On September 21, 2021, SAGE Organics, a Hyderabad-based sustainability brand, committed to improving fish welfare. In doing so, SAGE became not only FWI’s first corporate partner but the first corporation that we’re aware of in all of India to publicly commit to improving fish welfare.
Although the scale of SAGE’s fish production is small, we believe this is a monumental step to improve the lives of fishes in India, the country with the second-highest number of farmed fish globally (see SOFIA 2020 p. 34).
The Corporation: SAGE
SAGE Organics operates a permaculture farm (Baby Elephant Farm), store, and cafes in Hyderabad, India. SAGE is unusual among Indian food businesses in several ways which we believe makes them an unusually good first partner:
SAGE is deeply committed to sustainability and animal welfare. Although many businesses make such claims, our visit to SAGE’s farm made evident that SAGE was actually putting this commitment into action and is not motivated by profit alone.
SAGE has a largely integrated, traceable supply chain. This is unlike most corporations we have worked with in India, which have at least one layer of middlemen in between them and the farmers, limiting both traceability as well as the corporation’s influence over production practices. SAGE, on the other hand, has no such middlemen and thus influences their production practices directly.
SAGE has yet to begin farming fish, which meant that they were open to adopting new best practices. They plan to start selling their first farmed fish in the next few months, and likely will farm carp (the species group FWI has the most experience working with).
SAGE’s fish production is relatively small—all farmed fish for the foreseeable future sold at SAGE will be raised in their 0.3-acre pond. Although we of course seek to improve the lives of as many fish as possible, we see value in starting small to ensure that the welfare improvements are actually impactful before scaling.
SAGE committed to a number of higher welfare practices for their future farmed fish. The most significant of these is a stocking density cap of 1500 fish/acre, which is significantly lower than most carp farms stock and we believe constitutes a significant welfare improvement. For context, most of the farms we’ve visited in Andhra Pradesh stock between 3000 and 7000 fish/acre, and our ARA farmers commit to stocking only below 3000 fish/acre.
SAGE also committed to several other practices that we expect will improve fish welfare, including water quality monitoring, only procuring fish seed from FWI approved sources, and minimizing handling. We are especially excited that SAGE is willing to work with FWI to investigate more humane slaughter methods, as slaughter without stunning is a welfare infringement invariably suffered by fish across India and many other countries. However, research must still be undertaken to identify feasible avenues for pre-slaughter stunning with carp in middle-income countries like India.
The full commitment is effective immediately and can be seen here.
The Bigger Picture
These improvements should impact about 500 fish per year. Although the actual number of fish helped here is relatively small, given the precedent this sets and the partner SAGE is we are very excited about this development.
Our work with SAGE is part of FWI’s broader strategy in India of 1) transitioning the supply of farmed fish towards fish raised in higher welfare methods (namely our work with farmers), and 2) transitioning the demand for farmed fish to support such supply changes (namely our work with corporations like SAGE). We intend to gain further corporate commitments such as this one in which corporations commit to improving their current farmers’ production practices, as well as commitments from corporations to transition their procurement to our ARA suppliers.
We believe this is amongst the biggest advances in fish welfare in India that the animal advocacy movement has achieved. For those of you who have supported our work, in whichever way you may have supported it, we thank you for making this day possible.