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The Horrors To Come in the Canary Islands

By Richard Darwin

“They’re a liquid creature. They really move with this grace that shouldn’t be possible with a solid. They seem to be part of the sea itself, but they’re so exquisitely attuned to the medium in which they move. And they can change in an instant—not just color, but shape. They register, it seems, everything. And the intelligence that they must show—they’ll often show you that there’s a shark, by their behavior, that you don’t notice at all.” — Sy Montgomery

With an international value of over $2.7 billion, more than 377,000 tons of wild octopus are caught annually for human consumption all over the world, including in Asia, Latin America, and the Mediterranean. Global demand for octopus’ meat is rising, while, as numerous studies confirm, wild octopuses’ numbers are in decline due to heavy fishing and environmental degradation. Historically, these amazing animals have, for a multitude of reasons, been considered unfarmable. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the "captive breeding of octopuses has proven to be extremely difficult." Female octopus have but one clutch of eggs and then die. Once they fry hatch and rapidly grow, they soon need much more tank space to thrive than would be commercially viable in an intensive farming operation. Moreover, with the ability to squeeze through the tiniest of gaps, as multiple documented anecdotal accounts attest, octopuses possess great prowess as escape artists. These are solitary individuals habituated to the dark and, when confined within the vicinity of other octopuses, they tend to become aggressive toward one another and often self-harm.

Nevertheless, the vast Spanish multinational fishing company, Nueva Pescanova (NP), announced plans last year that it will be opening a massive two-story commercial octopus farm in the Puerto de Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands. The center is to hold up to 1 million common octopuses, Octopus vulgaris, with I'd argue, an over-ambitious mortality rate of just 10-15%. Projective producing is estimated to be reach 3,000 tons a year, roughly one million animals, which is roughly 10% of the Spanish national catch. The logistics of the facility are unknown, but the company claims that it will be “at the forefront of best practices in animal welfare & environmental sustainability,” asserting that its enterprise will reduce pressure on wild populations.

Regarding inmate welfare, PN refuses to give details of the planned tank size and density at which the incarcerated are to be held. The company further claims, without clarification of planned methodology, that its means of slaughter would entail neither pain nor suffering.


by Marilyn Nelson

What if the submarine is praying for a way it can poison the air, in which some of them have leaped for a few seconds,

felt its suffocating rejected buoyancy. Something floats above their known world leading a wake of uncountable death. What if they organized into a rebellion?

Now scientists have found

a group of octopuses who seem to have a sense

of community, who live in dwellings made of

gathered pebbles and shells,

who cooperate, who

defend an apparent

border. Perhaps they’ll have

a plan for the planet in a millennium or two. After we’re gone.

Slaughter is of course definitionally inhumane. When caught in the ocean, if octopuses don't die of a slow, drawn-out 20-30 minutes of asphyxiation, they are clubbed or stabbed to death. A recent report, published by Compassion in World Farming, reveals that the planned method of slaughter is ice slurry. Imagine being frozen to death. They'll be submerged in 500 litres of water containing ice at -3/0°C, with no pre-stunning. This is an interminably slow method, which is scientifically recognized as causing considerable stress and pain. A major study commissioned by London School of Economics reviewed 300 studies on marine and freshwater invertebrates, including octopus. The study concluded that decapod crustaceans and cephalopods are sentient beings, who experience physical fear, anxiety, pain, and distress. With reference to the specific notion of the commercial octopus aquaculture, the authors state, “We are convinced that high-welfare octopus farming is impossible." Without sufficient space, places to hide away and adequate stimulation, octopuses become stressed. Even the glare of tank light and the constant buzz of oxygen pumps can induce anxiety. Agitated octopuses harm other octopuses and cannibalize and are even prone to self-cannibalize, eating their own limbs.

As for the PN's claim to be acting in the interests of "environmental sustainability," given what the company is doing, this is straight-up ridiculous. A study by New York University Professor J. Jacquetf found that aquaculture doesn't reduce pressure on wild populations and may in fact increase demand. The best way to remove such pressure is to stop eating sea life. About 70% of fish meal and 90% of fish oil produced is already reported to be used in aquaculture. These captive octopuses will have to be fed. If fed on frozen or processed food, a crab-specific study by C. Rosas found that octopuses lose 77% of their food's nutritional value, as opposed to 5% if they eat live pray. If fish to feed these cephalopods are caught in the wild, huge numbers, kept alive, will have to be caught to feed a million cephalopods and anxious octopuses often refuse to eat. Jacquet assets that, "the industry really has to justify farming carnivores, because this, from a sustainability perspective makes zero sense."

Aquaculture is detrimental to the environment, as will also be true of octopus farms and of fish potentially farmed to feed them. Local waters are all too often contaminated by an outflow of bacteria, parasites, algae blooms causing oxygen-depleting nitrogen, phosphorus waste from products used to kill parasites, other toxic chemicals, and antibiotics. These calamitous events will produce illnesses in marine and freshwater life, including endocrine system disorders and failure, with a disruptive impact on food chains.

“The Guardian” reports that a letter of protest against PN's plans has been co-signed by 76 concerned NGOs, numerous marine biologists, environmental scientists, and influential public figures demanding that the local council put a stop to NP's plans for this massive death row octopuses’ prison.

Leading neuroscientists co-signed the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness declaring that a wide variety of more-than-human animals are endowed with consciousness. Only one invertebrate species made the list—the octopus, possessing the capacity to recognize others, forming social bonds, and negotiating mazes.

The more marine biologists learn of octopus cognizance, the more extraordinary they are found to be. To list but a few of the incredible, demonstrable abilities octopus possess: they're able to solve complex problems and use tools, and it's believed they consciously alter the colour and texture of their skin to blend in perfectly with their surroundings. They are eminently intelligent.

Regarding sustenance, the battery farming of sentient animals, with unthinkable cruelty, is of course commonplace: from fish to chickens to cows to pigs and more, as if these individuals have no reason for being on their own. These atrocities have no ethical justification, as humans are not obligate carnivores. At a time when consciousness is growing and ever more humans are abandoning carnism, why are these disgusting intensive farming practices, rather than being abolished, instead being extended to the most sentient of all animals? Octopus, not humans, it could strongly be argued, are the most sentient of all creatures on earth. The main concomitants of consciousness in all species are microtubule function and electrical gamma wave synchrony, better known as brain waves. It was thought, until octopuses were recently successfully tested by an Italian research team led by T. Gutnick to fall into four main categories: alpha, beta, theta, and delta waves. Differential variations are associated with differentials in consciousness and cognition. In the groundbreaking Italian neurological study, “Recording Electrical Activity From The Brain Of Behaving Octopus,” it was discovered that in addition to the other 4 frequencies—with some readings surprisingly like our own—octopuses have a 5th spectrum frequency of brain wave, unknown in any animal, other than octopuses. The newly discovered wave pattern is slower than other known brain waves, "cycling just two per second, or 2 hertz." Moreover, Gutnick also notes these brain waves to be "unusually strong, suggesting a high level of synchronization between neurons,” operating in some way on a unique level of sensory consciousness.

“It’s valuable to consider what it’s like to be an octopus because that can lead us to reevaluate what it’s like to be a human….And maybe reflecting on how little we know about what it’s like to be a human can lead us to be more open about what it’s like to be an octopus,” said Marta Hilina, an associate professor in the department of history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge.

Don't turn these wondrous and fascinating animals into battery farm prisoners.

We, the signatories, pledge to boycott and renounce The Canary Islands until the octopus farm proposal is unequivocally called off, and octopuses are recognized as sentient beings in Gran Canaria.

The Spanish company Nueva Pescanova has invested a staggering $65 million to build the world's first commercial octopus farm in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, which would result in the death of a million octopuses to be eaten each year.

Nueva Pescanova acknowledges it plans to farm the famously solitary creatures in cramped conditions, housing multiple octopuses—an estimated 10 to 15—for each cubic meter of tank space. Placing territorial nimble hunters in unnatural environments commonly leads to stress and extreme behaviors, such as cannibalism, injury, and death. Compassion In World Farming estimates that 10-15% of octopuses housed under the plans will die before they even get to ‘slaughter age.”

The appalling method of killing these sentient and extraordinary beings is an excruciating one. The intensive farm plans to immerse the octopuses in near freezing -3°C (26.6°F) water—essentially, an ice slurry designed to kill slowly and painfully. Prof. Peter Tse, a cognitive neuroscientist at Dartmouth University, points out that it would be “very cruel” and “should not be allowed.”

This is an urgent plea to the Governments of Spain and Gran Canaria to intercede and STOP immediately the construction of the world’s first octopus farm because it is morally indefensible, unsustainable, and ecologically destructive.

Recognize octopuses as sentient beings in Gran Canaria as the UK did, in its Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022, and BAN eating octopuses.

@sarahrot @lindseyrobson @natura.illustrata @gemmacarterart

@nemimakeit_designs @colorshowglassworks

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