Report: Investigation of the killing of tuna in Italy


Animal Equality's aim is to raise public awareness on the suffering and exploitation of animals, exposing the industries to reveal what really goes on. We propose effective solutions to break down prejudice and discrimination against other animals.


Each year, between late May and early June in Carloforte - off the coast of the most populated area of the island of San Pietro, south-west Sardinia - hundreds of bluefin tunas are caught in traps or ‘tonnaras’ as they migrate to specific breeding grounds. The ‘tonnaras’ is a complex system of nets in which the tunas are trapped and then slaughtered. Thousands of individuals suffer terribly and die during what is commonly known as ‘the tuna slaughter of Carloforte’.

The tunas in the Mediterranean Sea are mainly caught by mobile traps, although traditional fixed traps are still used in the tunas slaughter of Carloforte.

As the tunas migrate during the breeding season, they are forced to swim through a system of fixed nets which lead into a number of enclosed areas. They pass through these net corridors and then finally reach an area called the 'killing zone', where the animals are crowded together and then slaughtered. This is carried out to the cries of 'Kill!' shouted by the ‘Rais’ (a word that has Arabic origins and refers to those responsible for the management of the killing). Thus begins the massacre of tuna who are pushed upward by mobile nets in the 'death zone'. The tunas are forced to the water surface. The tunas crash into each other violently due to a lack of space and water until they are exhausted whilst being forced to the water surface. Inevitably they get injured in this process and, shortly afterwards, are harpooned. The moment that follows, whereby hundreds of terrified, dying individuals are thrashing around in the water, is horrific.


During a careful and painstaking investigation, Animal Equality has recorded and photographed the plight of these tunas during the killing at Carloforte. Their sad fate is:


Reviews and evidence of the suffering of fish

The research of Animal Equality revealed scenes of suffering, pain, and physical and psychological violence. The suffering that these animals endure in the nets is extreme. Their migration to spawning is interrupted by the presence of nets; disoriented animals begin a desperate and hopeless search for an escape. In their attempt to free themselves, the tunas’ scales are hooked onto the nets, hurting the animals.

The killing involves many individuals and so the nets become more and more crowded. In the 'death zone', the animals’ nightmare comes to a head. Scared and thrashing individuals violently injure themselves, the sea turns red and the animals begin to run out of oxygen. When they are exhausted, they rise to the surface where the 'tonnarotti' are waiting for them with hooks. The tunas are hooked onto these and transferred to waiting boats, whilst they suffocate and bleed to death.

Fish are sentient beings, capable of feeling pleasure, fear, pain and many other sensations other animals are capable of. Many scientific studies confirm this. For example, Huntingford (2002) stated that fish have pain stimuli and brain mechanisms to cause physical reactions.

Huntingford, F. A. (2002). Welfare and aquaculture. European Aquaculture Society Special Publication. 32:52-54.


The slaughter of Carloforte is a cruel tradition, based on the suffering and agony of thousands of individuals. Putting a stop to all of this is possible, by being proactive and showing your opposition to such a violent and senseless practice.

The suffering of tuna
and other fish

"Pain and stress can be witnessed though the struggling and thrashing movements of the tuna while suspended in the air. Increasing bodies of research over the past few years have demonstrated fishes' capacity to experience pain."

Lorelei Wakefield, VMD

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