Mercy for Animals exposes cruelty at a Texas factory catfish farm

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2011:


DALLAS–Probably more fish consumers were
puzzled–at first– than shocked on January 19,
2011 when Mercy for Animals released undercover
video of alleged criminal animal abuse at Catfish
Corner, in eastern Dallas County. “I don’t get
too many calls about inhumaneness to fish,”
Dallas fish market owner Rex Bellomy told Ken
Kalthoff of
Founded in 1968, Catfish Corner is among
the oldest active fish farms in the U.S.–“a
place where families bring their kids, often to
fish for the first time. Others stop by and pick
a catfish out of a tank for dinner. They can
have their fish cleaned and take them home to
eat,” described Dallas Morning News staff writer
Melissa Repko.

“They kill the fish nationwide the same
way. I don’t know what the deal is,” Catfish
Corner owner Bill Benson told Repko.
Agreed Texas Parks & Wildlife warden
Garry Collins, “99.9% of the commercial places
do that.” But that was Mercy for Animals’ point:
the Catfish Corner practices are routine and
rarely questioned, not only nationwide but
worldwide. They have not withstood previous
humane scrutiny because there has never been any.
Mercy For Animals exposed “Workers using
pliers to pull the skin off of live fish, dozens
of fish crammed into buckets and baskets,
gasping for oxygen, skinned fish still moving
and gasping on the cutting table, fish flailing
and struggling to escape the workers’ knives,
live fish sliced and split in half,” and
“workers tearing the heads off of live fish,”
summarized the MFA media release sent out with
the video clips.
Mercy for Animals director of
investigations Daniel Hauff on December 6, 2010
asked the Dallas County district attorney’s
office to prosecute Benson. When, expectedly,
no prosecution followed, Hauff released the
video to media with an appeal for amendments to
the Texas state cruelty law to protect fish. The
Mercy for Animals position was supported by
statements from veterinarian Lee Schrader and
Jonathan Balcombe, author of Second Nature: The
Inner Lives of Animals.
Within hours links to some of the Mercy
for Animals clips were offered by MSNBC,, and The Huffington Post, and had
gone viral on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
The video clips generated the most public
discussion to date–in the U.S. or anywhere–of
cruelty in fish farming, which now produces
nearly half of all the fish who are eaten
Along the way Mercy for Animals expanded
awareness that fish feel pain, and not only when
U.S. fish farms reportedly kill about 8.4
billion fish per year now, a number rivaling the
volume of poultry slaughter. About 80% catfish,
with trout and salmon the next most often farmed
species. State of the World’s Fisheries &
Aquaculture, published in Rome, Italy on
January 31, 2011 by the United Nations Food &
Agricultural Organization, found that “The
contribution of fish to global diets has reached
a record of about 17 kilograms (34 pounds) per
person on averageĊ due mainly to the ever-growing
production of aquaculture,” which is expected
to soon produce more fish than wild stocks.
“The overall percentage of overexploited,
depleted or recovering fish stocks in the world’s
oceans has not dropped,” the FAO found, “and is
estimated to be slightly higher than in 2006.
About 32% of world fish stocks are estimated to
be overexploited, depleted or recovering and
need to be urgently rebuilt,” the FAO noted.
University of British Columbia researcher
Dirk Zeller a week later alleged in the journal
Polar Biology that the FAO numbers actually
understate the extent of fisheries depletion.
According to Zeller, U.S., Canadian, and
Russian vessels caught 75 times more fish in
Arctic waters than they admitted between 1950 and
2006. Under-reporting “has given us a false sense
of comfort that the Arctic is still a pristine
frontier when it comes to fisheries,” Zeller

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