Parliamentary event highlights the urgency for increased regulations for farmed fish in the UK.
London, 24th January 2024
Today, representatives from leading retailers, industry, lawyers, experts, and animal advocates united in Parliament to discuss the need for the UK Governments to enact species-specific legislation for farmed fish at the time of slaughter.
The roundtable discussion, hosted by Professor Lord Trees in the House of Lords, brought together figures from Waitrose, the British Trout Association, the RSPCA, Foods Connected and more, to discuss the need for increased legal protections for farmed fish at the time of slaughter. It is estimated that up to 77 million fish are farmed and slaughtered in the UK annually, primarily trout and Atlantic salmon. Scotland is one of the top three global exporters of salmon.
The event was jointly organised by several leading NGOs and influential bodies including Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Animal Equality, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF), The Humane League UK, Soil Association, RSPCA and Scottish SPCA.
It came following the release of the updated Opinion of the Welfare of Farmed Fish at the Time of Killing by the Government-advisory body, the Animal Welfare Committee (AWC). Key AWC recommendations include:
- Mandatory stunning at slaughter;
- CCTV in fish abattoirs;
- Increased training, oversight and inspections;
- Increased monitoring and reporting of cleaner fish mortalities;
- Penalties for legal non-compliance.
The AWC comprises some of the UK’s leading academics and experts, and this is the third time that the influential body has been commissioned by the Government to provide insights on the matter, having previously advised in 1996 and 2014.
The event followed a roundtable discussion hosted in the House of Lords in July 2022. Today’s meeting featured speeches and attendance from leading figures across the industry, retail, and NGO sector, including: Sean Black, Senior Scientific Officer (Aquaculture), RSPCA; Mark Borthwick, leading expert in fish farming and previously Head of Research at the Aquatic Life Institute; and Edie Bowles, Solicitor and MD at Advocates for Animals.
Meanwhile, Solicitor and Co-Founder of law firm Advocates for Animals, Edie Bowles, set out the mechanisms for establishing mandatory regulations. She said: “The industry code is silent on how to meet the specific legal requirements and even if it did provide this guidance it would not be enforceable as it simply isn’t official”.
Salmon Scotland was unable to attend the event but Head of Technical, Dr Iain Berrill, provided a statement in advance, writing: “We acknowledge the absence of dedicated legislation in this area and are fully committed to support the development of any such legislation as and when it is established in the future”.
Speakers and guests alike touched on the importance of the recommendations of the Opinion and the need for regulations. Lord Trees concluded the event by stating: “It’s clear that we need to close this legislative anomaly”, and reminded the audience that “enforcement is also key”.
Chris Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, commented: “Today’s APGAW event in Parliament – only the second of its kind – marks an important step in both raising awareness of the plight of farmed fish and setting out a roadmap for change. Millions of sentient farmed fish are let down every year in the UK by regulations which do not provide the same protections as for land based farmed animals. With the industry, retailers, charities and NGOs all in agreement today, we hope this will encourage the Government to legislate for the welfare of farmed fish at the time of slaughter”.
Sean Gifford, Managing Director of The Humane League UK, said: “Fish are fascinating, sensitive animals whose suffering matters. As our second most farmed animal they deserve rigorous protections for their welfare, enforced by law. The Government has a special duty of care for the tens of millions of fish killed behind closed doors and beyond the view of the public. They have a golden opportunity to minimise some of the suffering that fish face, and must remember they hold the wellbeing of these animals in their hands”.
Abigail Penny, Executive Director of Animal Equality UK, said: “With tens of millions of fish farmed and slaughtered in the UK annually, those in power must leverage the law and do more to better protect these animals in their final moments of life. Introducing species-specific legislation that is properly enforced is the least that we can offer these thinking, feeling beings. Right now, policy-makers have a chance to make a landmark legislative change for millions of animals; I urge the Government to act on these expert-endorsed recommendations and swiftly lock them into law”.
Dr Natasha Boyland, Senior Research and Policy Advisor at Compassion in World Farming, said: “The lack of detailed provisions for farmed fish in UK animal welfare legislation is of great concern, leaving approximately 77 million sentient beings without sufficient protection each year. However, the UK now has the opportunity to make world-leading legal improvements for farmed fish. The Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) has given strong guidance to Governments, including reaffirming 2014 recommendations that pre-slaughter stunning should be a regulatory requirement. It is vital that the AWC’s expert advice is now acted on as a matter of urgency”.
- Sophia Stileman, Head of Communications, Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation
- Abigail Penny, Executive Director, Animal Equality UK
Footage of fish slaughter: [credit Animal Equality]
Images from today’s roundtable can be viewed here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1_pZHJs92O1Dym6vnKakLZRzcFlTsrgEv?usp=sharing