If you thought that farming or rearing animals for meat was restricted to the poultries and piggeries think again. All along India’s coastlines and dotted all over the country is the fastest growing sector of intensive animal rearing – fish growing or ‘aquaculture’ commercially in tanks or ponds.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the aquaculture industry all over the world is growing three times faster than land-based animal agriculture. The reason fishes are now being raised on farms for human consumption is because fishing trawlers have almost emptied the seas of their wild inhabitants.
Fish species raised by fish farms mainly include salmon and trout, and other species like catfish, tilapia, cod and halibut are also being farmed. More than 30 per cent of all sea animals consumed each year is now raised artificially in all animal farms, animals are given growth-promoting drugs that often cripple them. They are cooped up in their own waste for their entire lives. They are fed animal and human excreta as their main diet in order to make the “Product” cheap. Small tuna are captured and dumped into netted pens. They are fattened on pellets of concentrated fish flesh and killed when they get big enough—that is if they don’t die first from the parasites and diseases that thrive in these extremely crowded conditions.
Salmons, referred to as the ‘King of Fish’ lead horrible lives in fish farms. Up to 50,000 salmon are crowded into a single sea cage. The fish, used to travelling long distances are given the space of 2.5 ft of water to move in – something like hens in poultries that are given less than one foot of moving space. Packed tightly, these swim as a group in
circles around the cage, like the pacing up and down of caged zoo animals. Their fins and tails become worn and damaged as the fish rub against the cage sides or each other.
Crowded, these ocean wanderers suffer physical stress and mental agony, which in turn makes them more susceptible to disease. Serious disease outbreaks take place regularly. They often suffer from blinding cataracts, body deformities and alarmingly high mortality. Infestation with parasitic sea lice is a serious problem for farmed salmon. The damage can be so severe that often the skull of the living fish is exposed. It is common to regularly dose the food of the fish with antibiotics and strong chemical nerve toxins. The water is thrown back into the rivers and along with it go the antibiotic laced bacteria which will affect all the other river life and humans who drink the wate. Some enclosures are simply nets deliberately located in the fast-flowing waters of estuary heads, so that the toxic faeces, uneaten food pellets, parasitic lice, dead fish, escaped non-native fish as well as chemical and antibiotic residues, are distributed over the whole ecosystem.
More than 30 per cent of all sea animals consumed each year is now raised artificially in all animal farms, animals are given growth-promoting drugs that often cripple them. They are cooped up in their own waste for their entire lives. They are fed animal and human excreta as their main diet in order to make the “Product” cheap.
The situation for farmed trout is even worse. They are packed into tanks or ponds 2-4 times more tightly than salmons. 13-27 trouts measuring 30 cm (1 ft) long are allocated the equivalent of a bathtub of water. Their deaths are even more pain filled than their lives in these “farms”. In any case, conditions on aqua farms are so horrendous that 40 per cent of the fish die even before farmers can kill and package them for food.
For those that live until they are killed this is what happens:
Farmed fish are normally starved for about 7-10 days before slaughter. The crude methods used to slaughter fish are grotesque and inhumane. Fish farmers bash large fish with a bat or slit their gills. When the fishes’ gills are cut with knives as part of the slaughter process, they may be immobile but conscious as they bleed to death. Smaller fish are packed in ice and left to suffocate or freeze to death. The cooling effect of the ice prolongs the time it takes for suffocating fish to become unconscious, with fish aware of what is happening to them almost 15 minutes after being taken from the water.
Another inhumane slaughter method often used for salmon and trout is the use of carbon dioxide stunning. The bath of carbon dioxide-saturated water causes the fish to thrash around the killing container. They stop moving after 30 seconds, but do not lose consciousness for 4-9 minutes. In recent years, with increasing concern over the health risks and cruelty involved in eating cows, sheep, pigs and poultry, fish has been promoted as a supposedly healthy alternative. This is far from the truth. Antibiotics are routinely administered in the fish-feed rather than just being used for medical treatment. This results in an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in fishes, which leads to a transfer of resistance up the food chain to humans. This is particularly worrying, as many drugs used to treat fish are also used in human medicine, e.g. tetracycline and chloramphenicol.
Additionally, drug residues are present in the dead fish. These drug-residues turn toxic over time and these toxins could lead to fatal illnesses in humans.
Not only is eating intensively farmed fish unethical on the basis of immense cruelty inflicted on the fish, it also causes extensive damage to the environment. Fish farming is even more disruptive to the environment than fishing in the seas. The construction of pens along shorelines is a major reason for the decimation of mangrove forests, those places where fish reproduce.
A typical salmon farm of 200, 000 fish produces roughly the same amount of faecal matter as a town of 62,000 people. The release of this noxious cocktail into the surrounding waters of salmon farms threatens the very survival of smaller, native species, the predators that rely on them and the future of sustainable fishing practices and communities that rely upon clean and healthy oceans.
Fish are unique and intelligent individuals who feel great pain. There are no regulations to ensure their humane treatment, despite the fact that billions of farmed fish are slaughtered every year. It is your appetite that creates these torture chambers. Don’t eat fish – if you value the beauty of the oceans and rivers, become a part of the solution, not the problem.