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Fish should be part of the animal welfare conversation

At Northern Harvest Sea Farms, 1.8 million salmon suffocated to death due to lack of oxygen in the water. Fish are sentient, they feel pain and suffering. It's time to care about them, and that means leaving them alone.

JESSICA SCOTT-REID: ‘Fish feel pain, and the way we catch and kill them for food may actually be cruel. This evolution in understanding of the sentience of an animal long-considered too simple has caused some controversy and discomfort. And as Newfoundland copes with a massive fish-farm die-off, concerns about the well-being of the fish in crowded farms are being added to this mounting conversation.

At Newfoundland’s Northern Harvest Sea Farms, as many as 1.8 million salmon suffocated to death in early September, due to lack of oxygen in the water. As The Globe and Mail reported two weeks ago, concerned marine biologists noted the fish would have been stressed and fighting for oxygen in the cramped, warm waters… It’s time to care about fish, and perhaps that means leaving them alone…

Growing research now points to the fact that fish have the ability to experience sensations, including pain and suffering. In a 2018 article in Smithsonian Magazine, It’s Official: Fish Feel Pain, author Ferris Jabr explains that at the anatomical level, fish have neurons known as nociceptors, “which detect potential harm, such as high temperatures, intense pressure, and caustic chemicals.” Fish bodies also produce the same innate painkillers (that is, opioids) that mammals do…

Although evidence is growing about the sentience of fish, they still lack legal protection in Canada regarding their welfare or humane handling, and are legally considered property when caught or farmed. Fishing is exempt from most provincial animal-care acts as an accepted activity in which an animal may be permitted to suffer (much like the farming and slaughtering of other animals for food).

And though there are no statistics on the number of fish killed for food in Canada each year, we know the industry is worth several billion dollars, with exports of $6.6-billion worth of fish and seafood in 2015 putting estimates in the hundreds of millions of fish permitted to suffocate to death each year. The potential suffering associated with that number of animals is hard to comprehend’.  SOURCE…


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