Full color undercover video shot at a Texas catfish processing facility in eastern Dallas County is sparking outrage and turning stomachs.
Don't Ask by Martha Rosenberg
Shot by Mercy For Animals (MFA), employees at Catfish Corner, near Mesquite, skin and dismember catfish that clearly fight for their lives to the very end.
In one incident filmed on September 13, 2010 and conveyed to David Alex, Administrative Chief of the Dallas County District Attorney's Office in a petition for enforcement of Texas cruelty to animals statutes at the facility, a completely skinned but conscious catfish escapes from an employee's hand and flails around the sink until the employee retrieves the animal and puts him or her back on the tabletop.
Skinned catfish still struggle to escape by Martha Rosenberg
In an incident filmed on September 26, 2010, a catfish being slaughtered never stops opening and closing his or her mouth and trying to escape, as blood runs down the side of the sink and skin is removed. Eventually the camera view is blocked.
In other incidents, animals open and close their mouths to breath and tense and move their caudal fins in vain struggles to escape their circumstances, right up until the time their heads are removed. In some cases the animals' bodies are visibly shaking.
No attempt is made to render the animals unconscious or to reduce their suffering in the 66 incidents of cruelty documented for authorities, says the animal welfare group, based in Chicago.
The 55-acre Catfish Corner breeds and stocks in artificial ponds as many as 12,000 pounds of captive fish at one time. The animals are slaughtered and sold to the public as food. MFA also believes fish from Catfish Corner are used to stock State of Texas lakes like Lake Ray Hubbard and lakes near Grand Prairie.
In recorded video, the owner of Catfish Corner states on film that he skins and dismembers the animals alive, despite the government's instruction to "electrically shock them." MFA says it has documented other Texas facilities which electrically stun fish prior to skinning the animals in order "to render them unconscious and reduce their suffering."
In a letter to MFA declining prosecution of Catfish Corner, Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Melinda Edwards writes that "Texas animal cruelty law lacks precedent that would support criminal prosecution for the conduct you brought to our attention."
The ability of fish to feel pain is no longer in dispute.
The skin of the fish "contains sensory receptors for touch, pressure and pain," says the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes and is the "first line of defence against disease and provides protection from the environment."
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh's Division of Biological Sciences say the fact that fish "can learn to avoid an adverse stimulus such as electric shock ... and hooking during angling," proves their responses are not "simply a nociceptive reflex."
And Dr. Temple Grandin, the leading farmed animal welfare expert and an advisor to the US Department of Agriculture, says "Research shows that fish respond to painful stimuli in a manner that is not just a simple reflex." Upon viewing the Catfish Corner video she added, "People processing live fish should first render the fish insensible before skinning, removing meat, or other invasive procedures."