Marine activists in the UK want to stop the development of the world’s first octopus farm, arguing that it would be torture for the intelligent “sentient” animals.
Conservationists and scientists are pushing to add an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which only applies to vertebrates, or spined animals.
Cephalopods, like the octopus, have no skeleton — but they’re not spineless, as a new BBC News report reveals.
Adding evidence to their campaign, experts have pulled together a review of more than 300 scientific studies, the sum of which concluded that octopi are “sentient beings.” They say there is “strong scientific evidence” that the creatures feel a range of emotions the way humans do, from joy to distress and sadness.
“Some days he’s really grumpy and sleeps all day,” Stacey Tonkin, aquarist at the Bristol Aquarium, said of their Giant Pacific octopus named DJ, who is 1-year-old, and will only live to about four years.
“Then other days he’s really playful and active and wants to charge around his tank and show off.”
“When you look at him, and he looks at you, you can sense there’s something there,” Tonkin told the BBC in a new report on the nascent octopus farming industry.
Authors also wrote they were “convinced that high-welfare octopus farming was impossible” and the government “could consider a ban on imported farmed octopus” going forward.
Globally around 771.6 million pounds of octopus are caught from the seas each year and sold to consumers — and increasingly in demand, especially in the US, according to the BBC report.
Meanwhile, researchers are learning more than ever before about the extraordinary cognitive abilities of the octopus. They’re known to play, use tools, to lie, to plan and — as demonstrated in the 2020 documentary “My Octopus Teacher” — befriend other species, including humans.
Beating competitors from around the world, Spanish corporation Nueva Pescanova (NP) will be the world’s first octopus farm, due to open in 2023, in the port of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, reported PortSEurope. In Spain, the octopus will have little protection under European law, which only covers sentient animals with spines, as in the UK.
NP has so far refused to reveal to the BBC how their farm octopus will live, which the Compassion in World Farming group argues is just the problem: We don’t know enough about how they live to know how to raise them humanely.
“These animals are amazing animals. They are solitary, and very smart. So to put them in barren tanks with no cognitive stimulation, it’s wrong for them,” said CIWF research manager Dr. Elena Lara.
Lara added, “The problem with octopus is that they are completely wild, so we don’t know exactly what they need, or how we can provide a better life for them.”
Original Article: Scientists want to stop the world’s first octopus farm (nypost.com)