Octopus in tank of ice.

Octopus Farms: Washington State Bans, California Introduces Legislation



Opening octopus farms has been an idea popping up around the world and now some states are preemptively banning this cruel practice.

Washington State Senate voted 29-20 on Tuesday, February 27, 2024 to protect octopuses throughout the state. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, passed the House on February 7, 2024 and Governor Jay Inslee has now signed the bill into law, effectively banning octopus farming throughout Washington.

As for why Peterson introduced the bill, he said in a statement:

“Octopus farming leads to suffering and sickness for one of the more intelligent and feeling animals in our oceans. It can lead to huge environmental and ecological effects as well. Octopus farming is harmful to the animals and the environment and is unnecessary. It’s time to move on.” 

This is a monumental step to protecting animals, as octopus farming is incredibly cruel. In fact, it’s so cruel that other states have introduced legislation to ban it preemptively.

Just a week before the Washington Senate voted to pass their ban, California introduced legislation that would also ban octopus farming statewide. 

Annette Manusevich, Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection US, said in a statement:

“The Oppose Cruelty to Octopuses (OCTO) Act in California would prohibit octopus farming, safeguarding these animals from suffering on factory farms. Octopuses are intelligent and dynamic beings who endure cruel treatment and intense confinement in farm settings. 

“It is not possible to meet their complex needs or mimic their natural habitat in the small pools used by farms. This legislation reflects the serious ethical concerns created by octopus farming and acknowledges the distinct needs of octopuses, establishing a precedent for protecting, not exploiting, these remarkable animals.” 

California, in a monumental move, would also ban the importation of farmed octopuses. 

These bans come after a company, Nueva Pescanova, announced plans to build the first octopus farm in Spain, with the potential to slaughter 100 million animals each year. As octopuses are highly intelligent animals with the ability to feel pain, octopus farms would be immensely cruel as octopuses are typically submerged in a freezing “ice slurry,” which has been known to cause a cruelly slow, stressful, and excruciatingly painful death for each animal. Others are killed by being clubbed in the head.

There’s no humane way to intensively farm animals, including an octopus. In fact, an octopus farm in Hawai’i was shut down after the state Division of Aquatic Resources received complaints that the farm was illegally capturing octopuses from local waters, conducting breeding experiments, and keeping them in a barren touch tank—basically as an octopus petting zoo. 

In response, Hawai’i introduced legislation that would ban octopus farming, stating specifically in the bill that “octopus farming practices and conditions, including inadequate living conditions and confinement, may subject octopuses to stress, compromise their well-being, and lead to adverse behavior changes.” The bill goes on to state that octopus farming poses risks of exploitation and potential harm to their welfare. The legislation is still active and has not been voted on as of this writing.

Octopus aquaculture is incredibly inhumane. It’s aquatic factory farming. Factory farming, one of the largest sources of animal suffering on the planet, raises large numbers of animals in conditions intended to maximize profit and minimize cost.

Not only that, octopuses require a fish-based diet. Aquaculture relies heavily on large volumes of wild-caught fishes as a food source. In fact, one-fifth of all wild-caught fishes are used to feed farmed fish, and adding in octopus farming would strain wild fish populations even further.

Additionally, octopuses are incredibly territorial and solitary animals. In the cramped confinement of factory farms, keeping hundreds, if not thousands of octopuses in close proximity would lead to conflict among individuals and even cannibalism.

World Animal Protection US is working with our coalition partners, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Social Compassion In Legislation, the two groups sponsoring the California legislation, to ban cruel octopus farming.

If you live California, please keep an eye on your email (sign up here!) for ways to take action and contact your legislators. 

To learn more about octopuses, World Animal Protection US encourages everyone to watch My Octopus Teacher, a documentary on Netflix exploring the unique personalities and nature of these intelligent animals.

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