Fish - the forgotten farm animal
“But fish don’t feel pain” is still a common response when you talk to people about the welfare problems of fish farming. This simply is not true. Fish can suffer; they feel pain and experience fear and psychological stress. Nearly 50 million tonnes of farmed fish were produced in 2006. Yet the welfare of farmed fish is not being protected. They are the forgotten farm animal.
Extensive welfare issues
Farmed fish can suffer from injuries in particular to fins and skin, skeletal deformities, heart irregularities, high stocking densities, aggression, poor handling, crowding and the inability to perform natural behaviour, exposure to algal blooms and jelly fish, inhumane slaughter methods – and the list goes on.
The European Commission breaks their own rules
Compassion believes that no animal should suffer for food production, and in theory the European Union agrees. A European Council Directive states:
In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries [ ] policies, the Union and the Member States shall [ ] pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.
Yet the European Commission fisheries policy makes almost no reference to the welfare of farmed fish. Compassion argues that the Commission has neglected to properly consider the welfare of farmed fish in its Common Fisheries Policy.
Moreover, the European Commission produced a report “Welfare of farmed fish: Common practices during transport and at slaughter”. The report highlighted that most fish are killed in an inhumane way and experience prolonged suffering during the slaughter procedure.
It seems however that the Commission doesn’t intend to take any major action to change that situation. They have produced a statement suggesting that Member States have enough information to enforce the rules themselves.
Please help us to ensure that Member States take serious steps to enforce the rules for transport and slaughter and to encourage the Commission to take responsibility.
What is Compassion doing?
Compassion is working hard to try to ensure farmed fish have their welfare protected. We are lobbying the European Commission hard on this issue to try to get farmed fish welfare brought up the agenda.
Compassion talks about fish in the European ParliamentCompassion took part in the first ever EU level political event on fish welfare ‘Seizing the Day for Fish Welfare’. The event organised by Eurogroup for Animals and hosted by European Parliament gathered fish professionals and political stakeholders to discuss the welfare of fish. Read more
Compassion On Salmon FarmingCompassion submitted its opinion to a Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee consultation on Salmon industry
Compassion speaks about inhumane fish slaughterCompassion Head of Fish Policy was invited to speak at the annual Fish Veterinary Society Conference. We presented our views and approach on how to achieve humane slaughter of fish in the UK and EU.
Compassion against the expansion of salmon farming in ScotlandWritten submission from Compassion in World Farming to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee consultation on environmental impacts of salmon farming.
Polish supermarket ends the sale of live carpThanks to Compassion Poland a chain of supermarkets, Bi1, decided to stop the sale of live carp (common practice during the Christmas period) in all their supermarkets in Poland.
Compassion On Live Carp Sales In PolandCompassion Poland send open letter to Polish Prime Minister urging her to stop the sale of live carp.
European Commission report on Welfare of Farmed FishEuropean Commission (Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety) produced its report “Welfare of farmed fish: Common practices during transport and at slaughter”. Compassion has been listed as one of the main NGO contributors to the report.
Compassion report on fish slaughter send to Aquaculture Advisory CouncilCompassion produced a comprehensive report on fish slaughter that has been forwarded to the European Commission as an official position of the Aquaculture Advisory Council.
Compassion speaks about fish welfare at a conference in ItalyCompassion fish welfare team took part in Summer Shoal Conference in Italy, an event gathering all major organisations working on fish welfare and most prominent fish welfare scientists. Compassion head of fish policy gave a speech on “Priorities and opportunities for improving fish welfare”.
Progress For Fish Transport and Slaughter PracticesThe Aquaculture Advisory Council (a European Commission advisory body) decided to put fish welfare in their main priorities for 2017 Aquaculture Advisory Council 2nd meeting was held on 14th February in Madrid. Thanks to a joint effort between Compassion and other animal welfare organisations on the Council, it was decided to include fish transport and slaughter issues in their top priorities for 2017 actions plan. A focus group (chaired by Compassion) was created that will investigate and work on recommendations for European Commission on humane slaughter and live transport of fish.
Compassion Joins EU Advisory BodyCompassion becomes a member of Aquaculture Advisory Council, a European Commission advisory body.
EU agrees method production/method of catch labelling of fishRecently we had a breakthrough: the EU has agreed method production/method of catch labelling of fish. The new rules will mean that labels must contain the gear type used to catch the fish, along with a clearer, more specific catch area.
Lobbying policy makersCompassion attend a Commission conference on fish farming in Spain, where we lobbied key policy makers
Complaint rejected by the European OmbudsmenIn early November 2012 Compassion submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsmen. Later that month, we learned that our complaint had been rejected by the European Ombudsmen. We will continue to push this point with the Commission. Read more about our complaint
What else can I do?
- Eat less fish. Limit your fish consumption to reduce your impact on fish welfare and the environment.
- Buy sustainably caught wild fish – look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo. If you do buy farmed fish, buy organic, particularly Soil Association organic or RSPCA Freedom Food. Find out more about food labelling here.
- Speak to the manager of your local supermarket to request they stock higher welfare farmed fish and more sustainable wild fish.
- Campaign with us for improved welfare for all farmed animals.
- Find out more about the welfare of farmed fish.