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Scientists Condemn ‘Cruel’ Plans for World’s First Octopus Farm

‘Cruel’ Plans for World’s First Octopus Farm
‘Cruel’ Plans for World’s First Octopus Farm. Credit: Helime / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

A proposal to establish the world’s first octopus farm that would raise one million octopuses every year for human consumption has triggered concern among scientists.

The proposed site, located in the Canary Islands of Spain, aims to raise octopuses intensively and kill them by submerging them in frigid water.

The plan to farm octopuses on a large scale is novel and has sparked a debate among scientists.

The proposed method of killing the creatures has been criticized as “cruel,” while the idea of keeping the octopuses in tanks of 1,000 has raised concerns about high mortality and stress levels.

The company responsible for the proposal, Nueva Pescanova, has defended its plans, stating that their proposed slaughter method “avoids any pain or suffering.”

However, confidential plans for the farm, submitted to the Canary Islands’ General Directorate of Fishing, were leaked to the BBC by an animal rights organization.

Blueprint leaked

Blueprints for the world’s first octopus farm reveal that the creatures would be kept in communal tanks, each of which would hold approximately 1,000 octopuses, according to recent reports from the BBC.

The farm, which would be housed in a two-story building located in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, would reportedly feed the octopuses using a dry feed composed of fish discards and by-products.

Nueva Pescanova, the company responsible for the farm, has indicated that an estimated 10 to 15 percent mortality rate is expected. The proposed method of slaughter involves placing the octopuses in a -3 °C water mixture known as an “ice slurry.”

Professor Peter Tse, a neurologist at Dartmouth University, expressed concerns regarding the proposed method of slaughter.

He deemed it “cruel,” citing the slow and painful death it would inflict upon the creatures. Additionally, he highlighted the intelligence of octopuses, which he compared to that of cats.

Octopuses can experience pain and distress, says research

Following the release of the Oscar-winning documentary My Octopus Teacher in 2020, octopuses gained worldwide recognition for their remarkable intelligence.

In 2021, research conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) established strong scientific evidence that these creatures are capable of experiencing pain and distress.

Moreover, Dr. Jonathan Birch, Associate Professor at LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science and the lead investigator on the study, spoke to the BBC regarding the proposed octopus farm.

He stated that large numbers of octopuses should not be kept together, as this leads to stress, conflict, and high death rates.

He also stated that he and other members of the LSE study do not believe it is possible to farm octopuses in a “high-welfare” setting, making the proposed farm concerning.

Nueva Pescanova response to concerns

In response to concerns, Nueva Pescanova, the Spanish company behind the proposed farm, defended its plans, stating that the welfare of the animals is a top priority.

Moreover, the company argued that proper handling during slaughter would avoid pain or suffering.

Furthermore, they affirmed their commitment to responsible and sustainable performance throughout the value chain.

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