Is Humane, Sustainable Fish Production A Myth? Right Now, It’s Not A Widespread Reality

Fish are complex, sentient animals, that deserve a stress-free death
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Millions of fish are silently suffering out of sight in vast underwater factory farms throughout Europe. Many are then being slaughtered in the most gruesome of ways. And it should be noted that while these fish may not be farmed in the UK, they are available on supermarket shelves here.

In Greece and France, investigators from Compassion in World Farming witnessed trout flailing in pools of bloody water after having their throats cut. Sea bass and sea bream were 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.

My non-vegetarian friends have asked me whether this research is just another ploy to make us all give up eating animal products.

It’s a fair query with a whole range of possible responses. The straightforward answer is – no. Compassion is not a vegan or vegetarian organisation, and therefore we aren’t trying to tell consumers what they should eat. What we are trying to do – is inform consumers, so that they can make the choice for themselves and in addition, to ensure that fish are slaughtered using the most humane methods possible. So if you do choose to buy fish, what are the options?

Wild fish often lead a life worth living, with the freedom to swim in our oceans. However, almost all of these fish are slaughtered in inhumane ways. Our new investigation brings these to light. Not only is this inhumane, it’s illegal.

Some farmed fish use humane slaughter methods, which we applaud. However, often the stocking densities are too high and there are aggression problems with the fish, as they are kept in such confined containers. In addition, fish kept in cramped waters have higher levels of disease and parasite issues. Both salmon and trout are carnivorous fish, meaning that we have to feed each of them hundreds of wild fish, for one farmed fish. This isn’t sustainable and is depleting our oceans of wild fish.

Compassion is now calling on the 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 legislation requiring the use of humane slaughter methods for fish, and to introduce national legislation to end this suffering.

I believe that 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.

Fish farming does not have to be intensive, industrial, cruel and unsustainable. So, is humane, sustainable fish consumption a myth? Right now, it’s not a wide-spread reality – but we are campaigning to ensure that it can be. If decisive action is taken now we can once again have a thriving fishing industry and consumers can buy fish in confidence, knowing that reasonable levels of concern for animal welfare and environmental sustainability have been taken into account.

To support Compassion in World Farming’s fish campaign please visit


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