Animal welfare organisation RSPCA Assured has reinstated certification for the five leading Scottish salmon farms whose practices were criticised in a report from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).
The reinstatement follows special inspections by RSPCA Assured. CIWF’s report Underwater Cages, Parasites & Dead Fish, published in March this year, alleged poor welfare practices on the part of Scotland’s biggest salmon farmers and was accompanied by graphic images of dead or injured fish obtained by activists working with CIWF.
Farms belonging to Mowi, Scottish Sea Farms, The Scottish Salmon Company, Cooke Aquaculture Scotland and Grieg Seafood Shetland were criticised in the report. On behalf of the industry, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation described the allegations as groundless and said it would welcome unannounced inspections to prove that standards at Scottish farms are high.
Following the publication of the CIWF report, RSPCA Assured suspended its certification for the farms concerned and instituted a programme of additional inspections. The organisation has now reinstated certification for all the farms concerned.
In a statement, RSPCA Assured said: “We were really shocked and upset by some of this footage taken last year, especially as some of the farms were reported to be RSPCA Assured certified. We immediately launched an investigation, as soon as we received details of the farms on 23 March 2021, and suspended those sites in the video that were members of RSPCA Assured, pending investigation.
“’We always ask anyone with concerns about animal welfare to report those to us as soon as possible and several months have passed since this footage was shot. Following a thorough investigation, which included visits to the farms by specially trained staff, we were unable to find any evidence to support the issues seen in the footage taken last year. As such, we have today lifted their suspension from RSPCA Assured.
“Any complaints of poor welfare, or breaches of the RSPCA Assured membership agreement, are not tolerated and we always take them very seriously. We would always urge anyone with any concerns about an animal to contact us straight away, without delay. This is so that we can immediately investigate, visit the farm and address any welfare issues as a priority.”
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) said: “Each of the Scottish salmon farms subjected to unfounded allegations of welfare breaches by the campaigning group CIWF have been thoroughly investigated and given unequivocal bills of clean health. All sites were physically visited and inspected by RSPCA Assured auditors, in addition to extensive reviews of the information initially received. No evidence was found to support the claims made by anti-fish farm activists and RSPCA Assured certification for the sites has been reinstated with immediate effect.”
Scott added: “Our farmers maintain exemplary standards of fish health and welfare which is why we were adamant that there was no substance to any of these distorted and exaggerated claims. We respect the role that RSCPA Assured plays in keeping our standards high with their unannounced inspections, with auditors welcome on any farm, at any time.”