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The Fishing Industry - The Greatest Animal Welfare Scandal of Our Time? Welfare Fish CAN feel pain



 
 
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Default The Fishing Industry - The Greatest Animal Welfare Scandal of Our Time? Welfare Fish CAN feel pain

The Fishing Industry

Welfare

Fish CAN feel pain. Farmed fish are caged in cruel and unhealthy
conditions and are artificially bred. Fish are being genetically
engineered. They are transported live and are killed without prior
stunning. Wild fish also suffer greatly.

All animals possessing a nervous system and pain receptors are capable
of suffering the effects of pain. This includes fish.
Dutch researchers back in the 1980s showed that fish hooked by anglers
could experience pain. They found that carp hooked on a tight line
were prepared to starve themselves of food for quite some time
afterwards to avoid the painful experience. (1)
Although there are marked differences in brain structure between fish
and mammals, they nevertheless both share important brain functions,
including responses to painkillers.
Government advisory body the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC)
acknowledges that fish experience fear, stress and pain when removed
from water, and that the physiological mechanisms in fish for
experiencing pain are very similar to those in mammals. (2)Similarly,
an RSPCA-sponsored report concluded that all vertebrates - including
fish - experience similar sensations in response to painful stimuli.
Prolonged periods of stress can cause negative changes in the immune
system, making fish more vulnerable to disease. (3)
In pain sensitivity experiments performed at Edinburgh's Roslin
Institute, fish had a toxin and acid injected into their lips. They
exhibited 'rocking' motion, similar to the way higher vertebrates -
e.g. humans - rock to comfort themselves. They also rubbed their lips
against the tank walls and gravel, and took three times longer than
normal to resume feeding. (4)
In tests at Oxford University, Mexican cave fish - genetically blind -
built a mental map of their surroundings by memorising the position of
objects in their tank. They quickly reacted to changes in the set-up.
This task defeats some small mammals, e.g. hamsters. (5)
At the University of Edinburgh, spotted rainbowfish remembered how to
escape from a net in their tank 11 months after initially working it
out. (5)
Fish on farms are caged in cruel and unhealthy conditions
Overcrowding and the unnatural environment found in fish farms greatly
increase stress levels. As many as 50,000 salmon may be kept in each
sea cage. Trout are kept in even more crowded conditions.
Such unnaturally high stocking densities also render the fish highly
susceptible to disease. (6)
Salmon suffer from a number of parasites and other debilitating
agents. The most notable of these include sea lice, furunculosis and
pancreas disease. Lice infestation is a devastating condition that
flourishes in farm cages, literally eating the fish alive. Attempts to
tackle some of these diseases include the use of chemicals (such as
malachite green and formalin)
substances known to carry human health risks.
Farmed fish are regularly dosed with chemicals and antibiotics to
limit the damage. (7)But between 20 and 50 per cent still die from
diseases such as cancer or pancreas and kidney infections.
The number of chemical licences in the salmon industry approved by the
Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) increased sevenfold in
the four years up to 2001. SEPA approved just 45 uses of sea lice
chemicals in 1998. That rose to 104 the following year, 141 in 2000
and a staggering 296 in 2001. (8)
Wild salmon captured near salmon farms in Scotland, Ireland and Norway
carried an average of 100 lice per fish. Salmon captured away from
farms carried an average of 13 lice. (9)


Farmed fish are artificially bred
Before female fish are anaesthetised for egg extraction, their abdomen
is palpated to see if the egg mass is free. This is highly stressful
and can occur several times before extraction.
The eggs are stripped either by hand or compressed air is
introducedinto the body cavity with a needle. Sometimes the ovaries
may be removed surgically.
Most females are killed after their eggs have been stripped, as
waiting for them to regain body condition is uneconomic. The breeding
females are treated as production machines, as with other farmed
female animals. The male fish are also 'milked' several times for
their semen before slaughter.
Fish are genetically modified
Researchers are developing genetic engineering techniques in an
attempt to produce fish who can grow larger and faster, convert feed
into flesh more efficiently, are resistant to disease, tolerant of low
levels of oxygen in the water and can stand freezing temperatures. As
with all such GM animal procedures, these techniques are highly
experimental and will result in lots of failures and pain and
suffering for the fish involved.
Biotechnology is widely used in Europe to manipulate the chromosomes
of fish reared for slaughter.
Sex reversal - feeding testosterone to young breeding females - is
used to produce batches of all-female fish that will mature later than
males. This is done because sexually mature fish undergo changes that
can reduce flesh quality.
Triploidy (adding an extra set of chromosomes) is often used in
conjunction with sex-reversal to produce sterile all-female fish who
show increased feed efficiency and will not interbreed with wild
populations if they escape.
These genetic manipulation techniques have effects on the health and
welfare of the fish. Higher levels of spinal deformities have been
found in triploid rainbow trout. (10)Triploid salmon have lower
survival rates and are less able to absorb oxygen, making them less
able to cope with stressful situations. (11)& (12)
Fish are transported live
Juvenile salmon and trout are transported live from hatcheries to a
rearing farm or for slaughter. They are transferred to and from their
transport containers by vacuum pumps, or by hand with the use of nets.
Damaged nets, or rough handling, injure the fish.
Transport is either in a purpose-designed tank slung below a
helicopter, by road, or by sea in specially designed well-boats.
Before transport, it is current practice to deprive fish of food for
48 hours or more. This reduces faecal contamination of water in the
transport tank and reduces oxygen consumption, since starving the fish
slows down their metabolism.
Movement and transfer can be a frightening experience for fish and has
been described as causing 'considerable' stress. (13)
Major losses occur in farmed trout as a result of accidental oxygen
deprivation (notably while being transported).


Farmed fish are killed without prior stunning
In some units, the fish are killed by first being hit on the head with
a club and then having their gill arches torn or cut so that they
bleed to death. In other operations, the fish are placed in a carbon
dioxide tank and then clubbed or are bled to death.
Slaughter regulations stipulate that farmed animals killed for meat
should be stunned before having their neck cut, in order to prevent
suffering, but this does not apply to fish. Killing methods currently
in use allow exsanguination (bleeding out) without prior stunning,
resulting in convulsions and muscular spasms.
Whereas salmon may be clubbed before being killed, trout are too small
and are left to die of asphyxiation. Some recover consciousness before
evisceration (removal of internal organs). (7)Fish farmers themselves
have admitted that 'letting tens of millions of fish die of
suffocation each year is unacceptable'. (14)
It is an offence for any person involved in the slaughter of farmed
fish to cause or permit fish to sustain any 'avoidable' excitement,
pain or 'suffering'. The use of the word 'avoidable' gets round the
fact that the entire process of handling and killing the fish in
itself causes pain and suffering. Furthermore, no monitoring
whatsoever takes place at sea.
Wild caught fish also suffer greatly
Vast drift nets, some 40 km long, are used to trawl the seas. Fish can
be dragged along the ocean bed for hours within these nets, trapped
alongside rocks, debris and other sea life that has fallen in the
net's path.
When hauled up from the deep, fish undergo excruciating decompression.
Frequently, the intense internal pressure ruptures the swimbladder,
pops out the eyes, and pushes the oesophagus and stomach out through
the mouth.
Caught fish are sorted using small, spiked rods called pickers.
Factory ships slaughter and process the fish at sea. Most fish are
gutted whilst still alive or are left to suffocate.
A Dutch study on fish industry slaughter methods found that after
gutting 25 - 65 minutes elapsed before fish were insensible (failed to
show co-ordinated swimming or responded to stimuli but showed brain
stem responses like breathing). In the case of asphyxiation, 55 - 250
minutes elapsed before fish were insensible. (15)
Unlike the British fishing industry, the Dutch are taking steps
towards improving fish slaughter methods. The Dutch study recommended
a general term of reference for the length of time in which a fish
should be killed - 1 second - to prevent suffering. This
recommendation is under discussion with a view to including it in
animal welfare legislation. Killing fish on a large scale within 1
second is complicated and so the study recommends the stunning of fish
prior to killing. Although Animal Aid promotes an animal-free diet,
while fish continue to be caught and killed, genuinely effective
stunning would be a step in the right direction in an industry
currently without welfare protocols.
References
1987. Do fish have feelings?New Scientist.
FAWC. 1996. Report on the welfare of farmed fish.Defra.
Pickering AD and Pottinger TG (1989) Stress response and disease
resistance in salmonid fish: effects of chronic elevation of plasma
cortisol. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry7: 253-258.
Sneddon, L.U et al.2003. Do fish have nociceptors: evidence for the
evolution of a vertebrate sensory system.Proceedings of the Royal
Society Series B: Biological Sciences. Vol. 270, No. 1520.
Matthews, R. 2004. Fast-learning fish have memories that put their
owners to shame.The Sunday Telegraph.
DEFRA www.defra.gov.uk
Lymbery, P. 2002. In Too Deep - The Welfare of Intensively Farmed
Fish.CIWF.
Feb. 2002. Salmon Farms 'a licence to pollute'.Scotland on Sunday.
2004. Sea Lice and Salmon: Elevating the dialogue on the farmed-wild
salmon story.Watershed Watch Salmon Society.
Madsen, L., Arnbjerg, J. and Dalsgaard, I. 2000. Spinal deformities in
triploid all-female rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Bull. Eur.
Ass. Fish Pathol., 20 (5), 206-208.
Johnstone, R. 1992. Production and performance of triploid Atlantic
salmon in Scotland.Marine Laboratory, The Scottish Office Agriculture
and Fisheries Department.
Willoughby, S. 1999. Manual of salmonid farming.Fishing News Books,
Blackwell Science, Oxford.
Shepherd, J. and Bromage, N. R. 1988. Intensive Fish Farming.BSP
Professional Books, Oxford.
Brown, A. 2003. Stunning fish before death considered by EU.The Times.
V.d. Vis and Kesten. 1996. Killing of fishes; literature-study and
practice- observations (field research) report number C 037/96, 1996
RIVO DLO.

Click here for part 3 of The Fishing Industry.


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