Happy World Oceans Day! The idea behind the day is to encourage public awareness of protecting the ocean; this day serves as an important reminder to think about the variety of life creatures that call this natural resource their home. At the RSPCA, we talk a lot about the welfare of fish, but did have you realize that cephalopods – the scientific term used to describe marine invertebrates such as the octopi and squid – share certain characteristics that are similar to fish, such as aversion and sentience to pain? Yet, they don’t always have the same protections under the law in the area of animal welfare as other species. Learn more about these amazing creatures and how you can assist.

Cephalopod: What’s in the name?

Cephalopods are a family of animal invertebrates that include cuttlefish, squid, octopi, and the nautili. They’re distinguished by their imposing tentacles, heads, and, most importantly, the lack of a backbone! They do, however, have a complicated nerve system and well-documented abilities, including octopi providing evidence of cognitive skills that are advanced in spatial learning capability and navigation, reasoning, and problem-solving.

Protection from welfare isn’t always assured.

There is a wealth of evidence that shows their capacity to be ill; their protection is not a part of the laws governing animal welfare across the vast majority of Australian states.

This is because the majority of laws in the state rely on the definition of an animal as a vertebrate, and the laws governing animal welfare do not advance with the advancement of research. At the moment, only ACT, Queensland, and Victoria include cephalopods in the definition of an animal under certain conditions. For Victoria, the protection is limited specifically to the use of catalogs for research and does not include commercial fishing.

The ACT and Queensland laws provide greater protection for commercial and retail usage of cephalopods. They also impose the obligation on retailers to supply adequate food, shelter, water, and food, as well as safe transportation with enough space. For the rest of the countries and states, none of the regulations like these are in place, and the way that cephalopods are treated prior to and after capture is up to the discretion of the people involved with the chain of supply.

What can you do to help the welfare of cephalopods?

The RSPCA acknowledges that cephalopods are living beings and can suffer and feel pain and believes that they should have a uniformly protected environment throughout Australia.

In the meantime, until cephalopods are adequately protected under the relevant states’ and territories’ laws governing animal welfare, consumers have an important role in setting the standard for improved practices in commercial fisheries. If you decide to purchase products made from squid or octopus, inquire with the seller about their policy on animal welfare (if there is one) and look at the supply chain. Important information to consider could be the source country (always select Australian when you can), the method of catching that is used, whether a reliable third-party certification agency endorses the item, and also the slaughtering method used by the cephalopod.

Our Responsible source guides are a great resource in obtaining the information. Suppose you take the time to be a responsible consumer when buying seafood products. In that case, you’re communicating to the industry of fishing and authorities that Australians take a keen interest in marine animal welfare and are willing to shop responsibly.


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