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You are here: HomeNews & EventsHSA Highlights Concerns Regarding Commercial Octopus Farming
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HSA Highlights Concerns Regarding Commercial Octopus Farming

27 March 2023

The Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) is concerned to read of the plans for the world’s first commercial octopus farm, based in the Canary Islands.

Whilst there are a number of animal welfare concerns surrounding commercial octopus farming, the HSA is exclusively concerned with animal welfare during transport, slaughter and killing. According to the BBC article, the plans indicate that the octopuses would be slaughtered using ice slurry. Previous research looking at the effects of cold water immersion on octopuses has shown that this is stressful for octopuses. Whilst the extent of this stress is not as well understood in octopuses as it is in some fish species, the research does indicate that this slaughter method is unlikely to be humane.

At present, there are no routine, scientifically validated, humane slaughter methods available for cephalopods such as octopus and squid. A recent report, commissioned by the UK  ministerial department Defra, concluded that cephalopods are sentient – that is capable of both positive and negative emotional experiences. The evidence was deemed strong enough that this was enshrined into UK law in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022. Clearly, it is vital that we protect the welfare of octopuses (and other cephalopod molluscs and decapod crustaceans) and minimise their suffering, but we still have much to learn about how to do this practically.

The HSA recently provided funding for a project aiming to design and validate electrical and mechanical stunning methods for cephalopods. Furthermore, the project will test the feasibility of applying the stunning methods in a real-world setting to help protect the welfare of as many cephalopods as possible. We hope that if Octopus are to be farmed, despite the well-founded concerns about the ethics of raising them in captivity, these methods may allow them to be killed in a humane way. The methods may also be applicable to Octopus and Squid caught in the wild.

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