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A new company starts the first octopus farm and people are furious

By Doug Norrie | 9 seconds ago

Fans of the Netflix documentary My octopus teacher or really not all eight-legged cephalopod supporters will want to hear this. But there’s a new startup taking shape in Europe right now that plans to become the world’s first massive commercial octopus farm. And that has a number of groups that are concerned about the ethics around the business. Until now, octopuses, even harvested for commercial purposes, have come mainly from fishing efforts. But this new company would become a commercial agricultural outlet, which we know has caused all kinds of controversy in the past when it comes to other animals.

The octopus farm is from Spanish company Nueva Pescanova and they aim to open their operation in 2023. They have already raised considerable capital for the business, raising somewhere in the $75 million range in a effort to ramp up production and operations over the next few years. The plan, according to the company, is to create the octopus farm in a bid to ease the pressure on the global fishing market around this particular creature. Because there are considerations in catching octopuses that don’t necessarily apply to other types of harvested sea creatures, the company argues that the farm will actually help in that regard while also providing a significant number of jobs to the local economy.

But animal rights activists and even ethicists are already sounding the alarm over this octopus farming project. They believe it should be considered different from other marine harvesting businesses of what could be considered similar in nature. For starters, there are the octopuses themselves, which many believe seem to operate at a different level of thought and consciousness than almost all other sea creatures. According to a recent report (via Science Alert), not only does an octopus experience pain similar to mammals and vertebrates, but it may have more emotional capacity than almost any other animal on earth besides humans.

They are considered the most complex invertebrates on Earth and studies have shown that their response to pain, combined with emotional intelligence, suggests that they operate at a level far superior to anything in the ocean. Octopuses will avoid situations they know have caused pain in the past, can solve more complex problems than most other animals, and seem to have a conscience beyond most other animals. There is still work to be done on this front, but almost all the signs point to an animal that is on a cognitive and emotional level far above that of, say, fish. These are just some of the reasons why this octopus farming project is causing concern.

Now, debates about factory farming have been going on for years and some would argue that an animal’s cognitive abilities shouldn’t be a factor in whether it’s harvested in this way. Some would say the whole process needs to be eliminated, whether it’s octopus farming or some other animal. But the fact remains that octopus fishing has increased sharply in recent years, putting a strain on the entire global fishing market. Nueva Pescanova says they are responding to this request in an effort to meet global needs, but critics doubt they are doing so in a humane way.