"I remember as a kid the moment I learned that there was an awful place animals were sent to be killed called a slaughterhouse. If you had told me back then that I would be working in one someday, I would've never believed you." So says an undercover investigator with animal rights group Animal Equality, in a new clip posted a year after he infiltrated a catfish farm in Mississippi. The organization's five-week probe, which kicked off in August 2020, into Simmons Farm Raised Catfish in Yazoo, documented "numerous instances of animal abuse and suffering," per its website, including living fish dumped onto conveyor belts and left "gasping and slowly suffocating, sometimes while workers went on break," for up to an hour. Also recorded at the facility, which kills 21,000 catfish a day, were turtles and unwanted fish left in buckets without water for long periods before finally being brought to processing machines to be ground alive into pieces.
"If one pig were killed in this manner, the slaughterhouse would be shut down," adds an Animal Equality rep to NBC. The outlet notes it's long been thought that fish don't feel pain, a theory some experts have since disputed. Other scientists say that while fish may respond to pain stimuli, their neurological setup doesn't allow them to actually feel pain. Simmons, which had claimed its fish are processed "within 30 minutes," agreed to yank that claim from its site after Animal Equality filed complaints with the attorneys general in Mississippi and other states. However, a consultant for Catfish Farmers of America who speaks for Simmons calls Animal Equality's investigation "silly and misguided," per NBC. And, when the group showed its evidence and asked Yazoo County prosecutor John Donaldson to launch a criminal probe, his curt reply: "I'm not interested ... I have much more to do as a prosecutor than to waste my time with this." (Read more animal abuse stories.)