No animal welfare supervision in sight for millions of farmed fish in Denmark


No animal welfare supervision in sight for millions of farmed fish in Denmark

22 September 2022
Animal Protection Denmark

The Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Rasmus Prehn, has failed to include both supervision and clearly defined animal welfare standards in his proposal for a new aquaculture strategy.

When veterinarians from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration visit poultry farmers, cattle farmers, or pig farmers for inspections, they go to make sure that all animal welfare rules are being followed. No such supervisory measures currently exist for farmed fish in Danish aquaculture, and that is a major legal oversight according to Animal Protection Denmark. 

New research shows that fish are highly developed, sentient beings, capable of feeling pain and suffering. Therefore, it should be a matter of course to implement animal welfare supervision for fish. Furthermore, there should be species-specific rules in place for breeding to protect fish from suffering
Nicolaj Lindeborgh, Biologist, Fish and Fish Welfare Consultant at Animal Protection Denmark

In a response to the Danish Parliament’s Environment and Food Committee, Minister Rasmus Prehn has confirmed that fish are to be seen as sentient beings. Yet animal welfare supervision is reserved exclusively for organically farmed fish, accounting for just 2 percent of around 50 million farmed fish in Denmark.

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries has developed a proposal for a new Danish aquaculture strategy that has been distributed for public hearing. One of the central aims of the strategy is that “the Danish aquaculture sector continues sustainable growth in production.” But there is no mention as to how the authorities will ensure the welfare of many millions of animals involved. Animal Protection Denmark asserts that the strategy should include and highlight fish welfare.

Animal Protection Denmark does not accept a lack of knowledge as a legitimate excuse for a lack of action.
The Ministry excuses itself by saying that there is not enough research into which species-specific needs various fish species have. But you need only to look to our neighbouring countries, Norway for example, where relevant welfare parameters have already been developed
Nicolaj Lindeborgh
In its proposal, the Ministry writes that a much bigger part of the Danish production of fish is to take place in recirculating aquaculture facilities on land. Recirculating facilities typically have a much higher density of fish than both traditional pond farming and sea farming. According to Animal Protection Denmark, this would only increase the need for animal welfare supervision.
The aquaculture strategy points to production that is more intensive and further removed from natural conditions. This is a concerning development that we have seen cause problems for animal welfare in other species. And when this development is set to take place without any planned measures of supervision, the government is gambling with animal welfare
Nicolaj Lindeborgh
The Danish Government’s aquaculture strategy is scheduled to enter into force later this year and set to apply for the next five years.