The recent cold weather in Florida has hurt the tropical fish industry. I have a few things to say about this. For one, the NYT refers to the fish as a “crop.” I’ve railed about rhetoric in this space before (here, for example) but this one feels really egregious. Since when are animals a “crop?” What is it about fish that demotes them from sentience? Second, the way the fish are raised and housed is all too reminiscent of more familiar forms of industrial agriculture. Herewith, the Times’ description:
[A] family-owned hatchery on 20 acres marked by 84 man-made, rectangular ponds the size of large swimming pools. There are a few greenhouses, too, steamy fish locker rooms filled with species bred to be red, green, striped, albino or bearded.
It is a world part science fiction — with row after row of concrete water tanks built from the same molds as burial crypts — and part simple farming: most of the workers end up muddy and pungent by the end of the day.
Following the freeze, one producer had to “ditch millions of babies to make room for angelfish closer to the size needed for shipping.”
These fish are raised for no other purpose than to serve as ornaments in peoples’ homes. They are living furniture. And, when some bad weather hits, millions of babies get ditched.
The ethical issue seems very plain yet is never mentioned. This too seems reminiscent of other forms of industrial agriculture (btw, the website of the Tropical Fish Farmers Association is here). To complete the circle, “farmers” who lose more than 50% of their “crop” can file crop insurance claims with the Department of Agriculture. That’s a pretty good gig for an industry whose raison d’être is a form of interior decoration.
Filed under: animal ethics, animal welfare, environmental ethics, exotic animals Tagged: | animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal suffering, animal welfare, environmental ethics, exotic animals, factory farms, fish farming, florida, industrial farming, tropical fish