Aquaponic Gardening

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Every so often when I talk about aquaponics someone brings up issues around either the captive culture, or humane slaughter of fish.  These are important, relevant questions that we are going to need to wrestle with in aquaponics.

 

Here is a link to a short PETA editorial that just came out in our local paper about this subject.  Treehugger.com regularly brings this up.

How do you answer these questions?  Are fish humanely treated in aquaponics?  How do you humanely slaughter a fish?

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Provided you can get past the entire issue of eating and keeping animals I believe my aquaponics systems are generally quite humane (I have to admit to having had a few fish deaths which are not good but we try to avoid that.)

 

Anyway, all my animals I try to keep them in a good a quality conditions as I can.  After all, I don't want to eat an animal that was stressed and suffering it's whole life.  I want it to have a happy stress free life until we kill it as quickly and cleanly as possible. 

 

Can you really say any killing method is Humane?  Quick and clean are about the best I think we can hope for.  The least amount of suffering so you can look into the animal's eyes and say thank you for feeding me.  This is perhaps one of the hardest parts for many people to get past when it comes to raising their own food animals since we are not a couple generations past many people growing up on a farm and learning where food comes from.

 

I do believe home aquaponics is far more humane than any form of factory farming and when it comes to fish, doing it at home definitely means the fish are suffering less since you can net it out and kill it immediately rather than allowing it to expire slowly in the truck on he way to the processing facility.

Before I answer, here is who I am:  Iam a qualified nature conservation manager and environmental scientist.  In my 10 years plus training in the field of environmental management, I have been taught most of what is out there in terms of ethical treatment of wild animals.  As a certified problem animal control officer, we were taught just about every conceivable way to kill vertebrates large and small.  Most of these I will never use because I do not consider them "quick kill" category methods.  When it comes to fish, PETA is far more vocal than just how they are killed.  They have issues with stocking densities and likely also food sources.  Thing is, we have not yet evolved to run on hydrogen, thus we eat.  We also happen to be omnivores and given a choice, I'd rather eat one fish than a pick-up truck full of flax seed. 

 

The example cited, as per usual for these guys, are the extreme.  There are a multitude ways of killing a fish, but anyone that appreciates a fine fish knows that you do not want the thing flopping all over the place and suffocate.  Then they taste crappy - like a buck that was wounded (is that a bad example here?) and chased down vs one that was dropped on the spot with a good shot.  For fish, there are a couple of quick dispatch methods, but as TC Lynx said, how do you equate killing with humanity?  Quick kill is the only thing I think is the only real issue.  Every fly fisher knows the priest - the short stubby club that you send off a fish with by giving it a crisp smack between the eyes.  I have not tried it on tilapia but the trout is out cold quick.  If you have more than one fish, commercial operators often send the fish straight into an ice slurry.  I do not know how long it takes for the fish to clock out but it also pretty quick.

 

There will always be horror stories about slaughter houses mistreating chickens, cattle, fish, pigs..........That does not mean that every method possible to kill a vertebrate is torture.  Are we to have a quiet talk to them kingfishers that rips a fish from the pond while still alive and then beat it to death on a branch, or is PETA only interested in sanitizing the human world?

 

Two great answers already from TC and Kobus.

 

I appreciate PETA's stance on treating animals more "humanely", but they largely have no clue as to the harsh realities of the natural world.  Every single day, wild animals of all walks of life die horribly painful deaths to simply feed other wild animals.  Very few wild animals ever make it to the point of "dying of old age", and they certainly don't get the benefit of modern veterinary care or advanced animal husbandry techniques that keep them healthy and disease free.  As a wild animal begins to get older and weaker, they logically become the next most likely target for a predator.  Most of these wild animals experience deaths that make even some of our worst slaughterhouse killing methods seem pretty "humane".  I'm not advocating these methods at all, so please don't confuse my intentions.  Animals raised and slaughtered by caring people enjoy a pretty fantastic life overall.  If they could communicate with us, I'm not sure they would say they would like to become "wild" if given the chance.  Being wild and "free" isn't exactly a piece of cake.

 

When is PETA going to start addressing all of these horribly painful natural deaths occurring in the wild every single day?  When are they going to take action and prosecute all the "inhumane" lions and tigers in this world?  Maybe they could at least go out and publicly protest their behavior at the site of the crime.  Just kidding, just kidding.

 

My point... If these people (much of the PETA membership) who seem to think THEY are the superior folks to educate everyone else on how to treat animals actually spent some time LEARNING about animals, they might discover that, while well-intentioned, some of their ideas are absolutely ridiculous.

I wonder how many PETA people own pets?  If they look at the products they are fed, as most pets are not naturally vegan, PETA's may be quite surprised.

Hum, didn't PETA mean "People for the Eating of Tasty Animals"   ?

 

Sorry, couldn't help it.

I think Joel Salatin said PETA people were "People who couldn't hunt for themselves" but I could be wrong... just turned the book back into the library today.
I love Joel Salatin, almost everything I've heard him say on all the videos I've watched is great.

Two Jay said:
I think Joel Salatin said PETA people were "People who couldn't hunt for themselves" but I could be wrong... just turned the book back into the library today.

Yeah... I learned of Joel from Food Inc.  He's an amazing guy.

Joel Salatin is also featured prominently in Michael Pollen's "Omnivores Dilemma".

 

You all have made great points, as usual.  Kellen, I actually laughed out loud at the notion of PETA protesting lions!  

 

I've been asked a few times, probably because I live in Boulder , about the "happiness"  of the tilapia in my tank.  My response usually has to do with them being in pure, aerated water and being a schooling fish.  But what are your thoughts?

 

And is smacking a tilapia on the head the best way to kill them, or is putting them in an ice bath better?

Well, as I said, I'm not sure how long the ice will take but at least it will be consistant in effect.  If you feel sorry for the fish or your aim is bad you may fluff the priest method and then you may just rue trying it (or tonk it to the promised land second time round) :)

Sylvia Bernstein said:

Joel Salatin is also featured prominently in Michael Pollen's "Omnivores Dilemma".

 

You all have made great points, as usual.  Kellen, I actually laughed out loud at the notion of PETA protesting lions!  

 

I've been asked a few times, probably because I live in Boulder , about the "happiness"  of the tilapia in my tank.  My response usually has to do with them being in pure, aerated water and being a schooling fish.  But what are your thoughts?

 

And is smacking a tilapia on the head the best way to kill them, or is putting them in an ice bath better?

I feel sorry for things that are dumber and slower than me
I attended the Nelson and Pade Aquaponic seminar back in November of 2010 in Wisconsin and I thought that they had an interesting approach for part of the equation. What they said they do is remove the fish that they plan on consuming from their main tanks and put them in a purging tank for about 3-5 days. The water in the purging tank would be around 60 degrees and very slightly salted. The fish become somewhat listless, are not fed and basically are close to death by that time anyway. That was according to what Rebecca said. I don't remember how they finished them off but that sounded humane for some reason. They said by purging the fish that it made a big difference in taste and quality. Compared to store bought Tilapia, night and day. Just saying ......

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