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THE TENTACLES OF CARNALITY: Octopus ‘farming research’ facility is drawing the wrath of animal rights activists

Octopuses are not even considered animals by regulators when it comes to their treatment in research, and there is no legislation that would protect them if farmed for human consumption.

BRITTANY LYTE: A growing appetite for octopus from the Mediterranean to South America is driving researchers on multiple continents to study land-based octopus farming, a form of aquaculture that proponents tout as a sustainable alternative to catching octopus in the wild… Industrial-scale farming of octopus remains under development as scientists struggle to learn how to recreate the fragile, eight-armed creature’s lifecycle in an aquarium tank. Solving the puzzle could mean big bucks…

At Kanaloa Octopus Farm on the Big Island, figuring out how to raise octopus in a controlled environment is the research facility’s goal. Located at the state’s Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park’s research campus, Kanaloa touts its efforts to farm octopus as a solution to overfishing. To help raise money for research, the facility also offers a popular ecotour where visitors can dip a hand into a water tank and touch octopuses. Now the farm is under fire by a conservation group for animal cruelty.

In a letter to Gov. David Ige, the advocacy group Compassion in World Farming urged the state to withdraw its support for Kanaloa Octopus Farm, citing environmental and animal wellness concerns. The group also asked the governor to impose a statewide ban on farmed octopus — or at least impose a moratorium on it until animal welfare legislation is passed to protect the animals for maltreatment while in captivity.

At Kanaloa Octopus Farm, “juvenile octopuses are collected from the ocean and fattened in tanks,” reads an excerpt from the letter to the governor. “Videos … uploaded to YouTube show octopuses instantly changing color in an attempt to camouflage themselves from tourists who are being encouraged to touch, feed and play with the animals”…

In its letter to the governor, Compassion in World Farming raised other concerns. Two landmark pieces of federal legislation, the Animal Welfare Act and Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, do not apply to octopuses, the animal welfare group says. In fact, octopuses are not even considered “animals” by federal regulators when it comes to their treatment in research, the group said. “There is currently no American legislation that would protect octopuses if they were produced commercially for human consumption,” the group says…

According to Kanaloa Octopus Farm owner Jacob Conroy, much of the advocacy group’s criticism is rooted in misunderstanding… Conroy insists Kanaloa Octopus Farm is doing farming research — but no actual farming. He’s even considering changing the name of the research facility to avoid future controversy… Conroy said he doesn’t have any plans to mass produce octopuses for consumption, although the technology he’s trying to develop could be used for that purpose. Rather, he views his work as an effort to develop a new conservation tool…

Compassion in World Farming never contacted Kanaloa Octopus Farm before publicizing its concerns to the governor, according to Conroy. He said he wishes it had. He says Kanaloa Octopus Farm doesn’t only study octopuses, but several kinds of Hawaiian cephalopods, including Hawaiian bobtail squid. Most of the species Conroy studies are not food animals, he said. Researchers at the facility are typically only working with about 10 animals at any given time, according to Conroy.  SOURCE…

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