‘Similar to imprisoning tigers together’: Madrid protesters rally against world’s first octopus farm

Animal rights activists gather to protest outside the Agriculture Ministry in Madrid, Spain, 21 May 2023.
Animal rights activists gather to protest outside the Agriculture Ministry in Madrid, Spain, 21 May 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Paul White
By Angela Symons with APTN
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Protestors rallied in Madrid on Sunday against a controversial new farm that will confine 3 million octopuses in pools.

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Animal rights activists gathered in Madrid on Sunday to protest plans for the construction of an octopus farm in Spain.

Opponents say there are no respective laws in the country or the European Union to guarantee the welfare of the animals in captivity.

The proposed farm would be a world-first and aims to breed octopuses on a large scale in captivity. It is scheduled to be built next year in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

Scientists slammed the "cruel" plan after earlier this year after blueprints were leaked.

Why are protestors rallying against the octopus farm?

The project plans to confine 3 million octopuses in pools. In their natural habitat, these creatures are solitary predators.

"It is similar to imprisoning tigers together," says Jaime Posada, a spokesperson for the protest. "They will prey on one another and will also attempt to escape due to their high intelligence and adeptness."

A few dozen people showed up to the protest in Madrid, which was called by various animal welfare organisations.

What does the project's developer say about these concerns?

Spanish multinational Nova Pescanova, the seafood company promoting this farm, claims that octopuses grown in captivity will behave differently from those in the wild.

Since 2018, the company has run a pilot project in a research facility in northern Spain, where it has succeeded in breeding five captivity-born generations of the animal.

"It is not possible to grow any [animal] species in the European Union without respecting their welfare conditions," says Roberto Romero, the multinational's aquaculture director. "It is the standard, and our group does nothing but comply with guidelines and legislations."

Canva
Protestors have compared the octopus farm plans to imprisoning tigers together.Canva

Demand for octopus is increasing

Since the demand for octopus consumption has been on the rise, farming octopuses is being regarded as a first step towards ensuring sustainable food production.

However, as well as having concerns about the animals' welfare, some activists say the farms could harm local ecosystems. 

Octopus is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, particularly popular in Spain and Italy, although both of them import most of the octopus they consume. 

Despite the hit Netflix documentary, 'My Octopus Teacher', spreading awareness of the intelligence of the creatures, the global demand for this delicacy has expanded in recent years.

The United States has witnessed a 23 per cent increase in imports and China has experienced a 73 per cent surge between 2016 and 2018, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

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