Whether they are raised in industrial fish farms or caught in the wild, fish have very few legal protections in how they’re treated or slaughtered. Wild fish often live in complex social groups, they use tools, and exhibit signs of anxiety and pain. However, fish are treated like commodities by the fishing industry.
Factory fish farms
More than a quarter of the fish eaten in Britain today are raised in aquafarms, spending their entire lives confined in tightly packed environments. In the factory farm industry, fish suffer for up to two years in water that has high levels of ammonia and nitrates. Parasites which feed on the gills, organs and blood of fish are common, as are bacterial infections.
Commercial fishing is cruelty to animals on a colossal scale, killing around a trillion animals worldwide every year. Ships the size of football fields use techniques such as longlining and gill nets.
In longlining, ships unreel up to 50 miles of line, each with hundreds of thousands of baited hooks. Gill nets, which range from 300 feet to seven miles in length, create large walls of nets that fish are unable to see. They inadvertently swim into them and many will suffocate or bleed to death.
The slaughter of fish is not covered by specific legislation. This results in a wide variety of cruel slaughter methods dependent on industry, company and species.
Fish are usually removed from the water and left to suffocate and die. They desperately attempt to escape as their gills collapse preventing them from being able to breathe.
Larger animals, such as tuna and swordfish, are usually clubbed to death. This often leads to an animal being injured but regaining consciousness and the process having to be repeated several times.
Beyond the cruelty
The fishing industry also has devastating effects on our planet and takes a toll on our health.
FISHING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Industrial fishing and aquafarming both have environmental impacts. Factory farming of fish can lead to toxic water conditions. Ammonia, nitrates and parasites all have severe consequences.
Industrial-scale fishing operations have similarly devastating effects on the environment. Commercial fishing operations often use giant trawlers which scrape up fish – and everything else – off the ocean floor. This results in as much as 40 per cent of the global catch discarded overboard as bycatch.
Fishing and your health
There are several risks associated with consuming fish and other sea animals.
Many fish, including tuna, swordfish, shark and mackerel, are consistently high in mercury, which can harm the nervous system of a foetus or young child. Contaminants sometimes found in fish, such as dioxins and PCBs, have been linked to cancers and reproductive problems.
Those who consume fish ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year, according to a study at the University of Plymouth. Though the long term health effects of this are not yet known, researchers think this could be leading to various health issues, including inflammation and muscular degeneration.
OUR WORK ON FISH
Abuses in Salmon Slaughterhouse
In 2021, Animal Equality investigated a salmon slaughterhouse in Scotland operated by the Scottish Salmon Company, which at the time of release was known to be a supplier of salmon to Waitrose and Co-op.
Showing how farmed salmon are killed, the pioneering footage was the first of its kind to be released in the UK. The investigation revealed several extremely serious animal welfare abuses, including a significant number of fish who were killed while fully conscious.