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Consider the octopus

Globe and Mail –  Octopuses are smart in ways humans are only beginning to understand – just as companies are about to farm them for food on a much larger scale… The octopus has already challenged our theories on evolution, intelligence and consciousness. It has proven itself smarter, more playful, more feeling than we ever imagined. You can devote decades to studying how and where the octopus lives and, as Dr. Mather will attest, still be surprised by what you learn. Here is a creature, marvellously cunning and elegant, living in a space so vast and deep, so foreign to human experience, that we still mostly peer into the dark and wonder. Surely, such a creature is worthy of careful consideration? “Yes, yes!” Dr. Mather says. “A thousand times, yes.”

And yet, no. We have plowed ahead, trying to tame the wildness of the octopus for our own ends. In many countries, including the United States (though not Canada, thanks to a small, prescient committee, including Dr. Mather, who advocated early for its welfare), the octopus can be used in experiments without standards and procedures to ensure its care. A Spanish company is pushing forward with plans to open the first commercial octopus farm in the Canary Islands; research continues apace in places such as Japan and Mexico to raise and domesticate the animal for profit. Never mind that a loud and angry chorus of scientists, environmentalists and philosophers say that octopus farming can’t ethically – or humanely – be done. Last November, a London School of Economics study, funded by the British government, concluded that “high-welfare octopus farming is impossible.” A campaign to stop octopus farming continues in the European Union. Animal-welfare advocates in countries such as Britain and Canada are calling for a pre-emptive ban on the import of farmed octopus, to close the market doors before they open…”

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