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A warm heart for a cold fish – moral obligations and welfare considerations in fish farming

Lund V, Mejdell CM. A warm heart for a cold fish – moral obligations and welfare considerations in fish farming. In: “Ethics and the politics of food” (eds. Kaiser M, Lien M), Wageningen Academic Publishers 2006; pp 437-41

“Fish welfare” is a rather new issue, given steadily increasing attention by authorities, the public and fish farmers. Fish has usually not been given considerations comparable to that given to higher vertebrates like mammals and birds. The reasons for this difference may be found in history and tradition as well as communication difficulties among species and the lack of factors making the basis for human empathy. In the western world sentience is commonly considered to be the single most important criteria for moral status, and hence moral concern and moral obligations towards animals. Current scientific knowledge, based on neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and behaviour, indicates that pain perception is likely to be present at least in bony fishes (teleosts). This is setting the stage for a change of moral obligation towards fish. The understanding of the welfare concept then becomes an issue, since it determines how to judge welfare and what welfare indicators to select: obviously it is necessary to know what to measure. Substantial research efforts are needed to shed light on these issues and to unveil even basic fish needs in relation to fish welfare.

NVI authors

Mejdell Cecilie Marie

Forsker, fagansvarlig dyrevelferd