India, now second in global seafood production, plans to double its marine exports within the next two years thanks to the introduction of an Aquaculture Quarantine Facility in the Northeastern city of Chennai. Aquaculture Quarantine Facility, AQF for short, is the marine farming industry’s term for Shrimp Factory Farm.
A shrimp factory farm is the aquatic counterpart of the land factory farms we are all too familiar with. Hundreds of thousands, even millions, of these animals are confined to small enclosures, fed an unnatural diet laced with antibiotics, and produce exorbitant amounts of waste. Some marine life factory farms are built right into the ocean-providing a very convenient means of flushing the waste away into the sea. Chennai’s Aquatic Quarantine Facility, however, as the name implies, is made up of isolated tanks that can house more than 2 million shrimp per year; in fact, it’s stated to be the only one of its kind in the world.
But simply because this factory farm is state of the art, doesn’t mean there won’t be shrimp manure and other waste. Where will it all go? Just like land factory farms, the waste produced by this many confined animals, just can’t be sustainably recycled. Evidence shows that intensive shrimp farming poses far greater environmental impacts than do less intensive methods (although less intensive methods have their own consequences).
Furthermore, with 2 million more shrimp mouths to feed per year, this could potentially add to India’s growing reliance on imported grains.
And significantly, the animals must be spoken for. Just like the detrimental environments of land factory farms, aquatic factory farms present detrimental conditions for the marine animals as well. No animal can live a comfortable, stress-free life crowded by the hundreds of thousands in an unnatural, sterile cage. Recently, scientific evidence has demonstrated that shellfish do indeed feel pain – showing that it’s time to reconsider how we treat them.
It’s true that the factory farming system does produce much more animal-sourced foods than does traditional farming methods, but with the negative environmental and social consequences of this system, is it truly a solution? And- is more factory farmed food what the world really needs anyway? India’s shrimp is predominantly destined for the United States and Western Europe, countries that aren’t suffering from food shortages and alarming rates of hunger. Whereas India is- every night millions in the country go to bed on an empty stomach. Shouldn’t India reconsider their current agriculture development schemes, and begin expanding a sustainable food source that will feed its own people instead?
(Read Brighter Green’s India Policy Paper, Veg or Non-Veg: India at the Crossroad, to learn more regarding India’s current dietary shifts.)
Photo courtesy of Phu Thinh Co.