CIWF Logo Food Business
Search icon

Actor Zoë Wanamaker Unveils Shocking Practices at EU Fish Farms

News Section Icon Published 31/10/2023

Today (31st October), we are calling on the EU Commission to urgently introduce legislation safeguarding the welfare of farmed fish. This call to action follows the release of disturbing new footage obtained from an undercover investigation, exposing shocking cruelty within EU trout farms.

Harrowing findings

The harrowing findings from Compassion’s undercover investigation at four trout farms in Poland are unveiled in a powerful video presented by renowned actor Zoë Wanamaker. The investigation shows unimaginable suffering where live, fully conscious fish are:

  • being gutted
  • having their eyes gouged out
  • being suffocated and crushed in overcrowded barrels, and
  • being packed into plastic bags with no water.

Ineffective electrical stunning devices, added to the suffering as shocks were repeatedly administered, inflicting further agony and distress. Additionally, the investigation revealed numerous other welfare concerns, including fungal infections, fin erosion, injuries, and sick fish, as well as being reared in dirty, barren environments.

This demonstrates the urgent need for legislation to protect the welfare of farmed fish during rearing and at slaughter.

These conditions are not isolated incidents as many of the welfare issues around rearing and slaughter practices can be found in fish farms throughout the EU. An estimate of between 537 million and 1.2 billion fish are reared every year throughout the 27 member states.

Immense suffering for farmed fish

Like many other animals, fish are sentient creatures capable of suffering and feeling pain. They are intelligent, sensitive animals who explore, travel, socialise, hunt and play, and some species care for their young and use tools as people do.

Dr Tracey Jones,  Global Director of Food Business said: "The investigation has revealed appalling cruelty exposing the desperate and urgent need for improved legal protection for farmed fish, in the EU.

“The scientific evidence is clear that fish are sentient animals capable of feeling pain and suffering, just like other animals. It is therefore totally unacceptable to allow these poor welfare practices to continue.

“We must ensure that these sentient animals are protected by comprehensive and species-specific legislation and we urge the EU to introduce such legislation to protect their welfare without delay."

A critical gap in EU legislation

Annually, up to 1.2 billion fish of various species are reared in farms across the EU, with trout being the most commonly farmed fish in the region. Despite growing recognition of fish sentience and the need for improved animal welfare standards, a critical gap in EU legislation, and elsewhere in the world, leaves fish without adequate protection.

In 2020, the European Commission committed to revising animal welfare legislation – including transport and slaughter practices – to align with the latest scientific evidence on fish sentience. Despite these promises, the Commission has failed to publish new animal welfare legislation proposals.

As well as revealing cruelty, the investigation exposed alarming environmental concerns. Unhygienic water quality was found on all farms but one, with dead animals, faeces, and feed remains in ponds.

Actor and Compassion supporter Zoë Wanamaker said: “It's time that we stood up for the welfare of farmed fish, which is why I am supporting Compassion in World Farming’s campaign, calling on the European Commission to introduce legislation to protect these creatures."

Read our guidance on how to improve the welfare of farmed fish.


You are using an outdated browser which we do not support. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).