Who is Behind The Fish Farming Industry? Three Companies You Should Know About
Over the past 50 years, global fish production has quadrupled. In the past, fish farming contributed a small proportion of all fish killed for human consumption, but since 2015, the amount of fish farmed has surpassed that of fish caught in the wild for human consumption. However, since most farmed fish are carnivores, millions of wild fish are still killed to be fed to farmed fish.
The amount of fish killed each year is so big that the industry measures by tonnage weight, rather than the number of individuals slaughtered. In 2015 the aquaculture industry was responsible for the breeding and killing of over 100 million tonnes of fish. This is the equivalent of 500,000 blue whales.
Here in the UK, up to 77 million fish are farmed and killed each year and, based on 2022 records, it is estimated that a further 20 million or more die before they even reach the slaughterhouse.
Despite this staggering number, people know very little about how fish are farmed and slaughtered.
This is intentional.
Farmed fish have few legal protections. This means that there is little formal oversight of the industry. It was, in fact, only in 2022 that Scotland commenced welfare-oriented inspections in fish slaughterhouses for the first time ever, following lobbying from Animal Equality and other animal advocacy organisations. Before this, regulatory bodies weren’t inspecting these sites for welfare purposes at all!
Animal Equality has been investigating the fish industry for years, exposing the cruelty that fish all over the world are subjected to. And what we’ve witnessed will disturb any consumer.
Bakkafrost (Formerly The Scottish Salmon Company)
In February 2021, Animal Equality released a first-of-its-kind investigation inside a salmon abattoir operated by Bakkafrost – then known as The Scottish Salmon Company – one of the largest salmon producers in the UK.
Our footage revealed fish having their gills cut off while fully conscious, some left suffocating on the floor and others hit on the head with a club.
Following several reports of fish suffering from poor gill health, in October 2022, Animal Equality captured drone footage from an aquaculture site operated by Bakkafrost.
A self-proclaimed ‘pioneer in aquaculture’, in a 2021 Sustainability Report Bakkafrost boasted of its 78% ‘survival rate’ within its Scottish operations. Across certain Bakkafrost-operated sites in 2022 the corporation reported cumulative death rates of 80.2%, 57.7%, 42.3% and 39.1%. In January 2022, Bakkafrost reported a staggering 82.1% cumulative mortality rate at its Druimyeon Bay site, with four in five fish not making it to the abattoir.
As well as being a known supplier of major supermarkets Waitrose and Co-op, Bakkafrost exports its products to over 20 countries worldwide.
In 2021, Bakkafrost Scotland reported a turnover of over £150 million.
Dawnfresh Farming Limited
In late 2022, Animal Equality travelled to Scotland to investigate the fish farming industry, specifically the killing process on slaughter boats.
Using drones, we captured scenes from trout and salmon farms showing crowded pens.
Filming at Loch Etive, we filmed trout still flapping after going through the stunning machine on the slaughter boat, suggesting that they were killed while fully conscious. We also filmed other fish being left to suffocate in a bucket.
The trout farm we’ve filmed is operated by Dawnfresh Farming, a company certified by numerous accreditation schemes, including Global G.A.P, Quality Trout UK, Code of Good practice & RSPCA Freedom Food.
Dawnfresh Farming’s products are marketed under the ‘R R Spink & Sons’ brand. With a Royal seal of approval, R R Spink & Sons is reported to have supplied major supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer, as well as a number of luxury restaurants, hotels and country clubs across the UK and US.
In 2022, Dawnfresh Farming Limited reported a turnover of over £20 million.
Loch Duart Ltd
In our most recent investigation, we also filmed a salmon farm at Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin operated by Loch Duart Ltd. This company is also certified by numerous accreditation schemes, including RSPCA Assured, Global G.A.P and Friends of the Sea.
Our drones captured scenes of salmon crammed together in dirty pens while being sucked up onboard slaughter boats through a pump system. Once on board, they landed on a conveyor belt, many battered and bloody. Some fish entered the stun-kill machinery backwards, due to overcrowding on the kill line.
Loch Duart Ltd supplies fine-dining restaurants and Michelin-starred chefs, having featured on the menus of chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Rick Stein. The company even supplied fish meat to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and COP26.
In 2022, Loch Duart Ltd reported a turnover of over £40 million.
Our Work to Protect Fish
Animal Equality is committed to informing consumers of the devastating impacts of the aquaculture industry.
Alongside our first investigation in February 2021, we launched a petition calling for stronger and more meaningful legal protections for fish who are trapped in this cruel system. We are calling for species-specific legislation, mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses and slaughter boats, and regular welfare-oriented announced and unannounced inspections in fish abattoirs.
Ever since we’ve made positive progress for fish who are farmed for their flesh:
- In February 2021, we urged the UK Government to implement species-specific protections for fish at the time of killing, a call supported by 70 influential animal welfare experts, academics and animal protection organisations.
- In December 2021, we coordinated an action backed by 25 leading experts calling for CCTV to be made mandatory in fish abattoirs.
- In April 2022, prompted by our investigation inside a salmon abattoir owned by Bakkafrost, the Scottish Government made inspections in fish slaughterhouses mandatory.
- In July 2022, the first Parliamentary event to discuss fish welfare at the time of killing was held and Animal Equality was invited to talk about our investigation and recommendations.
- Over 10,000 people have already signed our petition calling for stronger and more meaningful legal protections for fish. Will you join them?
But our work is far from done.
Join us in defending fish, who are all too often forgotten.
Help Fish: Try Plant-Based
Atlantic salmon are territorial animals who become stressed and aggressive when they’re kept in these unnatural conditions. In the wild, they can swim hundreds of miles, yet this industry is trapping them so all they can do is circle around and around for their entire miserable lives.
We know these are animals that feel pain and joy, yet by farming them we’re preventing them from carrying out many of their natural behaviours. It will always be cruel to confine and kill salmon.
The most effective way to help animals is to leave them off our plates. Every time we opt for a plant-based product, we spare animals from a lifetime of misery. Isn’t it great to have so much power in our hands?
It has never been easier to find delicious plant-based alternatives to animal products. Supermarket shelves are full of cruelty-free options, including ‘tofish’ fillets. If, instead, you are looking for inspiration to prepare your own dishes, download and check out our free cookbook!
Scientists confirm that fish feel pain and suffer. Protect these sensitive beings by choosing plant-based alternatives to animal food products.