Oxford English Thesaurus gives us words which have same meaning for the word ‘intensive’ such as, rigorous, exhaustive, comprehensive, conscientious, elaborate and widespread. Likewise Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary translates it as an increase, profound, logical and agricultural increase of provision and quality of crops.
Here, we will discuss “intensive farming” in relation to Fish.
We all know that through out the globe because of overfishing and also for reasons of environmental mishaps natural breeding grounds rescinded in large numbers and that effectively caused universal shortage of the species which were partial to consumers. Also for changing dietary habits and affordability in economic terms, universally fish consumption is partial now for most families.
Science and technology is somehow always there to rescue and provide answers to the human needs. Intensive farming of selected species of Fish was borne to cultivate, sustain supply and nourish the increasing demands.
Intensive Fish Farming
Fish farming is the principal form of aquaculture. Fish have been farmed extensively for generations and the last century saw development of “intensive fish farming” to speed up the supply. Three species with the highest aquaculture productions in scores of thousands of tonnage are tilapias, carp and salmonids. In various locations in the world other fish species are also a yield of intensive farming, for example, catfish in Vietnam. These fish feed here in ponds and lagoons from the food web within, by usage of fertiliser to promote growth of phytoplankton (microscope plants), crustaceans as fishmeal and aquatic vegetation is also part of the food pyramid for rapid growth of fish. Death rate of fish because of stocking density in such farming places could at times be 15-20%.
Types of Fish Farms
This system is also called “offshore cultivation “, because fish cages are placed in ponds, rivers and even oceans to protect and contain fish until harvesting takes place. Here fish are artificially fed and stocked in cages to be harvested whence reaching marketable-size. There are a few advantages in this system, such as, firstly water may be used either from lakes, rivers or filled quarries and secondly, variety of fish can be farmed and co-exist. Disadvantages are that there is fear of disease, at times poor polluted water supply and poaching. This is the way pond-system is thought to be manageable and easier. To avoid disease and organisms copper alloy nets are used and here usage of antibiotics is most common.
Ditch Irrigation or Pond System
Raising fish in this system has both minuses and pluses, for example, water level has to be maintained in ditches which are lined with bentonite clay. Fish are often fed commercial fish food. In large ponds water plants and algae grow as fish food. Here cold water ornamental fish are raised with guaranteed profit margins. However, risk of viral diseases is high especially for Carp and the like. Only a limited number of producers have adapted their intensive system to facilitate consumers with required fish that do not carry dormant forms of viruses and diseases.
Composite Fish Culture
This system was developed in India in the 70s. A combination of five or more surface eater fish species are raised using a single fish feed. Rohu, silver carp and common carp are specific to this system.
Integrated Recycling System
Problem with freshwater pisciculture is that it uses at times a million gallons of water per acre per year. However, technology of water purification system now enables to reuse local water. If tuned properly system produces more edible protein for fish feed within the greenhouse. Producers and fish growers keep fish healthy by reducing the water – waste. Even then fish raised here is rarely profitable.
Classic Fry Farming
Sometimes known as “flow through system”. Here trout and other sport fish are raised from eggs or fingerlings in concrete tanks connected to freshwater. The fry are generally fed on Commercial fish food pellets system which is mainly used for variety of eels.
Prior to slaughtering, trout and salmon are fed proprietary diets in pellets that contain animal protein, oils, vitamins balanced with inert plant fibre. Additionally, at times hormones, antibiotics and necessary vaccines are also incorporated in these pellets.
Salmon and trout are deprived of feed before slaughter, which is generally the way salmon would cease to feed itself in the wildest well prior to breeding.
Live Transport of Farmed Fish
It is known that a number of fish species have stress physiology and skin surfaces that are extremely delicate to handle and stress could change their metabolic hormonal behaviour. Lowering temperature of water in containers increases the stocking density that the fish to tolerate. Welfare problem have to be addressed should the temperatures change causing “ significant mortalities”. And if the fish dies under duress, question could be that ‘is is permissible for Muslims to consume?
Slaughter of Farmed Fish
Traditional method of killing fish is to allow them to be asphyxiated in air or on ice. However, the EU’s panel of scientists of Animal Health and Welfare
( AHAW) reported that “many existing commercial killing methods expose fish to substantial suffering over a prolonged period of time”
The following method of slaughtering speak for themselves for adherence of animal welfare:
- Asphyxiation in air or on ice (used for carp, seabream, seabass, trout and turbot)
- Asphyxiation followed by percussive stun (used mainly for carp)
- Live chilling ( used for carp, salmon, seabream, trout and seabass)
- Carbon dioxide stunning (this gas stunning is used for salmon and trout)
- Gill-cutting without prior stunning and allowing fish to bleed to death (manly used for trout)
- Eels are immersed in salt water and gutted while many are likely to be still alive
By contrast the following methods might not be perceived to be humane, but these cause instant death or render fish “instantly insensible” to pain until the death occurs.
- Percussive and electrical stunning machine usage
- Percussive stunning with a club
- Spiking the brain
- Spiking with food grade sedatives (a licensed method in Chile, Australia and New Zealand)
It is imperative to note that some of the aforementioned methods could never be expected to be concurred by those who strongly believe in animal welfare. Observation reveals that in such operations fish is distressed being out of water. Live fish are mishandled, are sent down chutes and because of sliding belts are compressed by weight of other fish. At times fish are conscious and are gasping for air whence gills are cut to be bled manually. One can see tail movement of some fish indicating that they are still alive. Gas stunning should be banned. Farm Animal Council of UK., reported in May 2014 that “ the humane stunning of farmed fish is necessary to remove fear, pain and distress at the time of killing . FAWC believes that all farmed fish should be stunned before killing, whether or not death accompanies the stun (Asian stun /kill methods) or when death follows some short time after the stun but before the fish has the time to regain consciousness.” FAWC recommended electric stunning or by percussion stun (by a blow to the head). Declaring that it was unacceptable to make fish suffer and kill by:
- Leaving fish to asphyxiate or bleed to death by prior stunning
- Killing with carbon dioxide and
- Killing with rapid chilling
FAWC also recommend as more than 100 million fish were grown and killed in 2010 in the UK alone, that salmon, trout and flatfish are percussively or electrically stunned at slaughter. Customarily the UK industry stuns salmon and trout by mechanical percussion from which the fish does not recover prior to slaughtering.
Labelling system of farmed fish is lot to be desired. Though Alaska had legislation for genetically altered fish to be sold with adequate labelling, but investigations had shown that farm-raised salmon was frequently sold as wild! As recent as 2008 in USA, National Organic Standards Board had allowed farmed fish to be labelled as ‘organic’ provided less than 25% of their feed consisted wild fish? However, in European Union fish labelling stipulating fish species, origin and method of production has been mandatory since 2002.
It is imperative to note that the fish, salmon, trout or any other species sold generally in the market do not have labelling or any form of categorisation that could indicate whether ,say, the salmon was naturally reared or was the product of intensive farming.
Grilse – a salmon which become mature after being one summer at sea, are usually separated from salmon that are to be slaughtered.It is not uncommon for salmon and trout to survive in wild in winter even though the season deprives them of foods. And fresh water salmon might not feed itself during winter.
However, prior to slaughter salmon and trout are often deprived of foods for some days. Females are usually killed after stripping. This is normally achieved by a sharp blow to the head before recovery from the anaesthetics. Males in salmon are generally anaesthetised before milking (extraction of milt) a process which may be repeated several times prior to slaughtering.
Denouement or Solution
As per recent hand out of Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) farmed fish deserves a good life and should have a good end and it proclaims that fish should be humanely stunned. Over a 100 million fish are farmed yearly in the UK in around 750 fish farms. And FAWC with conviction says that fish have sensory experience of pain, adding that “fish are less likely than other animals to elicit emotionally based ethical responses such as empathy and compassion. The image of fish caught in the wild or sea killed by asphyxiation is the norm; so it recommends a ban on asphyxiation and implores to have fish stunned for the sake of animal welfare.
Question for the Muslim community is, which side of the fence proponents of unstunned lobby stand whence the fish they are partial to thinking that all creatures from the water are halal and permissible, is procured and marketed as of now subsequent to stunning.
This is one of reason why we at Halal Consultations always entreat and beseech that for Muslims the Qur’an and the Sunnah are obligatory to follow in the strictest sense of the Scripture and for the modus operandi. But the usage of the science and technology would intensify and enhance life as long as it is subservient to the Islamic Devine dietary principles.