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Environment / Salmon farming has nothing to hide, says industry boss

Animal welfare campaigners call for salmon farming to be phased out

The Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation and Compassion in World Farming offer two very different versions of salmon farming in Scotland. Photos: CIWF and SSPO

SCOTLAND’S salmon farming industry is so confident that it is adhering to high animal welfare standards that it is inviting official auditors to check any farm, at any time, without advance notice.

The move comes after an undercover investigation by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which said it had found severe sea lice infestation and high mortality rates at the 22 farms it investigated between September and November last year.

CIWF said it had documented breaches of animal welfare legislation at all major producers in Scotland, including Scottish Sea Farms, Grieg Seafood and Cooke Aquaculture.

Sophie Peutrill, the organisation’s global campaign manager for fish welfare said: “Salmon are silently suffering, out of sight, in cruel underwater factory farms across Scotland. Even the experienced investigators were shocked at what they found.”

The animal welfare pressure group is calling on the Scottish Government to halt any expansion of the industry with a view to phasing out intensive salmon farming.

But the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation (SSPO) said key parts of the CIWF report were “wrong, inaccurate and misleading.”

The industry body’s chief executive Tavish Scott said salmon farming was one of the country’s greatest environmental and economic success stories.

“The Scottish salmon sector has built itself up from a small crofting sideliner to the UK’s biggest food export in just 50 years, in doing so it has created thousands of well-paid jobs in some of Scotland’s most fragile rural areas and is producing a protein with one of the lowest carbon footprints around.”

He added that in response to the “unfounded allegations of welfare breaches”, salmon producers are prepared to open their farms at any time to inspectors from RSPCA Assured, the respected accreditation body.

“We take all allegations about breaches of fish welfare extremely seriously which is why we are taking this step,” he said.

“We are also adamant that there is no substance to any of these claims. That is why we are inviting auditors from RSPCA Assured to come to our farms.

“We are so confident that our farmers maintain exemplary standards of fish health and welfare that they can come at any time to check.

“We respect the role that RSPCA Assured plays in keeping our standards high. However, there are some people and groups out there who just want to dismantle the Scottish salmon farming sector and they will make claims, however unfounded, to try to achieve their aims.”