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Factory Farmed Fish

If you find it easier to eat fish than land animals, you are not alone.

When it comes to the things that matter though, you’d be surprised at how similar they actually are.

Let’s take a peek at what factory farmed fish actually go through before ending up on your plate. Let’s look at how they suffer.

Underwater factory farming

It’s no secret that our current exploitation of the ocean is synonymous with species going extinct.

As an “answer to the extinction problem”, a bunch of geniuses (I use that term loosely) came up with factory farmed fish.

It works in much the same way any other factory farm does, as it too, is predicated on cramming as many fish into as little space as possible, and doing whatever possible to gain the biggest return on investment. As with all factory farming, little to no care is taken when it comes to animal welfare.

Fish qualify as animals. They feel pain.

Norway is often ranked as the best country in the world in which to live. This might lead one to conclude that they’d be fairly enlightened when it comes to animal welfare as well, but alas, this isn’t the case.

One of Norway’s most reliable papers, Dagens Næringsliv, recently did a story on how factory farmed fishing is cruel and unjust, focusing on the incredibly detrimental lives fish live. 

In fact, one restaurant owner said he refused to serve any more factory farmed salmon until conditions improved. Unfortunately, provided he’s a man of his word, I think it’s a safe bet that he won’t be serving salmon anytime soon.

It’s also worth noting that factory farmed fish and increased availability has lead to a significant increase in peoples appetite for fish, salmon especially, thus creating a world in which even more cruelty is inflicted when compared to the state of things before fish were factory farmed and we were "just" fishing out of the natural ocean.

Note: While fishing "naturally" compared to factory farming is arguably better in terms of cruelty, it is still incredibly bad. For instance, did you know that because there is such a big pressure difference between deep and shallow water, many fish have their eyes pop out and organs explode as they are being hauled in?

Problems with factory farmed fish

Here’s a few things that come to mind.

Water quality is so poor that it makes it hard for the fish to breathe

One could write an entire book on this subject, but a major issue that springs to mind are sea lice. They thrive in the filthy water where factory farmed fish are kept.

If you need to relate, think about how certain bacteria can make humans seriously ill. That’s basically what’s happening to the fish.

This “industry problem” creates severe wounds, and sometimes even eat their way down to the bone on the face of the fish; a phenomenon known as “death crown”. Imagine if you had to live with a flesh eating bacteria that literally consumed your flesh?

If you're one of those people who still maintain that fish don't feel pain, I'm afraid you need to be schooled with some science.

[..] fish are capable of pain perception and this study has shown that the criteria for animal pain have been fulfilled (Zimmerman, 1986).

From an ethical point of view, these results are relevant to the use and treatment of fish in commercial fish production, angling and scientific experimentation.

Study: The evidence for pain in fish: the use of morphine as an analgesic

Fish are stacked so tight that they begin to cannibalise each other out of desperation

This isn’t just common in factory farmed fish, but also in many other areas of factory farming, for example in the case of chicken. The fish become so stressed by their conditions that they begin to eat each others flesh. Nuff said.

Nutrition is so bad that it weakens the immune system

The industry is all about the money. What’s the cheapest possible food we can provide without having the fish die? In other words, the nutritional quality of the feed is so poor that it actually makes the fish sick because it makes their resistance to disease virtually non-existent.

What’s the cheapest possible food we can provide without having the fish die?

No ability to form social hierarchies

Because fish are packed tighter than your average asshole, they have practically zero chance of determining a social hierarchy.

And before you ask, the answer is yes, fish naturally live within social hierarchies. When factory farmed, we effectively remove their option to create such a hierarchy. This leads to, among other things, extreme levels of stress and cannibalism.

The way factory farm workers handle the fish causes extreme stress responses

Imagine if you already lived in a concentration camp where you and your fellow captives were eating each other out of desperation and mental illness, only to have jackass nazis ship massive groups off to the gas chambers every now and then. From the perspective of fish, that pretty much sums it up.

When are humans even going to attempt putting themselves in someone else’s shoes? And before you accuse me of saying that fish are humans, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that fish are fish, and we should try to understand and respect them as we should anyone else who suffer at our hands and ignorance.

Also understand that animals only make up a tiny fraction of what is considered food on this planet, yet it is the single most resource intensive food to produce. Why are humans so stupid that we choose to eat the least effectively produced food that there is? How does that make sense? Finally, animals shouldn't be classified as "food" at all. They are not things. They are living, sentient beings that anyone decent should respect.

How are factory farmed fish killed?

Good question; ugly answer.

Provided the fish survive cannibalism, wounds and lice—a 10 to 30% death rate is considered “good” within the industry—they can expect something much like what follows.

First, they will be starved for several days while being transported to a slaughter facility. Second, they will be killed by having their gills slashed and then bleed to death.

Fish are known to exhibit clear signs of pain and distress as they bleed out and die.

Lovely, right?

Every time we purchase fish, we are paying this industry to continue their exploitation

No law requires humane slaughter of fish. Please don’t think that just because they don’t look like you or I in physical terms, their nervous system isn’t capable of making them feel pain. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For the animals,

Related entries

Capacity to suffer

Chicken is more expensive than you think

Faulty logic - It’s okay to kill animals because animals kill animals

Putting shit in perspective

Don’t impose your beliefs on me! The irony in claiming a vegan agenda

The ethics of drinking milk