Devised by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), the aim of the #RethinkFish campaign is to raise general awareness of the sentience of fish and specifically issues such as overcrowding on intensive fish farms where disease and parasites can thrive.
As CIWF explain: “Problems in intensive aquaculture recently came under the spotlight on Scottish salmon farms where fish were suffering from a serious parasite epidemic. Unfortunately, the environment in which salmon are farmed - in barren conditions and at high stocking densities - provide ideal conditions for parasites such as sea lice to propagate. This not only affects the farmed fish but those living in the surrounding water too. In addition, salmon (like trout) are carnivorous and are fed on diets high in fish meal made from wild caught fish; there is no humane slaughter of these fish and wild stocks are under severe pressure. Compassion is therefore calling for a moratorium on further expansion of the Scottish fish farming industry until it is able to address the plethora of welfare and sustainability issues.”
In a seperate issue - not connected with the Scottish salmon farming industry - they also point to the inhumane slaughter methods that are widely used in global aquaculture.
“Fish deserve a good quality of life and ensuring their welfare when they are caught and killed is equally important. Today, it is estimated that globally up to 3 trillion fish are killed annually for human consumption (and for the production of fish meal and fish oil), compared to 74 billion land animals,” they explain.
“Inhumane methods of fish slaughter, for example, by submersion in a mixture of ice and water; suffocation in air; exposure to carbon dioxide; and bleeding without pre-stunning, causes considerable pain, fear and suffering which can be prolonged. Many fish remain conscious for hours during catching and processing and can suffer for several minutes after having their gills cut and left to bleed out. Fortunately, more humane methods of fish slaughter do exist and are being developed and adopted across the industry.”
CIWF highlight one such initiative.
“In 2017, Tesco was awarded the Best Innovation Award at Compassion’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards for their leading work to introduce a humane slaughter system for sea bass and sea bream into commercial practice. Rejecting the commonly used method of live chilling conscious fish in ice slurry, which can take up to 40 minutes before unconsciousness occurs, Tesco worked closely with their farmers and processors to develop a more humane and rapid process. The fish are pumped onto the harvest vessel from their pens where they are electrically stunned and rendered unconscious which lasts to death following immersion in ice-slurry. Reducing stress before slaughter is not only more humane but has product quality benefits too.”
Dr Tracey Jones, CIWF’s director of food business, says: “Much needs to change to address the welfare issues for the vast numbers of fish that are farmed for our food. The first step is to ensure good welfare at slaughter and we’ve seen some industry progress in this area for certain species such as salmon and trout.
“Now is the time for food companies to be abreast of the growing consumer concern and to ensure that all finfish farmed for food are humanely slaughtered and that they have supplier policies in place to ensure good welfare throughout life.”