Skip to main content

Who Cares about Farmed Fish? Citizen Perceptions of the Welfare and the Mental Abilities of Fish

Abstract

This paper explores citizens’ views about the welfare of farmed fish and the mental abilities of fish with a large survey data sample from Finland (n = 1,890). Although studies on attitudes towards animal welfare have been increasing, fish welfare has received only limited empirical attention, despite the rapid expansion of aquaculture sector. The results show that the welfare of farmed fish is not any great concern in the Finnish society. The analysis confirms the distinct character given to farmed fish compared to traditional farmed animals. Salmon are rated low in their mental abilities, including the capacity to feel pain, which may weaken ethical concerns for fish welfare. When analyzing the social determinants surrounding the rating of the welfare of farmed fish, it was shown that fish welfare attitudes follow general animal welfare attitudes regarding age and place of residence as fish welfare tends to be rated more negatively among younger age groups and among urban residents. However, no clear connection could be identified between gender and the rating of fish welfare, which may suggest that the distinct cultural categorization of fish diminishes the typical gender difference identified in animal attitudes. It is concluded that in order to improve awareness about fish welfare, there is a need to increase dissemination of scientific knowledge about fish and their welfare. Moreover, further research should be directed toward studying the moral positioning of fish and the distinct moral categorization they receive.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Arlinghaus, R., Schwab, A., Cooke, S., & Cowx, I. (2009). Contrasting pragmatic and suffering-centred approaches to fish welfare in recreational angling. Journal of Fish Biology, 75(10), 2448–2463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Ashley, P. (2007). Fish welfare: Current issues in aquaculture. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 104(3), 199–235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Baruch, Y. (1999). Response rate in academic studies—a comparative analysis. Human Relations, 52(4), 421–438.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Bergqvist, J., Gunnarsson, S. (2011). Finfish aquaculture: Animal welfare, the environment, and ethical implications. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10806-011-9346-y.

  5. Braithwaite, V., & Boulcott, P. (2007). Pain perception, aversion and fear in fish. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 75(2), 131–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bshary, R., Wickler, W., & Fricke, H. (2002). Fish cognition: A primate’s eye view. Animal Cognition, 5(1), 1–13.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Chandroo, K., Duncan, I., & Moccia, R. (2004). Can fish suffer? Perspectives on sentience, pain, fear and stress. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 86(3), 225–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Cottee, S. (2010). Are fish the victims of ‘speciesism’? A discussion about fear, pain and animal consciousness. Fish Physiology and Biochemistry. doi 10.1007/s10695-010-9449-59.

  9. EC European Commission (2007) Attitudes of consumers towards the welfare of farmed animals. http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/survey/sp_barometer_fa_en.pdf. Accessed 10 November 2011.

  10. EFSA. (2009). Scientific opinion of the panel on animal health and welfare on a request from European Commission on general approach to fish welfare and to the concept of sentience in fish. The EFSA Journal 954, 1–26.

  11. Evans, J. (2009). The ethics of fish welfare. Journal of Fish Biology, 75(10), 2872–2874.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. FAO. (2010). The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

  13. FGFRI. (2009). Recreational fishing 2008. Helsinki: Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  14. FGFRI. (2010). Finnish fisheries statistics. Helsinki: Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Fiddes, N. (1991). Meat: A natural symbol. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Franklin, A. (1999). Animals and modern cultures: A sociology of human-animal relations in modernity. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Fraser, D. (2008). Understanding animal welfare. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Frewer, L., Kole, A., Van De Kroon, S., & De Lauwere, C. (2005). Consumer attitudes towards the development of animal-friendly husbandry systems. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18(4), 345–367.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Grosenick, L., Clement, T. S., & Fernald, R. D. (2007). Fish can infer social rank by observation alone. Nature, 445(7126), 429–432.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Herzog, H. (2007). Gender differences in human–animal interactions: A review. Anthrozoös, 20(1), 7–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Herzog, H., & Galvin, S. (1997). Common sense and the mental lives of animals: An empirical approach. In R. Mitchell, N. Thompson, & N. L. Miles (Eds.), Anthropomorhism, anecdotes, and animals (pp. 237–253). Albany: State University of New York Press.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Honkanen, P., & Olssen, S. (2009). Environmental and animal welfare issues in food choice. The case of farmed fish. British Food Journal, 111(3), 293–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Huntingford, F., Adams, C., Braithwaite, V., Kadri, S., Pottinger, T., Sandoe, P., et al. (2006). Current issues in fish welfare. Journal of Fish Biology, 68(2), 332–372.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Huntingford, F., & Kadri, S. (2009). Taking account of fish welfare: Lessons from aquaculture. Journal of Fish Biology, 75(10), 2862–2867.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kendall, H., Lobao, L., & Sharp, J. (2006). Public concern with animal well-being: Place, social structural location, and individual experience. Rural Sociology, 71(3), 399–428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kjaernes, U. (2011). Ethics and action: A relational perspective on consumer choice in the European politics of food. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. doi 10.1007/s10806-011-9315-5.

  27. Knight, S., & Barnett, L. (2008). Justifying attitudes toward animal use: A qualitative study of people’s views and beliefs. Anthrozoös, 21(1), 31–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Knight, S., Vrij, A., Bard, K. & Brandon, D. (2009). Science versus human welfare? Understanding attitudes toward animal use. Journal of Social Issues 65(3), 463–483.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Lauenstein, V., & Olie, F. (2010). Fish welfare in aquaculture—slipping off the agenda? In H. Lelieveldt (Ed.), What’s on the Menu? A comparative analysis of the agenda-setting dynamics of sustainable meat, fish in four European countries (pp. 85–104). Middelburg: Roosevelt Academy.

    Google Scholar 

  30. María, G. A. (2006). Public perception of farm animal welfare in Spain. Livestock Science, 103(3), 250–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Martelli, G. (2009). Consumers’ perception of farm animal welfare: An Italian and European Perspective. Italian Journal of Animal Science, 8, 31–41.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Miele, M., Veissier, I., Evans, A., & Botreau, R. (2011). Animal welfare: Establishing a dialogue between science and society. Animal Welfare, 20(1), 103–117.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Miura, A., Bradshawtt, J., & Tanidat, H. (2002). Childhood experiences and attitudes towards animal issues: A comparison of young adults in Japan and the UK. Animal Welfare, 11(4), 437–448.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Olesen, I., Ingeborg Myhr, A., & Rosendal, G. K. (2011). Sustainable aquaculture: Are we getting there? Ethical perspectives on salmon farming. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 24(4), 381–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Paul, E., & Serpell, J. (1993). Childhood pet keeping and humane attitudes in young adulthood. Animal Welfare, 2(4), 321–337.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Philo, C. (1995). Animals, geography and the city: Notes on inclusions and exclusions. Environment and Planning D, 13(6), 655–681.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Salmi, P., & Ratamäki, O. (2011). Fishing culture, animal policy, and new governance: A case study of voluntary catch-and-release fishing in Finland. In T. Beard, R. Arlinghaus, & S. G. Sutton (Eds.), The angler in the environment social, economic, biological, and ethical dimensions (pp. 235–249). Maryland: American Fisheries Society.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Schlag, A. (2010). Aquaculture: An emerging issue for public concern. Journal of Risk Research, 13(7), 829–844.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Schreck, C. B. (2010). Stress and fish reproduction: The roles of allostasis and hormesis. General and Comparative Endocrinology, 165(3), 549–556.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Sneddon, L. (2003). The evidence for pain in fish: The use of morphine as an analgesic. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 83(2), 153–162.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Sneddon, L. (2009). Pain perception in fish: Indicators and endpoints. ILAR Journal, 50(4), 338–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Solgaard, H., & Yang, Y. (2011). Consumers’ perception of farmed fish and willingness to pay for fish welfare. British Food Journal, 113(8), 997–1010.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Thomas, K. (1983). Man and the natural world: Changing attitudes in England (pp. 1500–1800). London: Penguin.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Vanhonacker, F., Altintzoglou, T., Luten, J., & Verbeke, W. (2011). Does fish origin matter to European consumers? Insights from a consumer survey in Belgium, Norway and Spain. British Food Journal, 113(4), 535–549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Vanhonacker, F., Verbeke, W., van Poucke, E., & Tuyttens, F. (2007). Segmentation based on consumers’ perceived importance and attitude toward farm animal welfare. International Journal of Sociology of Food and Agriculture, 15(3), 91–107.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Verbeke, W., Sioen, I., Brunsø, K., Van Camp, J., & De Henauw, S. (2007a). Consumer perception versus scientific evidence of farmed versus wild fish: Exploratory insights from Belgium. Aquaculture International, 15(2), 121–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Verbeke, W., Vanhonacker, F., Sioen, I., Van Camp, J., & De Henauw, S. (2007b). Perceived importance of sustainability and ethics related to fish: A consumer behavior perspective. Ambio, 36(7), 580–585.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Vialles, N. (1987/1994). Animal to edible. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Original French publication 1987).

  49. Volpato, G. (2009). Challenges in assessing fish welfare. ILAR Journal, 50(4), 329–337.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Wells, D., & Hepper, G. (1997). Pet ownership and adults’ views on the use of animals. Society & Animals, 5, 45–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank two referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. We also want to thank the Academy of Finland for their financial support for the project Politicised Animals—the Consumer and Farm Animals (128122), which enabled us to gather the material for this research.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Pekka Jokinen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kupsala, S., Jokinen, P. & Vinnari, M. Who Cares about Farmed Fish? Citizen Perceptions of the Welfare and the Mental Abilities of Fish. J Agric Environ Ethics 26, 119–135 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-011-9369-4

Download citation

Keywords

  • Animal attitudes
  • Fish welfare
  • Mental abilities of fish
  • Farmed fish
  • Conceptions of animals