Animal rights advocates have called on Australia’s big supermarkets to act to stop prawn farmers from engaging in the “cruel and unnecessary” practice of removing female prawn’s eye stalks to promote breeding.
The procedure, known as ‘eye-stalk ablation’, typically involves cauterising or squeezing a prawn’s eye out to remove a hormonal gland that moderates reproduction, pushing the animals into sexual maturity.
Animals Australia CEO Glenys Oogjes said the procedure is widespread in Australia, and was typically conducted without effective pain relief.
“Science indicates the pain and trauma experienced by prawns subjected to this gruesome procedure, yet it is undertaken at most prawn hatcheries around the world and usually without any effective pain relief,” she said.
Oogjes has been in contact with major supermarkets about taking action that could place significant pressure on suppliers to phase-out the procedure, telling Inside FMCG that the introduction of relevant animal welfare standards at the companies providing supply chain auditing for Coles and Woolworths would prohibit “horrific eye mutilations”.
“[Coles and Woolworths] have arrangements with auditing companies, however we understand these companies are yet to roll-out animal welfare standards, which when they are in place, should prohibit this practice,” she said.
Animals Australia believes that prawns will breed effectively without being subjected to partial blinding, citing the example of global prawn producer Seajoy, which has phased out eye-stalk ablation.
But Australian Prawn Farmers Association (APFA) president Matt West has argued that the industry relies on eye-stalk ablation, which he said protects the wild prawn population as “millions” can be bred in captivity.
“It’s what is best practise at the moment,” West told AAP. “The industry prides itself on reducing stress on these animals. We are a very proactive industry and if there is a new method that becomes viable the industry will adopt it.”
APFA said in a company statement they are disappointed that an animal welfare group
is providing the public with misinformation. The information provided techniques used overseas which aren’t updated techniques that they support with hatcheries in the country.
In response to the prawn issue, APFA have developed a clear policy with hatcheries which defines the capture, handling and transport of broodstock and animals within the hatchery. Its purpose is to manage the welfare of all broodstock.
They also encourage its members to adopt animal husbandry best practices at all stages of the production cycle and welcomes peer reviewed evidence based science for dialogue on the issue of prawn welfare.
Woolworths was not immediately available for comment.