Octopus Farming Is Deeply Disturbing. A Professor Explains Why.

Around 420,000 metric tons of this mollusk are captured annually globally because it is a common component in many different cuisines.

Octopus is becoming more and more famous all over the world, which has been ascribed to the more adventurous eating habits of young people, the meat's nutritional value, and the depletion of conventional seafood stocks like cod.

This explains why Nueva Pescanova, a food manufacturing company, plans to construct the world's first indoor octopus farm in Gran Canaria, a 1,000-tank facility capable of creating 3,000 tons of octopus annually.

Even though they are famously challenging to breed in captivity, octopuses are an attractive possibility for aquaculture because they can gain a startling 5% of their body weight in a single day.

But according to Nueva Pescanova, a significant scientific advance has been achieved that will enable them to produce subsequent generations of Octopus vulgaris, also known as the Atlantic common octopus.

According to the company, growing octopus will lessen the use of fishing techniques like sea-bed trawling and guarantee a supply of "marine-based food" while also "relieving pressure on wild fishing grounds."

But for customers, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of consuming farmed fish and marine creatures is not an easy task. Although it is alluring to think that structured systems lower the likelihood of overfishing, it is also well known that fish farms and other forms of farming contaminate shoreline waterways with feces and drugs.

The grave moral problem of restricting sentient beings to corporate feeding systems is added to this.

Octopuses are thought to be especially clever and playful animals, making them unfit for confinement and bulk production. Based on this data, animal rights advocates claim that farming octopuses will result in unprecedented levels of unnecessary suffering.

Captured intelligent creatures on industrial plantations

In a specialized facility, researchers at Dartmouth College in the US have examined how octopuses perceive reality. Their findings raise questions about the Nueva Pescanova-proposed ways of octopus killing, which involve submerging them in an ice slurry until they die.

They query whether this is suitable for a species that has advanced information processing abilities, primitive tool use, complicated visual circuits, and last but not least, the ability to experience pain.

While gas tanks or electrical stunning are typically used to slaughter land animals, similar critiques have been leveled against large-brained and sentient species like cows and pigs.

A controversial topic that was discussed in the UK government led to the 2022 Animal Welfare (consciousness) Act's official acknowledgment of the consciousness of many species, including crabs, lobsters, and octopuses.

According to some study, octopuses are equally intelligent as cats, a species that few choose to ingest and that most people view as lovable pets. So why do we consume calamari but not cats?

One explanation is that we have a hard time understanding octopuses because their personalities are elusive and their aquatic bodies mimic small marine monsters with numerous tentacles and bulging eyes.

The octopus, like many other marine creatures, has an aura of otherworldliness that has inspired ages of folklore and songs about these enigmatic others.

Despite the vast empirical proof of the diversity of molluscs' behavioral repertoires, we do not typically view molluscs as cute, and it is challenging to think of them as friendly or companionable.

Is it now simpler to consume octopus and other aquatic animals like calamari and crustaceans? In my opinion.

It is a concept known as speciesism, which refers to the reasoning that somewhat arbitrarily explains why some animals are viewed as beloved companions or esteemed coworkers and others are merely seen as ready-made sustenance.

The ethical rationale needed to make eating these enigmatic others permissible may be the source of our difficulty connecting to them, according to my study on farmed mammals.

There are no easy answers or concessions to the food and agricultural issues, as there are to other issues. The gap between customer desire and market supply continues to cause friction. It is unlikely that anyone needs to consume cephalopod given the abundance of protein sources available.

But there are additional connections between food and societal norms, cultural ideals, and excellent taste. We can at least learn more about the effects of our diets thanks to research.

One of the most important moral issues facing humankind in the twenty-first century is food supply.

Even though organizations like Nueva Pescanova vow to address issues like overfishing, the innumerable sentient beings trapped in intricate industrial food systems will always pay a price.

Lindsay Hamilton, Professor of Animal Organization Studies, University of York