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Actor Zoë Wanamaker unveils shocking EU fish farm cruelty

News Section Icon Published 31/10/2023

Fish in a barrel

Today (31st October), we are calling on the EU Commission to urgently introduce legislation safeguarding the welfare of farmed fish. This call to action follows the release of disturbing new footage obtained from an undercover investigation we carried out, exposing shocking cruelty within EU trout farms.

Harrowing findings

The harrowing findings from our undercover investigation at four trout farms in Poland are unveiled in a powerful video presented by renowned actor Zoë Wanamaker. The investigation lays bare horrifying imagery of live fish subjected to unimaginable suffering, including:

  • being gutted
  • having their eyes gouged out
  • being suffocated and crushed in overcrowded barrels, and
  • even being packed into plastic bags with no water

Electrical stunning devices, intended to minimise pain, proved ineffective as shocks were repeatedly administered, inflicting further agony and distress. Additionally, the investigation revealed numerous other welfare concerns, including fungal infections, fin erosion, injuries, barren environments, and sick fish.

These conditions are not isolated incidents as many of the welfare issues around rearing and slaughter practices are typical of fish farms throughout the EU. An estimate of between 537 million and 1.2 billion fish are reared every year throughout the 27 member states.

Immense suffering

Like many other animals, fish are sentient creatures capable of suffering and feeling pain. They are intelligent, sensitive animals who explore, travel, socialise, hunt and play, and some species care for their young and use tools as people do.

Our Fish policy and research manager, Dr. Natasha Boyland said: "This investigation has revealed appalling and widespread cruelty, exposing the desperate and urgent need for improved legal protection for farmed fish throughout the EU.

“Our investigators witnessed widespread shocking cruel practices including live fish being gutted, being packed into plastic bags, and even having their eyes gouged out. The scientific evidence is clear that fish are sentient animals, capable of feeling pain and suffering, just like other animals. It is therefore totally unacceptable to allow this barbaric cruelty to continue.

“Sadly, many of these welfare concerns are caused by rearing and slaughter techniques that are typical of fish farms throughout the EU. We must ensure that these sentient animals are protected from cruelty by comprehensive and species-specific legislation and we urge the EU to introduce such legislation to protect their welfare without delay."

A critical gap in EU legislation

Annually, up to 1.2 billion fish of various species are reared in similar farms across the EU, with trout being the most commonly farmed fish in the region. Despite growing recognition of fish sentience and the need for improved animal welfare standards, a critical gap in EU legislation, and elsewhere in the world, leaves fish without adequate protection.

In 2020, the European Commission committed to revising animal welfare legislation – including transport and slaughter practices – to align with the latest scientific evidence on fish sentience. Despite these promises, the Commission has failed to publish new animal welfare legislation proposals.

As well as revealing cruelty, the investigation exposed alarming environmental concerns. Unhygienic water quality was found on all farms but one, with dead animals, faeces, and feed remains in ponds.

Actor and Compassion supporter Zoë Wanamaker said: “It's time that we stood up for the welfare of farmed fish, which is why I am supporting Compassion in World Farming’s campaign, calling on the European Commission to introduce legislation to protect these creatures."

Join us in showing the EU commission how much citizens care about the welfare of farmed fish.


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If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).