The very first proposed Octopus Farm raises concerns about the conditions

  • A planned commercial squid farm has sparked outrage among experts and animal rights activists.
  • The farm would slaughter about a million squid each year by dunking them in ice-cold water.
  • “That would be very cruel and should not be allowed,” said Dr. BBC’s Peter Tse.

A proposed commercial squid farm in Spain has sparked outrage after a leaked plan suggested the operator intended to kill up to a million of the animals a year by immersing them alive in ice-cold water.

Companies have strived to raise captive octopuses on a commercial scale for years, citing growing demand and pressure to find more sustainable alternatives to fishing. However, critics argue that the creatures are far too smart — and capable of feeling pain — to be raised to eat in confined spaces.

The proposed farm in question would be based in Spain’s Canary Islands and operated by Nueva Pescanova, a fishing company that boasted in 2019 that it had not only managed to raise squid in captivity, but got them to breed for the first time .

“We will continue to explore how we can further improve squid welfare by studying and replicating their natural habitat, with the expectation of being able to sell aquaculture octopuses by 2023,” CEO Ignacio Gonz├ílez said at the time.

But activists from Eurogroup for Animals, an activist group, say documents they obtained – and shared with the BBC – show the proposed factory would subject octopuses to agonizing conditions and a long, painful death.

In a report released Thursday, the activist group said Nueva Pescanova intends to slaughter around a million squid each year by dunking them in an ice-cold “ice slurry.” It also criticizes the conditions they are kept in before they are slaughtered, saying the company plans to confine an individual animal in tight enclosures – up to 15 squid per cubic meter of water – and expose them to light for 24 hours to speed up reproduction .

“It will cause undue suffering to these intelligent, sentient and fascinating creatures that must explore and engage with the environment as part of their natural behavior,” Elena Lara, research manager for the group Compassion in World Farming, said in a statement.

Nueva Pescanova didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment. But in a statement to the BBC, the company said it had high standards that ensure “the correct handling of the animals”. In particular, the slaughter of octopuses “involves proper handling that avoids any pain or suffering to the animal”.

However, experts disagree that submerging live animals in freezing water is a pleasant way to go.

“Killing her with ice would be a slow death,” said Dr. Peter Tse, who studies octopus cognition in Dartmouth, told the BBC. “That would be very cruel and shouldn’t be allowed.”

In an open letter last year, before specific details of the proposed factory were released, a group of environmental scientists at New York University who specialize in animal sentience argued that captive octopuses could not be produced on a commercial scale to breed humanely – and indeed could not only cause pollution from the release of contaminated water, but also cannibalism in animals effectively driven insane.

“Beyond environmental and health concerns, squid are capable of observational learning, have individual personalities, play, and are capable of problem solving, deception, and interspecies hunting,” the scientists wrote.

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