In this section
Amidst increasing evidence that fish are more intelligent than once thought, research continues to suggest that they have the mental capacity to feel pain and suffer like any other animal. They, therefore, deserve to be looked after and shown the same respect and compassion as any other farmed animal.
If farmed fish have too much or too little space they can become territorial and aggressive, which can increase the risk of injury or disease. Similarly, water quality, including the temperature and oxygen levels, has a large impact on fish welfare.
The RSPCA standards set the amount of space fish must be provided at every stage of their life cycle. They also require that water quality be checked regularly and that the right action be taken to ensure the fish’s welfare if there is a change in water conditions. Fish farming is complex and the RSPCA is constantly monitoring new research to update its standards accordingly.
Farmed fish sometimes need to be handled. For example, when they are being vaccinated or when graded according to their size. These procedures can be stressful for the fish, especially if they are taken out of the water, so it is essential to keep handling to an absolute minimum.
The RSPCA’s standards include a number of standards that describe how and when fish should be handled. They also include the training staff need to handle fish appropriately. These standards when applied correctly alongside the other standards should help keep handling to a minimum.
All transport, whether by road, boat or helicopter, can be potentially stressful for the fish, so extra attention is needed during transport, particularly when the fish are loaded and unloaded. It is also essential to be able to maintain the correct water quality for the whole length of the journey, even if delays or emergencies make the journey longer than expected.
A number of slaughter methods are used in fish farming. Methods such as the use of carbon dioxide, suffocation in the air or on ice, or bleeding the fish without stunning can cause significant suffering.
The RSPCA has numerous standards related to the humane transport and slaughter of farmed fish. These include the handling of fish when loading and unloading, specifying travel times and monitoring the water quality and fish whilst in transport. The RSPCA also strictly requires – as with all farmed animals – fish are pre-stunned prior to slaughter and do not permit the methods of slaughter outlined above.