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Demand Stronger Protections For Fish

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In the UK, up to 77 million fish are raised and killed every single year – that’s over two per second.

Scientists recognise that fish, just like other farmed animals, experience pleasure and pain. Despite this, fish are given very few legal protections. There are currently no specific requirements in the law as to how fish should be delivered, held, stunned or killed.

Animal Equality is urging the UK Government to put in place meaningful, specific protections for aquatic animals at the time of slaughter – when they are most at risk of suffering. This is the very least these animals deserve and yet currently they are not afforded even this.

The UK Aquaculture Industry Exposed

Animal Equality has investigated the fish industry all over the world, from catfish farms in the US to the slaughter of bluefin tuna in Italy, exposing the suffering that fish face.

In the UK, we’ve so far conducted two investigations, going undercover in a Scottish salmon slaughterhouse and using drones to film salmon and trout slaughter boats from above.

The Reality of Scottish Salmon and Trout Farming, Scotland 2023

In January 2023, we released shocking footage, shedding new light on the secretive Scottish aquaculture industry. Using drones, Animal Equality’s investigators were able to film boats slaughtering salmon and trout at farms off the coast of Scotland.

We found a number of concerning incidents, including failure to stun fish properly, fish being violently thrown and fish left to suffocate.

The trout farm is operated by Dawnfresh Farming, with products 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.

The salmon farm, operated by Loch Duart Ltd, also 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.

Both farms that we visited are certified by a number of accreditation schemes. Between the two sites that we filmed at, accreditations included RSPCA Assured, GlobalG.A.P., Ikejime Quality, Label Rouge and Friends of the Sea.

Despite these credentials, our footage we obtained within these facilities is a far cry from the high standard boasted by the companies and accreditation schemes alike.

Inside a Salmon Slaughterhouse, Scotland 2021

Animal Equality’s undercover footage has revealed animals suffering from prolonged pain in a Scottish Salmon Company slaughterhouse. The investigation, showing fish killing processes, is the first of its kind to be released in the UK.

The Scottish Salmon Company supplies major UK supermarkets Waitrose and Co-op, alongside premium retailers, hotels and restaurants. The corporation also has a global reach, exporting its products to over 20 countries across the world.

Warning: the following images are graphic.

Scottish Salmon Company Slaughterhouse

Despite a stunning device being in place in this facility, numerous salmon displayed consciousness at the time of slaughter, evidenced by flapping, wriggling and gasping motions.

Scottish Salmon Company Slaughterhouse

Many salmons’ gills were cut when they were still conscious, causing them to be in agony for up to several minutes as a result.

Scottish Salmon Company Slaughterhouse

Some salmon were stunned with a club after their gills were cut, causing their blood to spray out. In some instances, conscious animals were clubbed as many as seven times.

Scottish Salmon Company Slaughterhouse

With so many animals entering the slaughterhouse, many fish fell, or were thrown, to the floor when the chute was full. Left to suffocate, their painful death was even more drawn out.

Calling For Stronger Monitoring And Inspections

At present, monitoring and inspections of fish slaughterhouses are clearly inadequate, with no long-term welfare-oriented inspection system in place and no mandatory CCTV cameras in slaughterhouses and boats. This places aquatic animals at risk of extreme and prolonged suffering.

In addition, fish are currently excluded from The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (WATOK) Regulations. This means there are currently no species-specific requirements as to how fish should be delivered, held, stunned or killed.

Given that scientists overwhelmingly conclude that fish feel pain and can suffer, much like all other animals, it is essential that fish are included in these regulations. Otherwise, those trapped in this already cruel system are at even greater risk in their final moments.

The Government has a duty of care to the aquatic animals raised and slaughtered for consumption, as well as to UK consumers, to ensure that laws are enacted and legal compliance is maintained. And it must adequately penalise those companies who fail to adhere to the laws in place. The industry cannot continue to be permitted to essentially self-regulate.

Animal Equality is working with animal welfare scientists and experts to urge the UK Government to put in place increased legal protections for farmed fish at the time of killing – both on land and at sea – and to ensure there is adequate oversight of those laws.

Progress so far

Following the launch of our campaign in 2021, we have made significant progress towards ensuring that fish have the basic protections they deserve.

Public Support

Few people are aware of the realities of life for farmed fish in the UK, but thanks to the work of our investigators, more and more people are able to learn the truth for themselves.

Over 15,000 people have already signed our petition calling for stronger and more meaningful legal protections for fish. Will you join them?

Expert Support

Our campaign has received widespread support from world-leading experts in fish welfare. Our ask for the UK Government to implement species-specific protections for fish at the time of killing has seen support from over 70 influential animal welfare experts, academics and animal protection organisations. Backed by 25 leading experts, we are also calling for CCTV to be made mandatory in fish abattoirs.

In support of Animal Equality’s campaign, Professor John Webster, a Founding Member of the Animal Welfare Committee (formerly the FAWC), has written personally to the Committee, urging it to ‘make a landmark change for fish’ and ‘reduce the suffering of millions of animals each year’. Further, leading aquatic expert, Mark Borthwick, has also written to the Animal Welfare Committee to call for strengthened oversight on slaughter boats, as well as in fish slaughterhouses on land.

Animal Equality was invited to take part in a private consultation led by Government-advisory body, the Animal Welfare Committee. The Committee’s recommendations were submitted to Government in February and published in September 2023 and included the majority of our key asks, including: mandatory stunning at slaughter, CCTV in fish abattoirs, increased training and oversight, increased reporting on cleaner fish mortality rates and penalties for legal non-compliance. Defra and the devolved Governments are currently considering these expert recommendations and, in the meantime, we will continue to push for them to be locked into law!

A major problem that must be tackled is the lack of oversight from regulatory bodies. We need to implement CCTV in all fish farms and slaughterhouses – where non-compliance data is released swiftly and publicly. We also need to mandate regular unannounced inspections in slaughterhouses, whether on-land or on boats. And we need better legal standards, and fast.

Dr Lynne Sneddon

Aquatic animals are individuals with their own unique personalities and preferences, yet they are far too often forgotten.

Jonathan Balcombe

Schooling is not a normal behaviour for [salmon and trout] so they are likely swimming away from one another for fear of cannibalism, the result of a highly unnatural, stressful environment.

Mark Borthwick

Political Support

Following our 2021 investigation at a Scottish Salmon Company slaughterhouse, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) announced that welfare inspections would be made mandatory for one year in Scottish fish slaughterhouses from February 2022.

In July 2022, farmed fish welfare at the time of killing was discussed for the first time in the UK Parliament, in a historic moment for fish. The session – coordinated by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Animal Welfare and chaired by leading veterinary expert Lord Trees – looked to discuss ‘increasing welfare protections for farmed fish’. Animal Equality was invited to join the Parliamentary meeting where we presented our findings and recommendations.

In the wake of our 2023 investigation – revealing that millions of salmon are dying on Scottish fish farms – we coordinated an open letter with Scottish NGO One Kind calling for the expansion of the destructive Scottish salmon industry to be halted. This letter was signed by cross-party MPs and MSPs.

In 2024, Animal Equality was invited to speak in Parliament. Joined by retailers, experts, and advocates, we pushed for species-specific legislation to better protect farmed fish in law in their final moments of life. We took the opportunity to advocate for mandatory stunning, CCTV, increased scrutiny and penalties for wrongdoing. It’s the least these animals deserve!

Try Plant-Based

Every year approximately 100 million fish are killed by the UK fish industry, if we take into account the fish that make it to slaughter and the ones who die before.

The UK aquaculture industry keeps getting bigger and bigger. But together as consumers, we hold the power to stop it.

You can stand up for fish by choosing to leave them off your plate. It’s never been easier to make compassionate choices with our diets, so why not start your plant-based journey today?

Help Fish Today

**Fish feel pain. Just like other animals, they deserve protection. And you have the power to help them.**

**Will you support us in our fight for these forgotten animals?**