Lynn Sneddon, an expert in fish pain at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, analyzed the images for National Geographic. She says there is “abuse of animals that can feel pain”.
Sneddon says that fish, frogs and turtles have pain receptors that respond to them in the same way that mammals respond.
The fish are removed from the water and suffocated. This is like carrying a wild animal underwater until it drowns.
The overflow tanks and bins with very low water level which can be seen in the video are also causing a lot of stress on the animals. This is not only a problem with animal welfare, but the stress response also affects the taste of fish, because the animal’s body is hardened by hormones like cortisol, according to Sandon.
Doesn’t it last?
The 11 markets shown in the video mainly sell live fish and marine life, although there is also a market that specializes in poultry. They are all in crowded neighbourhoods, “in apartment complexes, where families roam and children wait at bus stops,” David says.
His team chose to focus on 11 markets in San Francisco to emphasize that such things exist in US cities, not just in other countries. In addition, the group wanted to draw attention to animal welfare issues in marine animals.
The organization has previously taken photographs of alleged animal cruelty at markets in Los Angeles and New York, but mainly chickens and mammals, not marine animals, he says.
The most famous live animal market in recent years was the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China. Many of the first patients to contract COVID-19 were in this market, where live animals such as snakes, beavers and porcupines were killed and sold. Sanitary conditions and practices in the marketplace have raised questions not only about the risks of zoonoses, but also about animal welfare.
What does the law say?
Violation of California live animal market rules may be punished with a written warning. Fines can then follow, says Matthew Lipman, head of the Animal Justice Program at the University of San Francisco School of Law.
The penalty for noncompliance with your state’s animal welfare laws depends on whether the allegation is a violation or a crime. In the latter case, imprisonment or heavy fines may be imposed.
“In San Francisco, live animal markets have been a topic of discussion for a long time,” Lipman said. In such places, the two progressive values seem to conflict. On the one hand, respecting cultural differences, and on the other hand, protecting animals from pain and suffering.
Animal Outlook, the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control, alerted the city’s Department of Animal Protection and Shelter to the problems the organization faced in late July. Inspector Rebecca Vinson reportedly said during a phone call that she would look into the matter. Department spokesman Deb Campbell confirmed to National Geographic An active investigation is underway into this matter. “It’s hard to sort out these kinds of allegations from Mars,” she says. “People really need to warn us immediately when something happens” so that officers “can call the owners, seize the animals, and take action. That is our job.”
Slaughter rules under the microscope
Sneddon, an expert on fish pain, says dealing with the animals that emerge from these images is horrific. In particular, it refers to the manner in which the fish were killed.
The correct way to do this is to hit the animals in the right places of their skulls, which will damage their brains and make them numb. But this video shows them simply beheading. In such situations, animals can feel those final blows, causing “extreme pain and suffering because the brain is still active”.
“These animals wouldn’t be brain dead if you cut their heads off, so that’s real animal cruelty,” she says. She explained that the brains of fish, frogs and turtles can tolerate low levels of oxygen and low blood, so decapitation does not lead to immediate death. Simply put: “These animals still suffer when their heads are cut off.”
Sneddon says no specific research has been done on pain and decapitation in these animals, but there is research that shows brain activity and responses to external stimuli for some time after decapitation. A 1997 study found that severed snake heads showed signs of life for up to eight hours afterward. She says that once again shows how important it is to damage the brain before decapitating an animal.
Scott David said Animal Outlook research aims to ensure that existing laws are enforced, but also care is taken of the treatment of animals “whether they are fish, frogs, turtles, cows or pigs”. “Ultimately, we desire a world that is kinder to animals.”
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This article was originally published in English at nationalgeographic.com.