RSPCA Assured clears Mowi of welfare allegations

Mowi Fish Health Manager Ana Herrero, March 2021

Animal welfare certification body RSPCA Assured has cleared Mowi Scotland, following a complaint of alleged welfare abuse from anti-salmon farming group Scottish Salmon Watch.

RSPCA Assured carried out an investigation of four Mowi farms, following the release of covertly filmed video footage which appeared to show dead salmon and cleaner fish, as well as individual fish heavily infested with sea lice.

The video was allegedly filmed by Salmon Watch founder and long-time anti-salmon farm campaigner Don Staniford earlier this month.

In a statement released today, RSPCA Assured said: “We were concerned by some of the images that were shared with us. As soon as they were brought to our attention, we immediately launched an investigation into those farms we understand are featured in the footage.”

“Animal welfare is our absolute priority and the focus of our assurance scheme, therefore any complaints are always taken very seriously and thoroughly looked into as standard practice.

“These farms have now been visited by a specially trained RSPCA Farm Livestock Officer and an RSPCA Assured Assessor. During their visit they did not find any of the problems highlighted in the images taken earlier this month and were satisfied that the fish they saw were being properly managed and cared for.”

The organisation added: “Any allegations of animal welfare issues, or breaches of the RSPCA Assured membership agreement, are taken very seriously and always thoroughly investigated. Thankfully, welfare concerns on RSPCA Assured certified farms are extremely rare, and many millions of farm animals are having a better life thanks to the work of the charity.”

Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) and the Scottish Government’s Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) also looked into the complaint but also concluded that no enforcement action was required.

In a statement, Marine Scotland said: “These investigations by FHI, which include considering sea lice information collected weekly from all sites, have concluded that there are no obvious sea lice or mortality issues at a population level at any of the sites involved in the allegation and that appropriate measures are in place to control sea lice, remove mortalities and ensure adequate fish health management at the sites in question.”

Don Staniford and Salmon Watch have brought a number of complaints against salmon farms in Scotland over the past few months, but none of these have been upheld by RSPCA Assured or regulators.

Supporters of the salmon farming industry have welcomed the outcome of the investigations by RSPCA Assured and Marine Scotland. The Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation said: “We never had any doubts about the welfare standards upheld by our member companies. Images of sickly fish are distressing, even when they are unsourced. However, they are rare and not representative of the high welfare standards that tens of thousands more salmon benefit from.”

Advocacy group TalkSalmon tweeted this following RSPCA assured’s statement