When you think of the animal agriculture industry, what comes to mind? Cows, pigs and chickens? Many people aren’t aware of the cruel world of fish factory farming, or aquaculture. Aquaculture presents serious environmental and other risks, yet it largely flies under the radar, although it’s coming under increasing scrutiny. I wasn’t truly aware of the dangers and horrors of this industry until I stepped into the Cooke Aquaculture hatchery in Bingham, Maine for the first time. I had been an undercover investigator for a year before arriving at the hatchery and was familiar with factory farming. Yet, what I witnessed at Cooke shocked me.
Putrid conditions, rampant disease and widespread cruelty to fish intensively crowded in barren tanks. More than one million eggs laid out in tanks so fungus-riddled that the water was nearly opaque.
Thousands of these eggs died on a daily basis, faster than the employees could keep up with. Workers dumped large buckets filled near to the brim with dead eggs into a large concrete pool teeming with previously dumped dead eggs left to fester. Workers told me that the stench of the pool would be worse in the summer, boiling under the hot sun with its smell settling for days over the entire small town of Bingham.
When the eggs somehow managed to survive and hatch, hundreds of the resulting baby fish would have deformities. Many constantly swam in circles or spasmed as they tried to swim with gruesomely twisted spines. I also saw many born conjoined, attached by their bellies. Workers extracted these suffering fish roughly from their tanks and tossed them into waterless buckets, leaving them to suffocate.
This horror has to stop. Will you join us in exposing the cruel practices in the factory farming industry?
I wondered what the limit was for how many fish the site was allowed to let die or kill. Or if a limit even existed.
There didn’t seem to be a limit, and any concern for the welfare of these sentient beings was tempered by the harsh reality of fish farming. The cruelty began with the eggs and continued with fry and mature fish. Standard practice required that workers callously extract these helpless sentient beings out of their cruel confinement and dump them into buckets that already contained dead fish who had suffered a similar fate.
Even when the workers seemed bothered by the many problems there, in the larger framework of the animal agriculture industry, the dead and dying fish were just “casualties.” A result of too little oxygen, not enough current, too much current. Too little feed, too much feed. The issues seemed to be as plentiful as the mortalities.
Death in Aquaculture
When it came to death, there was no escape for these innocent fish. If small enough, the standard method of killing at Cooke was leaving the fish to thrash and suffocate to death in a dry bucket. If big enough, workers would brutally slam their bodies against the sides of concrete tanks or stomp on their heads. I saw live fish thrown through the air without any regard for their safety (or ability to breathe, for that matter), and fish too small for their flesh to turn a profit treated like trash, piled on top of one another in waste buckets where they slowly suffocated to death.
I saw more death at this facility than at any of the other factory farms I’ve investigated. Yet before my investigation, many people were unaware of what happens behind the closed doors of fish factory farms.
I can still see them there, in tank after tank, day after day, swimming in constant circles. The artificial environment, the false currents in the water and the unnatural deformities all indicate the grave injustices factory farmed fish suffer. They are denied their right to live natural lives free from exploitation and cruelty.
We need your help to expose more of these horrific facilities. Your donation today will keep our investigators in the field, showing the world what the factory farming industry tries so desperately to keep hidden. You can also show your support by signing and sharing our petition.
Make Your Voice Heard
You can tell the aquaculture industry that you will not tolerate animal exploitation in any way, shape or form. By choosing a plant-based diet, you can help prevent these senseless deaths and ensure a better future for these animals. Join us in celebrating World Day For The End of Fishing on Saturday, March 27 and World Aquatic Animal Day on Saturday, April 3 by taking the seven-day VegPledge for this year’s VegWeek, April 19-25. And you can make every week VegWeek by joining our Facebook group to connect with like-minded individuals, find additional recipes, get support and more.
Erin recently retired from the field after two years undercover. Now, as Animal Outlook’s Deputy Director of Investigations, she assists with the overall management of investigations and is primarily responsible for conducting research related to investigations and standard practices in the animal agriculture industry. This information is used both by Animal Outlook for various programs and initiatives as well as by investigators in the field.
While undercover, Erin conducted the first-ever investigation of a U.S. fish farming facility, exposing the ugly truth about aquaculture. Her footage from a Virginia factory farm supplying Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest chicken producer, revealed shocking abuse of birds, and she documented senseless, violent abuse of mother cows and their defenseless calves at a Pennsylvania dairy factory farm – much as she did at her final investigation at another dairy factory farm in California.