Promoting Fish Welfare and Rights: A Political Challenge for Advocates?

Stream: Panel 74 - Human Rights & Democracy: From Theories of Rights to Practices of Justice: The Challenge of Engaged Scholarship in the Field of Rights 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


There are potentially deep concerns about the welfare of fish who are utilised for food. Internationally, welfare protections are almost completely absent in both wild fish capture and aquaculture; for example, most fish caught globally are not stunned prior to slaughter, which means death by asphyxiation is a standard practice. Some estimates suggest that over 2.7 trillion fish are slaughtered each year as part of commercial fishing industries (Fishcount 2012 and Fishcount 2012). This means the scale of the problem is extraordinarily large. However, there has a been a failure of consensus by scientists over the question of whether fish feel pain, which has arguably contributed to a lack of public and policy interest in improving welfare protection for fish used for food or in research. In addition, applying basic welfare practices to commercial fishing is likely to be very expensive. These costs are unlikely to be willingly absorbed by an industry that uses a global value chain model to aggressively reduce costs, including through the use of forced labour within supply chains. This paper explores the challenges and possibilities for advancing recognition of the welfare (and perhaps rights) of fish within the context of the politics of animal protection movements. I will argue that one potential opportunity is alliance building with labour rights organisations, particularly those focused on abolishing slavery within the seafood industry.


Dinesh Wadiwel (Presenter), The University of Sydney
Dinesh Wadiwel is a Lecturer and Director of the Master of Human Rights at the University of Sydney. His research interests include sovereignty and the nature of rights, violence, race and critical animal studies. He is author of the monograph The War against Animals (Brill, 2015).