Directive, giving fish the protection they deserve at their time of death. We need new laws requiring the use of humane slaughter methods for fish, and must introduce national legislation to end this suffering.
Just like other animals, fish should not suffer unnecessarily during their lives or at the time of death. Humane slaughter methods such as electric or percussive stunning do exist and these should be rolled out across the industry as soon as possible.
This article is based on a press release from Compassion in World Farming. To support Compassion in World Farming’s campaign please visit rethink.fish.