“Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.”
Consider these facts: farmed poultry accounts for 70% of all birds on the planet. The situation is similar for mammals with 60% of them worldwide being livestock, mostly cattle and pigs.
And it’s not as if people are slowing down in their efforts to turn wild animals into mass-produced ingredients for their plates. Among the latest species that are beginning to be farmed wholesale are octopuses. They are considered to be delicacies in many countries.
Yet farming octopuses isn’t just bad for the animals themselves; it’s also bad for the environment.
So says a team of scientists who are making a case against farming octopuses. “As global demand for octopus grows, especially in affluent markets, so have efforts to farm them,” they write. “We believe that octopuses are particularly ill-suited to a life in captivity and mass-production, for reasons both ethical and ecological.”
Keeping these highly intelligent mollusks in factory-farm settings is a form of animal cruelty, the researchers say. “Beyond their basic biological health and safety, octopuses are likely to want high levels of cognitive stimulation, as well as opportunities to explore, manipulate, and control their environment,” they observe. “Intensive farm systems are inevitably hostile to these attributes.”
Farming them also comes with severe ecological impacts. These impacts include nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from waste; contamination from fertilizers, algaecides, herbicides, and disinfectants; and the spread of diseases to wild marine creatures.
In addition, octopuses are carnivores, which means they need plenty of fish. That could further deplete already declining fish stocks. “Feeding most farmed aquatic animals puts additional pressure on wild fish and invertebrates for fishmeal,” the scientists explain. “Around one-third of the global fish catch is turned into feed for other animals, roughly half of which goes to aquaculture,” they add. “Many fishmeal fisheries are subject to overfishing and are declining.”
In other words, there are no good reasons for farming octopuses beyond one: that many people like to dine on them. But that reason isn’t nearly good enough. “We can see no reason why, in the 21st century, a sophisticated, complex animal should become the source of mass-produced food,” stresses Prof. Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, one of the scientists who have issued a plea for octopus farming to be discontinued.
“Octopuses eat fish and shellfish, and supplying enough to feed large numbers of them puts further pressure on the food chain. It is unsustainable,” she explains. “Octopus factory farming is ethically and ecologically unjustified.”