PRESS RELEASE: Animal Protection Org, Maine Voters Sue State Over Fish Farms

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Animal Protection Org, Maine Voters Sue 

State Over Fish Farms

Millions of Fish and Other Aquatic Animals 

Have No Protection, Though Law Requires It

Augusta, ME February 22, 2023 – Today, the animal protection organization Animal Outlook sued a Maine agency that houses the state’s Animal Welfare Program over the agency’s failure to apply state animal cruelty laws to fish in Maine’s growing aquaculture industry. Under Maine law, the agency has a legal obligation to ensure the humane and proper treatment of “every living sentient creature” in the state. But the agency has failed to craft regulations—let alone to enforce Maine’s cruelty laws—to protect the millions of aquatic animals, even as Maine’s aquaculture industry has grown exponentially in recent years. Animal Outlook says this neglect is typical for fish and other aquatic animals, who are routinely overlooked by even the minimal laws applied to other animals.

“The science is clear: fish feel pain,” said Jareb Gleckel, Staff Attorney at Animal Outlook. “Even so, they’re often left out of conversations about animal protection–even by agencies with a legal obligation to protect them. Here, the agency responsible for ensuring the humane treatment of all animals in Maine has refused to provide even minimal protection to aquatic animals in the state’s expanding aquaculture industry. That’s why we’ve teamed up with concerned Maine residents to demand the agency does its job.”

In 2022, more than 150 registered Maine voters, supported by Animal Outlook and other organizations, submitted a petition to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (DACF)-Animal Welfare Program (AWP), triggering the legal requirement that AWP initiate a rulemaking process to apply Maine’s anti-cruelty laws to the state’s aquaculture industry. DACF responded, stating – erroneously, says Animal Outlook – that it was “denying” the petition. However, having received the petition, Maine law requires DACF to begin the rule-making process. In rejecting it, says Animal Outlook, DACF has not only neglected the welfare of fish in the state, it has rejected the will of Maine voters and failed to obey the law.

The petition followed the first-ever undercover exposé of a U.S. salmon aquaculture operation, conducted by Animal Outlook in Bingham, Maine. The investigation documented workers stomping on fish, slamming them into concrete, and exposing them to filthy tanks, with many fish suffering from fungal infections or deformities. It also brought to light that no state agency has crafted regulations for applying Maine’s anti-cruelty laws to millions of aquatic animals that those laws are intended to protect. The petition, and now Animal Outlook’s lawsuit, demands that DACF comply with Maine law and craft regulations for aquaculture in the state.

Read the Complaint filed today here. For more information on the petition, the undercover investigation, and today’s lawsuit, visit Animal Outlook’s case page here.


Animal Outlook is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC, and Los Angeles, CA. It is strategically challenging animal agribusiness through undercover investigations, legal advocacy, corporate and food system reform, and disseminating information about the many harms of animal agriculture, empowering everyone to choose vegan. 



Media Contact:

Jim Amos, Scout 22 

(818) 216-9122

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