Shrimp Welfare Project
aims to improve the lives
of billions of farmed shrimps
~440 billion shrimps are farmed each year. This is more than 5x the total number of all farmed land animals put together. Many of them suffer from conditions which can and should be addressed, such as:
Risk of disease - Diseases that exist within the normal microflora of shrimps can thrive under high stocking densities, enabling pathogenic outbreaks. This is detrimental not only to the farmed shrimps but can cause large spillover events if best management practices are not followed. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics to stop diseases promotes the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Part of the solution in this case is prevention through best welfare practices.
Water quality - Oxygen and ammonia levels, temperature, salinity and pH are key to the welfare of all aquatic animals, including shrimps. Incorrect water management can lead to not only the contamination of nearby bodies of water and salinisation and acidification of the soil, but also to compromised immune systems in shrimps and, in extreme cases, to death by suffocation or poisoning.
Eyestalk ablation - Some hatcheries still practice crushing or cutting off the eyestalk of female shrimps to induce rapid maturation. Recent studies have demonstrated that avoiding eyestalk ablation can result in broodstock living longer and their offspring being more resistant to stress. Therefore, eliminating this practice is in the best interest of shrimps but also of the shrimp farming industry.
What We Do
A significant part of our work involves collaborating with relevant stakeholders along the supply chain. Our main goal is the Humane Slaughter Initiative, which aims to promote the adoption of electrical stunning technology in the shrimp industry. As part of this initiative, we make agreements to purchase electrical stunners for certain producers, who commit to stun a minimum of ~100,000,000 shrimps per year. Additionally, our work involves dialogues with retailers to encourage them to publish welfare/responsible sourcing policies.
We are working with farmers to directly improve shrimp welfare in their farms. To achieve this, we launched Sustainable Shrimp Farmers of India (SSFI), a platform and community for like-minded shrimp farmers. It provides a space for knowledge sharing and collaboration. It also offers services such as water quality checks, farm visits by technicians, and online consultations through a WhatsApp-based system.
We actively work on a number of research projects. This allows us to explore and address some of our key uncertainties. As a result, we are able to produce reports that communicate our findings to a broader audience.
Raising Issue Salience
Finally, a significant part of our work is to raise awareness about shrimp welfare through conferences, podcasts, and articles in the shrimp industry, animal welfare, and Effective Altruism spaces. We also collaborate with other organisations in this field, such as EuroGroup for Animals and the Aquatic Animal Alliance.
Shrimp sentience enshrined in UK law
In November 2021, the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK) published a report titled "Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans".
The report had been commissioned by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The report's central recommendation was:
We recommend that all cephalopod molluscs (such as octopus and squid) and decapod crustaceans (such as crabs, lobsters & shrimps) be regarded as sentient.
In April 2022, the UK Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act passed through the UK Govt. becoming law and recognised shrimp sentience.
Shrimp sentience recognised by scientists in the EU
In 2005, the EUs European Food Safety Authority published their Scientific Opinion on the “Aspects of the biology and welfare of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes”
The report recommended that (pg 17):
All decapods should be in Category 1 and so receive "protection."
With Category 1 defined as (pg 20):
The scientific evidence clearly indicates that those groups of animals are able to experience pain and distress, or the evidence, either directly or by analogy with animals in the same taxonomic group(s), are able to experience pain and distress.