New investigation reveals poor animal welfare standards in the Indonesian fish farming industry

NGO coalition Act for Farmed Animals urges producers and retailers to improve the treatment of farmed fish





An investigation conducted by Act For Farmed Animals and We Animals Media has revealed for the first time the poor welfare conditions for fish farmed, killed and sold in Indonesia.


The exposé shows the unsanitary conditions of tilapia, catfish and milkfish farms: fish visibly sick and dying prematurely, and left to float in their pens once dead.


In August 2018, at Kedung Ombo Reservoir, over 100 tons of farmed tilapia died at once. Experts say the large number of floating nets in the dam and the quantity of food given to fish has led to a rise in bacteria, toxins and water pollution. “Fish were documented living in visibly dirty waters and farmers reported low oxygen levels, which are likely to cause these problems”, explains Angelina Pae, program manager at Animal Friends Jogja, a member organization of Act For Farmed Animals.


At local markets and farms, investigators witnessed some fish skinned and cut open while still fully conscious. Live fish are transported on ice to grocery stores, a practice that animal welfare specialists agree causes suffering. Scientific studies have concluded that ice causes thermal shock, a painful and stressful process that keeps fish conscious and sensitive to pain for prolonged periods.


What science says


Scientific research shows fish have the capacity to experience pain, fear and stress. Other studies also show that fish are intelligent animals, capable of social interactions, social hierarchies and even of feeling emotions. Veterinarians and animal scientists have also studied the many ways in which water quality, husbandry and slaughter practices can be improved to reduce suffering and prevent inhumane conditions such as those documented in this investigation.


“Unfortunately, fish are often dismissed as ‘less of an animal,’ as people tend to think that they are not intelligent or sensitive enough. Farmers and retailers in Indonesia can adopt better measures recommended by fish welfare experts,” says Fernanda Vieira, PhD in animal science and representative of Sinergia Animal, a member of Act For Farmed Animals.


Sales of live fish


Advocates urge retailers to end sales of live fish. Major Indonesian retailers sell live fish, often without welfare considerations.They keep fish alive in tiny tanks in their stores, “where fish can barely swim and may suffer from pain, fear and stress”, says Vieira. In one supermarket, fish were put in a plastic bag to suffocate and then hit on the head with a mallet.


“We are inviting Indonesian consumers to help change this reality,” says Pane. “We must be more aware of how detrimental the current practice of farming fish is to sanitation, the environment and animal welfare, and take concrete action to solve these issues.”


International standards for fish welfare are being developed and farms can improve water quality, reduce fish density, and use better feeding methods to reduce mortality and disease. They can also adopt stunning as a slaughter method that causes less suffering.


Act for Farmed Animals invites Indonesians to join their campaign. Learn how you can take action at https://www.actforfarmedanimals.org/ikan.


About Act For Farmed Animals

​Act For Farmed Animals is a joint campaign run by the NGOs Animal Friends Jogja and Sinergia Animal to improve animal welfare in Indonesia.


About Animal Friends Jogja

Animal Friends Jogja is an animal protection organization in Indonesia committed to defending the rights of all animals and creating a compassionate society through grassroots activism, education, advocacy and public awareness campaigns.


About Sinergia Animal

Sinergia Animal is an international animal protection organization working in countries of the Global South to reduce the suffering of farmed animals and promote more compassionate food choices. Sinergia is recognized as one of the most effective animal protection NGOs in the world by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE).


About We Animals Media

We Animals Mediais an animal photojournalism agency that investigates animal industries. Their award-winning photos and videos are available on their stock platform.