Campaigners from the Animal Equality organisation captured rare drone footage of farmed salmon and trout showing fish suffocating and  left bleeding.

Upmarket restaurants, hotels, delicatessens and retailers in the UK and US buy fish from companies that rear them in pens near the UK coast. Campaigners from the Animal Equality organisation captured rare drone footage of farmed salmon and trout being sucked onto boats and slaughtered, saying it raises questions over practices at British fish farms, where they have little legal protection.

The organisation claimed some fish suffocated to death, while others were left bleeding or semi-conscious after “mis-stunning”. The companies involved told The Independent the videos did not show any cruelty but instead showed standard procedures that protected fish welfare.

The UK’s fish farming industry, which activists describe as “secretive”, rears up to 52 million salmon and up to 25 million rainbow trout each year.

Animal Equality has previously said millions of farmed fish are killed prematurely by violent handling or transportation, rough lice treatments, chemical mistakes, algal blooms and infectious diseases. Salmon industry figures show a mortality rate of 14.5 per cent.

The video shot at a salmon farm allegedly showed:

  • Fish caught on top of a net were left to slowly suffocate.
  • Blood was in the water as salmon come out of a chute, suggesting they had been knocked and cut inside it.
  • Workers appeared to throw several fish at colleagues.
  • A worker threw a bucket of fish overboard – said to be a biohazard.
  • Fish entered the stun-kill machinery backwards so stunning was likely to have been ineffective.

The investigators said that at a rainbow trout farm, the footage suggested:

  • Small fish showed signs of life after coming out of the stun-kill machine.
  • Workers failed to notice smaller fish did not go into the killing machine, and seemed to suffocate in the empty bucket.
  • The stun-kill machine was not adjusted for different sizes so for smaller fish was likely to produce a mis-stun.
  • A fish still moved after being clubbed by a worker, who then tore its gills apparently with his fingers.
  • Trout, which are naturally solitary, would have been stressed by the “extremely cramped” pen.

Mark Borthwick, an aquatic animal expert from the Open University, said the videos were “among the very worst instances of fish abuse I’ve seen in my career”.

“I have no doubt that mass and preventable suffering is happening at every stage of the process,” he said. “I can’t emphasise enough how painful it would be for a salmon to have a club or electric shock applied to their body and not their head. It’s a chaotic scene.”

Another aquatic animal expert, Lynne Sneddon, of the University of Gothenburg, said: “Throwing fish overboard definitely should not happen. They could introduce disease and parasites and could negatively affect wild populations through competition, aggression or if able, pass their genes on.”

Abigail Penny, executive director of Animal Equality UK, said: “Following our extensive investigation of the Scottish salmon industry in late 2022, we worked closely with legal and aquatic animal experts, who raised a number of serious concerns about the goings-on in these facilities, as well as several identifiable legal breaches. “Workers are caught on camera throwing fish off the boat. On closer inspection, it even appears multiple workers are hurling fish at each other. Out of public view, these workers clearly think they are invincible, and with no unannounced government inspections taking place, it’s not hard to see why. Consumers can never truly know what takes place in these facilities.” The organisation is calling for compulsory CCTV at fish slaughterhouses and on slaughter boats.

The trout farm boss said it was not appropriate to group his operations with the salmon farm scenes, saying the video showed standard audited and approved procedures. “There are no aspects of this that we have concerns over as it shows a normal harvest operation,” he said, adding that his company was committed to high welfare and ethical standards.

A spokesperson for one retailer said: “We take any animal welfare allegations extremely seriously and set rigorous standards for our suppliers: all of our trout is RSPCA Assured. We have investigated and are satisfied our supplier upheld welfare standards, followed procedures correctly and that the allegations are misleading.”

A spokesperson for the salmon farm operator said: “We’ve examined the outdated footage and we’re satisfied that at no point were salmon welfare regulations breached. Since this footage was taken, we have invested heavily in how our salmon are handled at harvest, further increasing fish welfare standards and our product quality.” They said their company went above and beyond industry standards.

Original source: https://www.independent.co.uk


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