The proposal of a commercial octopus farm in Spain has sparked outrage after the leaked plan suggested the operator intends to kill up to a million animals a year by submerging them, alive, in freezing water.
For years, companies have strived to produce octopuses on a commercial scale in captivity, citing growing demand and pressure to find more sustainable alternatives to fishing. But critics argue that the creatures they are too smart —and able to feel pain— to be raised in confined spaces for food.
The proposed farm in question would be located in the Canary Islands and would be in charge of Nueva Pescanova, a fishing company that in 2019 boasted of having managed not only to breed octopuses in captivity, but also to have them reproduce for the first time.
“We will continue to investigate how to continue improving the well-being of octopuses, studying and replicating their natural habitat, with the expectation of being able to commercialize aquaculture octopuses from the year 2023”said then the general director Ignacio González.
But from the activist group Eurogroup for Animals they say that the documents they obtained, and shared with the BBCshow that the proposed factory he would subject the octopuses to tortured conditions and a long and painful death.
In a report released Thursday, the group said Nueva Pescanova intends to slaughter around one million octopuses each year. by immersing them in an ice-cold “ice slurry”.
In addition, he criticizes the conditions in which they will be kept before their slaughter, saying that the company intends to cage a solitary creature. in crowded housing (up to 15 octopuses per cubic meter of water) and subject them to 24-hour light periodsin an effort to speed up reproduction.
“It will inflict unnecessary suffering on these fascinating, sensitive and intelligent creatures, who need to explore and engage with the environment as part of their natural behavior,” Elena Lara, research director of the Compassion in World Farming group, said in a statement.
Nueva Pescanova has not responded to a request for comment from Business Insider. But in a statement to the BBC, the company has stated that it has high standards that ensure “the correct handling of animals”. In particular, the multinational assures, the slaughter of octopuses “implies an adequate management that avoids any pain or suffering to the animal.”
However, experts disagree that submerging live animals in ice water is an enjoyable way to do it.
“Killing them with ice would be a slow death,” he qualified the BBC Dr Peter Tse, who studies octopus cognition at Dartmouth. “It would be very cruel and should not be allowed.”
In an open letter last year, before the specifics of the proposed factory were published, a group of New York University environmental scientists who specialize in animal sentience argued that it is not possible to breed octopuses in captivity in a humane way on a commercial scale, and in fact it could cause not only contamination, by the release of polluted water, but cannibalism in animals that have effectively gone mad.
“Beyond environmental and health concerns, octopuses are capable of learning by observation, have individual personalities, play, and are capable of problem-solving, tricking, and interspecies hunting,” the scientists wrote.