Ken Kalthoff, NBCDFW.com
WARNING VIDEO MAY BE DISTURBING: Mercy for Animals is calling for a new Texas law to prevent fish abuse, after the animal rights group shot undercover video at an Catfish Corner, an East Dallas County fish farm.
Undercover video shot at an east Dallas County fish farm is being used as support for calls to boost Texas animal cruelty laws.
The group Mercy For Animals shot the video at Catfish Corner in the 1700 Block of Lawson Road.
It shows a fish being skinned alive, shaking free and then being wrestled back under control before its head is cut off.
More than one fish is seen struggling in the video.
"Fish may not be considered as cute and cuddly as dogs or cats, but they still have the same ability to experience pain and suffering," said Eddie Garza, Mercy For Animals' Texas campaign coordinator.
"We're asking our state legislators to enact new laws that would protect these animals and all animals from being skinned alive and dismembered while still fully conscious," he said.
Bill Benson, the owner of Catfish Corner, said he is seen in the video but has nothing to hide.
He said it would be easy to see the same thing on many occasions because his customers want their fish filleted on the spot to be sure it is fresh.
"I just had the federal out here in June, and they checked everything, and everything is above board," Benson said.
He said he strikes to stun them before filleting, and that many catfish farms use the same techniques.
"I guess I'm being taken advantage of," he said. "They're trying to take my livelihood and everybody else's livelihood in catfish industry. The catfish industry right now is in bad shape because of feed prices."
Tougher rules could also apply to fishing guides such as Stan Kuhn, who specializes in finding catfish on Lake Fork.
"I just don't understand why people would think that's wrong to clean a fish," he said.
Kuhn, who operates Thecatfishguide.com, said he has filleted thousands of fish, many of them alive, using an electric knife.
"God put fish on the Earth to catch and to eat, and 100 percent of my customers like to take fish home to eat," he said.
Rex Bellomy, the owner of Rex's Fresh Seafood Market on Lover's Lane in Dallas, said customers are concerned about the source of his products but have not voiced concerns about how the fish are handled.
"I don't get too many calls about the inhumaneness of fish, more about what fish are being fed," he said.
Bellomy said farm-raised fish may be healthier than wild fish.
"They're going to be hauled in with a net," he said. "As far as the catching of it goes, that’s not inhumane."
Mercy For Animals said it is trying to make customers more aware of how fish are killed.
"At the very least, these animals should be rendered unconscious before being brutally slaughtered," Garza said.