Fish Too Depressed to Eat!? New Mini Doc Reveals Heartbreaking Fish Farm Truths

On March 30, Mercy For Animals released a new documentary revealing the scale of modern fish farming—also known as industrial aquaculture. Fish are some of the most abused animals on the planet, yet they receive no legal protection and less advocacy than other farmed animals. Our new film uses facts and expert testimonials to show why a fish’s suffering is every bit as important as the suffering of land animals.

The documentary begins with Mercy For Animals’ resident drone pilot, Mark Devries, speaking with Dr. Jonathan Balcombe—a world expert on fish. Author of What a Fish Knows, Balcombe explains just how complex these aquatic animals really are:

They have emotions. They have memories. They have relationships with each other, like a friendship. They may be rivals or competitors. Grouper fish will approach divers they know and get petted. Cleaner wrasses have passed this “mirror self-recognition test,” which suggests self-awareness.

Fish are intelligent and emotional, yet they have largely been left out of the many hard-won improvements in welfare standards for farmed animals. As wild fish populations collapse from overfishing, unsanitary and inhumane fish farms are rapidly growing. In fact, nearly half of all the fish people eat come from fish farms. 

At these operations, fish are raised in ponds or tanks that hold thousands of fish at a time. These animals suffer extreme stress in overcrowded conditions with poor water quality. In the documentary, Dr. Balcombe details what life is like for fish living in these farms:

They don’t really have any control over where they are and when: choosing who they swim with, who they interact with, who they mate with. We shouldn’t just say “stress.” We can say “outright suffering.”

Aquatic animals trapped in fish farms show signs of deep depression. Dr. Marco Vindas of the Norwegian University of Life Science explains:

Salmon are supposed to be in creeks and rivers and oceans, and you put them in a pen, where you have about 300,000 to 400,000 individuals. A certain amount of the population stops eating. They usually go to the sides of the sea cages, close to the water’s surface. They swim in small circles, sometimes hitting the side of the cage. They don’t really react that much to whatever’s happening. This is a type of depression-like state.

Fish are individuals as unique and complex as those who live on land. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to withdraw our support from cruel fishing and fish farming by choosing compassionate plant-based foods. For delicious recipes and easy meal ideas, get our FREE How to Eat Veg guide today.