Groundbreaking! Major Retailer Publishes One of the World’s First Shrimp Welfare Policies

Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, recently published the first-ever shrimp welfare policy from a mainstream retailer! This is big news for shrimp and other small aquatic animals, who are often overlooked by both companies and the public.

Whiteleg shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei or Penaeus vannamei, known as Pacific white shrimp or King prawn, is a species of prawn of the eastern Pacific Ocean commonly caught or farmed for food. Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico.

The new policy commits to transitioning to 100% electrical stunning and ensuring the full elimination of eyestalk ablation from the company’s supply chain by Q1 2025. Once fully implemented, the policy could impact around 900 million animals per year!

What Is Eyestalk Ablation?

Eyestalk ablation is the removal of one or both of a shrimp’s eyestalks, the antenna-like shafts that support the animal’s eyes. The horrific practice usually involves one of these methods:

  • Pinching and squeezing the eyestalk
  • Using heated forceps to burn off the eyestalk
  • Tying a thread or wire around the eyestalk to limit the blood supply until the stalk falls off

A shrimp’s eyestalks contain glands that produce hormones that influence reproduction. Removing a female shrimp’s eyestalk supposedly makes her mature faster and release more eggs. This cruel act is standard for hundreds of millions of mother shrimp in the global shrimp-farming industry, despite research showing that ablation negatively impacts their growth, lowers egg quality, and even raises mortality rates.

What Is Electrical Stunning

Currently, the vast majority of shrimp raised for food are killed through brutal methods like asphyxiation (being deprived of oxygen), freezing, or crushing—all while fully conscious and able to feel pain. Electrical stunning renders shrimp unconscious before slaughter, helping reduce their suffering.

A Kinder Future 

In the global aquaculture industry, an estimated 440 billion shrimp are bred and slaughtered for human consumption annually. Recent research demonstrates that shrimp feel pain and suffer just like other farmed animals. Several countries, such as the UK, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Norway, now recognize shrimp as sentient and give them some protections under law. 

As shrimp welfare gains momentum in Europe, corporate policies like the one Albert Heijn has adopted will positively impact hundreds of millions of animals each year. It is a first step toward meaningful welfare standards for farmed shrimp.

Of course, the best way to ensure no animal suffers for our food is simply to leave them off our plates! These 12 vegan fish recipes will change the way you “sea” food, and our How to Eat Veg guide is an excellent resource for folks interested in plant-based eating.