The University of Stirling’s Aquaculture department is being criticised by the Vegan and Rights for Animals Society (VERA) for its alleged “unethical and unnecessary” animal testing.
Over 6,331 live fish were purchased last year and 145 research projects were approved by the department. Research topics range from food security to animal welfare in fish farming.
The VERA members- who are a part of the Plant-Based Universities campaign– are now applying pressure to the University and the Department of Aquaculture. They aim to raise awareness of the University’s practice of purchasing live fish for experimental testing in the Aquaculture department.
The University of Stirling culled more than 18,000 fish after the COVID-19 lockdown put a halt on experiments.
However, the University is a signatory to The Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. With this, they aim to ensure openness and transparency by publishing information on their dedicated webpages.
Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, provides around the same amount of food as the egg sector and wild-caught fisheries worldwide. However, there are unanswered questions about the sector’s environmental and social impacts.
A recent study suggests that one area in Aquaculture that needs to be prioritised is setting sustainability transformation goals.
Professor David Little of the Institute of Aquaculture, a co-author of this research, said: “Good governance is critically important for ensuring that aquaculture does not cause more harm than benefits.
“However, current knowledge and practices related to aquaculture governance currently lack a set of unifying topics and sustainability goals.”
He added: “Concerted governance efforts can help move the sector beyond fragmented technical questions associated with intensification and expansion, social and environmental impacts, and toward system-based approaches that address interconnected sustainability issues.”
VERA has claimed that the University is removing its informational campaign posters. The society also wrote chalk messages on the ground outside the Department building.
Imogen Robertson, a University of Stirling student and the Secretary of VERA, said: “We aim to continue to draw attention to the thousands of fish who are being tested on within our Aquaculture department and hold the University to account. It is important that, as we are transitioning to a more just food system, we are taking our academic departments along on the journey.
“We are hopeful that in spite of some of the censorship within the University, we can share information about our animal testing campaign with fellow students, and build a network of compassionate people who want to see animal testing abolished for good.”
A spokesperson for the University of Stirling said: “Fish are used in scientific research as they provide key insights into diseases like cancer and heart disease in humans, as well as animal diseases and improved farming practices.
“Research involving live fish is conducted by our Institute of Aquaculture, where no suitable alternatives are available. This regulated research covers major global problems of food security, conservation, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Our research also leads to continual improvements in animal welfare in fish farming and reduces its environmental impact. All fish are housed and cared for by an expert team including veterinarians and animal care and welfare officers.
“All research involving fish is reviewed, guided, and governed by the University’s Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body, ensuring compliance with the appropriate UK Government guidance.
“Our work was restricted by the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and, as a result, some planned experiments, including those involving juvenile fish, had to be cancelled or postponed at the time. In compliance with animal welfare legislation the fish that were no longer required for experiments and not suitable for human food were humanely euthanised.”
Feature image credit: The University of Stirling