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Fish are sentient animals capable of suffering and feeling pain. They are intelligent, sensitive creatures and – like many other animals – they explore, travel, socialise, hunt and play. Some species care for their young and use tools as humans do.

Every year, between 1 and 2.3 trillion fish are killed by commercial fisheries. They are caught and slaughtered in ways that inflict severe suffering, with no consideration for their welfare. Additionally, over half the fish people consume comes from farming systems, known as aquaculture. These underwater factory farms produce up to 167 billion fish every year.

This makes fish the most used animals on the planet, and possibly the most neglected in terms of welfare. Compassion in World Farming’s Rethink Fish campaign is trying to change that by:

  • Ensuring more protection for fish at EU level
  • Raising awareness of fish sentience and the amazing abilities of fish
  • Lobbying for humane slaughter practices backed by legislation
  • Campaigning and lobbying to stop the expansion of fish factory farms, such as the Scottish salmon industry, which causes severe animal welfare and environmental problems
  • Campaigning and lobbying to prevent development of new industries that are harmful for animals and the environment, such as octopus farming
  • Urging certification schemes to protect fish welfare and reduce the use of wild-caught fish to feed farmed fish
  • Collaborating with other groups such as the Aquatic Animal Alliance, Aquaculture Advisory Council, and the EU Platform on Animal Welfare, to improve fish welfare
  • Proposing solutions to the problems associated with fish farming, and influencing EU policy

In January 2023, Compassion in World Farming launched the report, Rethinking EU Aquaculture: for People, Planet, and Animals. This pioneering report is the first to: draw together the sustainability and environmental issues caused by intensive EU fish farming; the need to move away from this type of production to improve animal welfare and create a more sustainable industry; and to give clear policy solutions for legislators.

Improving the welfare of farmed fish and farming lower in the food chain is key to making European aquaculture more sustainable and efficient as it is a better use of resources and often leads to less pollution, lower antibiotic use and greater food security.

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