New investigation reveals animal welfare violations in the Thai fish industry



[Bangkok, Thailand] — Images released by We Animals Media and Sinergia Animal revealed animal suffering and unsanitary conditions in the farming and trade of tilapia, the most farmed fish in the country. Now, activists are urging producers and retailers to improve the overall treatment of fish, and Siam Makro to stop selling live fish.


“We collected evidence that shows the unsanitary condition of tilapia farms in Thailand, where fish were found living in visibly dirty water, some of them with signs of diseases such as bulging white eyes. In one of the farms investigated, dead fish were left in the pond, while live ones ate their floating bodies,” says Wichayapat Piromsan, Sinergia Animal’s Public Affairs Director of South East Asia. Sinergia Animal is an NGO that works in countries of the Global South to reduce the suffering of farmed animals and promote more compassionate food choices.


The footage obtained also shows fish being treated cruelly: they are taken out of water and tossed into buckets or dropped onto the ground, left out of water to die slowly from suffocation. In traditional markets such as Khlong Toei, the largest wet market in Bangkok, live tilapia had their head smashed with a cleaver or butchered alive and completely conscious. In Talaad Thai, a market in the north of Bangkok where people buy products for resale and distribution throughout Thailand, fish are packed into plastic bags while still alive and die slowly while gasping for air.


“It’s devastating to think this is how millions of animals live and die in our country. Scientific research shows fish have the capacity to experience pain, fear and stress. Nonetheless, they’re often dismissed as having no capacity to feel and are treated in ways that would be illegal for other animals,” says Piromsan .


Siam Makro and the sales of live fish

In Siam Makro, one of Thailand’s largest retailers, live tilapia were being displayed for sale in crowded and murky tanks. Many of them appeared injured and unhealthy. “We have footage of fish lying awkwardly on their side, which raises an alert about both their wellbeing and the safety for consumers,” comments Piromsan . She also highlights that, to get to the markets, fish go through the cruelty found in farms and also have to endure the transportation.


Advocates also raise environmental concerns. Tilapia are a herbivorous species, but in these farms, they are unnaturally fed with feed that contains fishmeal, which is made out of wild fish caught in the ocean. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the use of this type of feed in aquaculture exacerbates the issue of overfishing and threatens the ocean’s biodiversity.


“We are inviting our society to be kinder and take into consideration the immense suffering of these sentient beings. Not only is the system cruel and inhumane to fish, the sanitary conditions are also questionable, not to mention the environmental impact in this critical moment of humanity’s history,” said Piromsan .


An online petition is gathering signatures of citizens urging producers and retailers to improve the treatment of fish, and Makro to stop selling live fish at sinergiaanimalinternational.org/fish-thailand.


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. The entity is recognized as one of the most effective animal protection NGOs in the world by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE).


About We Animals Media

Founded by Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals Media is the world’s leading animal photojournalism agency, documenting the stories of animals used for food, fashion, entertainment, tradition and experimentation through compelling photojournalism. These photos and videos are available on WAM’s world-class stock platform, which offers 12,000+ royalty-free visuals from professional photojournalists worldwide.