Undercover footage shows extreme suffering at salmon factory in Maine

Fish with fungus eating their face, photo: Compassion over Killing
Fish with fungus eating their face, photo: Compassion over Killing

“Fish were being raised for human consumption in filthy tanks, covered in fungus and suffering immensely. I witnessed workers throwing improperly anesthetized fish across great distances. Sometimes they were thrown into another tank; other times, into waterless buckets, where they were left to either be crushed by others or suffocate to death,” says Pat, an undercover investigator for the animal welfare organization Compassion over Killing (COK).

Pat worked as an undercover investigator at a massive industrial salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine, operated by Cooke Aquaculture. He captured footage of senseless violence against fish daily and witnessed horrendous living conditions. The footage was released on Monday.

He continues: “I also frequently saw employees stomping on fish’s heads and slamming them against the ground multiple times in failed efforts to kill them. Often, they were left on the ground, still conscious and writhing in pain. It was like a game to the workers as they attempted ‘trick shots’ and blocked each other’s tosses.”

Undercover footage from Compassion over Killing

Fish feel pain
For long, it was thought that fish do not feel pain, but the latest researches tell us otherwise. Studies of their nerves, brain structure, brain chemistry and behavior, indicate that fish can feel pain, fear and psychological stress. Fish scientist Becca Franks: “The science on fish sentience is clear: fish have the capacity to suffer and feel pain.” Yet in the video we see, people treat them as if they’re things instead of living beings with feelings.

Cooke under investigation
COK submitted a formal animal welfare complaint at the Maine Department of Agriculture. The department then contacted Cooke. Glenn Cooke, CEO of the Cooke, felt sorry: “As a family company, we place animal welfare high in our operating standards and endeavor to raise our animals with optimal care and consideration of best practice. What we saw today is most certainly not reflective of these standards.”

Martha Stewart works with this fish factory in Maine
The hatchery where the footage was filmed, farms and raises Atlantic Salmon that is sold under the name True North Seafood⁠. They recently partnered with Martha Stewart, who finds it very important to know where her food comes from: “Knowing where my seafood comes from is very important to me, and I’ve enjoyed and served True North Seafood to family and friends for years.”

Stewart hasn’t responded yet to the undercover footage of the farm where the fish she talks about comes from, but a representative said they would open their own investigation. COK started a petition to urge Stewart to drop the line and try vegan seafood.

Not an isolated case
Pat: “Sadly, the cruelty that I caught on camera at Cooke Aquaculture is not an isolated case. As long as there is a demand for Atlantic salmon meat and seafood in general, these murky practices will continue as employees in facilities all over the country are forced to cut corners to turn a profit.”

*Pat is a fictional name for the undercover investigator

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