A Spanish company specializing in fish products, Nueva Pescanova, wants to inaugurate the first large intensive octopus farm in the Canary Islands. No, it is not a joke. This news comes just as the debate about the intelligence and sensitivity of octopuses is becoming increasingly popular.
Octopuses, on the other hand, are a popular dish in Europe, East Asia and North Africa. However, recent attention given to their intelligence and emotional abilities raises concerns that an octopus farm designed like the one in Nueva Pescanova may be ethically unacceptable.
Hidden Suffering: The Ethics of Octopus Farming
Science is showing us more and more evidence that octopuses are very complex creatures, capable of feeling a wide range of emotions and forming sophisticated societies. They possess the neurological abilities necessary to experience pleasure and pain and are endowed with remarkable skills in problem solving and learning. Being so intelligent, life in captivity (especially in the exploitative conditions of intensive farming) could be intolerable. What would you say if they opened intensive monkey farms, for example?
Nueva Pescanova says it wants to raise octopuses responsibly and sustainably. However, the breeding and killing methods proposed by the company do not seem to be adequate to guarantee the welfare of the animals. The use of common tanks and constant lighting could harm the health of the octopuses, used to living in dark environments. Furthermore, their proposal of slaughter by freezing water immersion is questioned by research, which suggests that this method can cause intense pain and stress to animals.
Octopuses, are there ethical margins?
Knowing the suffering that could be inflicted on these extraordinary animals requires us to reflect on the choices we make as consumers and as a society. If we truly believe that we are capable of reasoning and empathy, we should not allow octopus farming to become common practice. I wouldn't be surprised if this project met with fierce opposition from animal rights groups.
In conclusion, the idea of an octopus farm raises many ethical issues and questions about our responsibility towards animals. In a world where knowledge about marine life and the sensitivity of its creatures is growing, it is important to address these issues and act accordingly.