Groundbreaking progress has been made this week for farmed fish across the EU. The European Parliament has produced a report that calls for significant changes in the way that fish are farmed - emphasising the importance of their welfare. Compassion in World Farming has played an important role in informing this work.
The Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture is the first major EU report that takes the welfare of fish seriously, and it sets the scene for significant change.
A call to action
Fish can suffer greatly in intensive farming systems, just like any other animal. Until now, EU reports have focused more on the environmental issues surrounding the farming of fish, with very little mention of their welfare. Now, European countries are asked to look more closely at the experiences of the fish themselves, including the following recommendations:
Fish are recognised as sentient beings
Historically it has been thought that fish could not feel pain, or were not 'sentient' in the same way as other animals, and this has allowed many inhumane practices to continue. However, this report stresses that as fish are sentient beings, countries must pay full regard to their welfare (Article 13, Lisbon Treaty).
Farmed fish are often kept in crowded tanks or cages in the sea; this can result in fin damage and stress. The report calls for this situation to be improved, which would be a great first step for the welfare of farmed fish.
Limit transport times
Transport is not an issue that is often associated with fish, but they can endure long journeys as young fish, and also to slaughterhouses. In recognition of the stress that this can cause, it is recommended that limits are placed on transport times.
Any slaughter method where fish can remain conscious for some time before death should be banned.
Supporting good practice
This report calls for each country to set minimum standards for fish health and welfare. It also suggests that the European Fisheries Fund supports farms who promote good practice, making it an economically viable option for farmers.
This is great news for farmed fish, and animal welfare more widely. The report significantly strengthens our call for laws to protect farmed fish across Europe. We can now build on this victory and will continue our work for real change in European Law.