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Fish Farming—Aquaculture






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Veal Calves




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Contaminated Food

Animal Agriculture: Selected Bibliography







Atlantic salmon in net pens.  Credit: USDA

Fish farming ("aquaculture") has resulted in devastating consequences for the fish populations subjected to farming, and it negatively impacts wild fish populations. The ethical and health issues inherent in the factory farming system exist in the fish farming system, with no laws regulating humane fish slaughter.


Fish Depopulation

Within the past few years, fishing technology has advanced to the point that wild fish populations worldwide have been decimated. The increased killing power of fishing boats, combined with the lack of oversight and consumer indifference, will have disastrous consequences for fish populations.1 According to marine biologist Enric Sala, "75% of [wild] fisheries are overfished. If nothing changes, all fisheries will have collapsed by 2050."2 Fish farming was originally implemented as a way to help wild fish populations stabilize while continuing to provide fish to consumers. At this point, fish farming is a major source of fish production; in some countries, including Israel, it is the main source for locally produced fish.3


Effects on Farmed Fish

Fish farms tend to be overcrowded pens that house too many fish in too small a space. Because of the major overcrowding, water quality can become severely compromised.4 Unsanitary water conditions result in infestations of sea lice, which can eat down to the bones on a fish's face.5 Additionally, due to the overcrowding and stress, the fish will suffer injuries in fins and tails that result from rubbing against each other and against the sides of the cage.6 Because the fish are unable to form stable social hierarchies, and because of the crowding, fish will often begin to cannibalize each other.7 Fish farmers count death rates of under thirty percent as successes.8


Effects on Wild Fish

Because many species of farmed fish are carnivorous, wild fish populations are fished in order to provide food for farmed fish.9 Additionally, with the sizeable number of parasites present in fish farms, fish farmers must use strong doses of antibiotics to keep farmed fish alive. Many of these antibiotics will leech into the surrounding environment through the large amounts of waste produced by the fish.10 Moreover, the bacterial growth that occurs as a result of fish overcrowding leads to a lack of oxygen in the surrounding water that kills or otherwise reduces the local marine population.11 According to a 2008 analysis, farmed salmon will reduce the levels of the local wild salmon population. The sea lice that develop among the farmed salmon population will then move and target nearby wild fish.12 Sometimes, once the fish farm has rendered a particular location unusable, it will be moved, thereby restarting this cycle of destruction.13


Fish Sentience

Far from being unintelligent, fish are, in fact, able to form relationships and hierarchies with one another and to recognize one another as individuals.14 Additionally, fish are able to use tools and act in cooperation with other marine species. They have been shown to have significant long-term memories and are able to pass information along to one another through social networks, both inter-and intra-generationally.15 Most important, "research shows that fish respond to painful stimuli in a manner that is not just a simple reflex."16 Fish have been shown to experience pain and fear, and yet are killed in a manner that "meet[s] no standard of humane slaughter."17 The ways in which fish are killed, in fact, often prolongs their pain and suffering.






1 Fen Montaigne, "Global Fisheries Crisis," National Geographic magazine, April 2007.

2 Ibid.

3 "Fishing in Israel," Wikipedia, March 2014.


4 A Mood and P Brooke, "Estimating the Number of Fish Caught in Global Fishing Each Year," fishcount.org.uk, July 2010.

5 Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals. Little, Brown and Company, 2009. 190.

6 Mood and Brooke, "Estimating the Number of Fish Caught."

7 Foer, Eating Animals, 189–190.

8 Foer, Eating Animals, 190.

9 Mood and Brooke, "Estimating the Number of Fish Caught."

10 Ibid.

11 "Farmed Salmon," World Wildlife Fund.

12 Mood and Brooke, "Estimating the Number of Fish Caught."

13 "Farmed Salmon," World Wildlife Fund.

14 Foer, 65.

15 Ibid.

16 Temple Grandin, Improving Animal Welfare, CAB International, Cambridge, MA, 2010.

17 Mood and Brooke, "Estimating the Number of Fish Caught."