Researchers claim legal protection status for farmed fishes
The journal “Forum of Animal Law Studies" recently published a dossier on fish welfare. João Saraiva, researcher at CCMAR, and team leader of “Fish Ethology and Welfare Group” was invited to participate in this review on the legal protection of farmed fish in Europe.
The paper is a thorough analysis of the range of EU legislation and questions to what extent a ‘farmed’ fish in Europe is currently protected by EU law and if the international animal welfare standards set out by the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) are actually met.
Protecting farmed fishes
Nowadays, fishes are one of the most exploited ‘farm’ animals. They are reared in marine and freshwater aquaculture farms, which represent one of the fastest growing food-producing industries worldwide. The numbers of fishes farmed, transported and slaughtered every year are enormous, with more than 100 billion fishes estimated to be killed per year, solely in aquaculture industries.
The high pressure on this sector leads to a super intensive fish farm culture, where extreme densities and standard farming practices impose pain, stress and suffering on the fishes. Despite the volume of farmed fishes, fish welfare only takes a back seat in public awareness and in the political agenda.
Fishes: sentient beings
Physiological, anatomical, neural and behavioural evidence shows that fishes are sentient beings, which means that they have (at least) some level of consciousness and are able to experience pleasure and pain. These animals are already recognised as such in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The paper then shows to what extent farmed fishes are legally protected in the EU at every stage of production. This is a landmark contribution as, to our knowledge, no other publication has compiled such a detailed analysis of the legal framework under which fish farming operates, together with the welfare implications of all these procedures.
EU pioneer in what concerns to farmed fishes welfare
The EU is currently revising its strategy for the protection and welfare of animals and recently implemented a reform in the Common Fisheries Policy. This review may constitute a fundamental document for decision-makers in the improvement of the welfare of fish in European aquaculture.
Acknowledging that the EU seems to be at the forefront – compared to other regions where fish welfare has not even entered the political discussion yet – it would be all the more essential to finally take the next step by granting the fishes a legal protection status adequate to their needs and effective in practice.
This would not only strengthen the EU’s image as a first mover concerning animal welfare legislation and set an important example to the international community but first and foremost it would help the fishes, the EU’s most common but forgotten ‘farm’ animals.
You can read the full article HERE.