Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation welcomes updated Animal Welfare Committee Opinion on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing

Today (Thursday 28th September) Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) has welcomed the publication of the ‘Update to the 2014 FAWC Opinion on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing’ by the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC).

London, 28th September 2023

Today (Thursday 28th September) Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) has welcomed the publication of the ‘Update to the 2014 FAWC Opinion on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing’ by the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC).

In their updated Opinion the AWC reiterates its core recommendations from its last Opinion on the same almost a decade ago, that Government should legislate to ensure that all farmed fish are stunned before killing using stun/kill methods or that killing takes place before consciousness is regained.

They also state:

  • Government legislation should include requirements for mandatory inspections.
  • CCTV should be used at farmed fish slaughter sites, with recordings kept for 90 days and available to inspectors.
  • Regulations should be put in place to ensure that there are reasonable enforcement powers and penalties for those who fail to comply with the legislation.
  • Fish welfare must be monitored and protected no matter the location of the stunning and slaughter system.
  • Voluntary codes and assurance standards should be reviewed regularly and updated as the knowledge of fish welfare develops through scientific research.

The Opinion also highlights the welfare of ‘cleaner fish’, primarily lumpfish and wrasse species who are used as cleaning agents on fish farms. They state that regulations for the killing of farmed fish should apply to cleaner fish used in the farming process. Their specific recommendations for cleaner fish include that their mortality rates should be monitored and recorded. Millions of cleaner fish are used, and killed, in the process of fish farming each year.

An estimated 55 million fish are farmed annually in the UK – including 12 million trout in England – which do not receive the same legal protections at the time of slaughter as other terrestrial farmed animals. This is despite the scientific and legal recognition that fish are sentient, as set out in the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022.

Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented:We are delighted that the long-awaited updated opinion on the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing by the Animal Welfare Committee has been published by the Scottish Government.

“Almost a decade on from their original recommendations, the UK remains reliant on voluntary codes despite the sentience of fish being enshrined in law. Every year we delay the introduction of legislation on fish welfare, millions of sentient animals including cleaner fish are slaughtered with insufficient protections. We therefore call for the Governments of England and Scotland to ensure that farmed fish are always stunned at the time of slaughter, and introduce effective enforcement mechanisms such as mandatory CCTV and inspections in slaughterhouses.

“We look forward to supporting the Government in establishing these desperately needed protections for farmed fish, who are so often forgotten in our attempts to advance farm animal welfare.”

Abigail Penny, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK said: “The Committee’s guidance underscores what aquatic animal experts and advocates have known for some time now: that for far too long farmed fish have been forgotten in law and that much more rigorous standards are needed to better protect the millions of fish slaughtered for their flesh each year”.

She added: “Having consulted closely with the Committee throughout this exploratory process, we are pleased to see that a number of our suggestions have been taken seriously, including the need for mandatory CCTV in fish abattoirs, increased inspections, stunning at slaughter, and enhanced transparency around on-farm mortalities. Now is the time for the Government to act and enact new legislation – there is no time to waste.

Dr Natasha Boyland, Fish Policy and Research Manager at Compassion in World Farming, said: “With insufficient protection in law, each year millions of farmed fish in the UK are at risk of significant suffering at the time of slaughter – this must change. The AWC have reconfirmed their recommendation that pre-stunning at slaughter is necessary to prevent fear, pain and distress, and have also given clear recommendations for reducing prior handling stress. It is vital that the Government acts on this expert advice and introduces legislation to protect farmed fish as a matter of urgency.

About Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF)

The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation was established in 2016 to raise awareness on the lives of billions of animals reared on intensive farms around the world and how this impact upon animal welfare, the environment and people’s health. We want to highlight the action people can take to help advance farm animal welfare.

Animal welfare is an increasing concern amongst the public, who frequently look to Government to take the lead in both maintaining and improving standards.

The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation believes it is highly important that the welfare of farm animals is placed at the forefront of the Governments plan for food and farming along with its focus on productivity, competitiveness, and technology.

Media contact: Sophia Stileman (

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